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Frugality is about being prudent and thrifty when it comes to spending money and learning to find the joys of a simple life. The key is making smart financial choices. Forget about extravagant purchases, instant gratification, expensive social norms, and say hello to economic independence and stability. Sounds great, right? But what if your efforts start affecting your wellbeing? What are the signs of extreme frugality?
An Extreme Example of Being Too Frugal
Picture yourself in this situation: You are hosting and you’re trying to figure out what to serve to your guests. There’s bread, mayo and deli turkey in the fridge, so sandwiches will be the main entrée. While you’re fixing them, you notice the turkey smells funky, and the mayonnaise has expired. So now a trip to the grocery store is necessary, and you have to throw the stale items away. You don’t want to spend any money and you’d hate to see food go to waste. What is the right thing to do?
Suddenly, your shoulder angel and devil come into play. “You cannot feed your guests spoiled food,” says the conscience, while temptation disagrees. “What’re a few months past the expiration date going to do to them? Nothing! You don’t want to waste any food or money, right?” Long story short, you and your guests end up getting food poisoning.
If this situation sounds familiar, or while you’re reading you think, “Well, what’s wrong with that?”, then you can consider yourself an overly frugal person. According to the American Psychiatric Association, this happens when someone “adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others.
Signs of Extreme Frugality
If you feel like you’ve crossed the line and you’ve turned into a tightwad (which is the actual scientific term), you need to set restrictions. How far are you willing to go to save money? Are your choices affecting yours or your loved ones’ mental and physical health? Are these actions leading you away from true happiness? Do you hear the word “cheapskate” quite often? Frugality can be addictive, so watch out for these signs.
Note: I’m not a psychologist, if you think you have a mental health issue, please seek professional help.
1. Have you compromised your values to save cash?
First and most important: Have you compromised your values to save cash? If you have done questionable or unethical things, like lying about your age just to shave a few bucks off a charge, or even worse, stealing, you shouldn’t be proud or brag about it. Frugality is based on furthering yourself and others, not taking advantage of them.
2. Are You Spending Way Too Much Time Looking for a Deal?
Time is money, right? So why would you go to extreme lengths to get a discount and spend hours clipping coupons? Evaluate how much time your frugal efforts consume. If you’re spending more time penny-pinching and tracking your expenses than making money, reconsider your strategies. Micromanaging is good for a business, not for your personal health.
3. Do You Feel Guilty Spending Money on Basic Needs?
It takes hard work to earn your salary, that’s why it’s called a “grind”. You deserve to use some of that cash on treating yourself and/or your loved ones. Feeling guilty about spending it on basic needs like food or medicine will compromise your health. This is a huge red flag you might be too frugal.
4. Is Your Social Life Suffering?
Are your lifestyle choices preventing you from having a social life? Would you rather stay home instead of going out with friends and spend some money on a few drinks or dinner? Extreme savers often report being isolated from others and struggle with being generous and showing affection. And let’s not forget, a cheapskate is not a pleasant person to be around.
No matter your income situation, it is important to make time to be with friends and family even if that means looking for activities you can do on a limited budget.
5. Do You Have A Strong Impulse or Desire to Buy Sale Items Just Because They Are On Sale?
Do you purchase things you don’t need in bulk just because they were on sale? “You never know when you might need a liter of strawberry banana yogurt!” So you go ahead and purchase 10 of them because you couldn’t pass on such a great deal.
That yogurt most likely will go bad before you can eat it all, so you ended up wasting money instead. Extreme frugality doesn’t necessarily mean not spending money, it can be a person who is unwilling to pass up a “deal” or discount as well.
If you don’t set yourself any restrictions, this could turn into a hoarding disorder. Think about it: Do you really want to live in a house with no room to move around or have friends over because of the excessive clutter?
6. Do You Feel Like You Are Too Frugal?
Do you feel like you have a responsibility to be frugal, but deep down, you hate it? If you’re not living a life of quality you deserve, reevaluate your choices. Remember, the purpose of being frugal is to help you be content with less, so only adopt the habits you enjoy.
7. Are you constantly rivaling against others to see if you can be more money-savvy than them?
Even though frugality can be seen as a virtue, going as far as making a competition out of your lifestyle choices can be a sign of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
Sometimes its fun to challenge yourself. My favorite budgeting challenges are no-spend challenges and I love shopping from my pantry. How do you know when it is too much?
Look to your friends and family members for clues that your penchant for saving may be getting out of control. It is often not one thing but a variety of variables that can add up.
8. Do You Obsess Over Money and Budgeting?
You’re thinking about saving money 24-7. “I’ve got money in my mind” is a common phrase among rappers, you can relate and are damn proud of it. The obsession with wealth is known as plutomania, and when saving money becomes an irrational fixation, it’s a sign of mental illness as well.
Have you noticed people rolling their eyes every time you speak? Consider paying attention to other interests and stop yourself if you detect your mind and conversations are revolving around finances.
9. Do you consider that there is no such thing as being “too frugal”?
Being aware and accepting your problem is winning half of the battle. So if you went through the article and felt you could relate, but you’re still in denial, it might be time to speak to a specialist. Remember, frugality should make you thrive, not miserable.
Budgeting and the pursuit of financial freedom is a noble and sometimes fun pursuit. Those who pursue it are often looking to better their lives and the lives of their families. When that pursuit starts negatively affecting the quality of life, we must take a step back and reevaluate if we are going overboard. Are we doing too much all at once? Is what we are doing necessary? Are we too frugal?
I can’t answer any of these questions for you. These are discussions to be had with your friends and loved ones. If you are reading this post you may be worried that you are going too far with your desire to save or are becoming too frugal, so talk to someone. Talk with your spouse, your partner, your kids, your friends or even a therapist. Knowing whether you have an issue is half the battle.