It can be easy to get wrapped up in the thrill of the game when you’re on a savings kick. But sometimes even the best of intentions can lead you down the dark and dreary path of extreme frugality — and once you’ve hit that point, your savings actually start decreasing.
Here are some ways you might be taking your savings quest too far to the extreme. Are you guilty of any of them?
Driving all around town for one or two bargains. It can make sense to go to different stores to buy whatever items are on sale that week. Maybe one pharmacy has a great deal on makeup (which is always pricey), and the local grocery store has your expensive heartburn medicine at half-price. Making quick trips to different stores to score great bargains can be a smart way to stretch your budget further — especially if you can buy multiples of those items and stock up while they’re on sale.
But if you find yourself wasting hours every week driving all across town for one item here, one item there, you may need to reconsider just how valuable those bargains are for you. Consider how much extra time you’re spending and how much extra gas mileage you’re racking up. In light of those costs, are the savings really still worth it for you?
Buying cheap goods that don’t last long. When it comes to choices like buying the name brand pasta sauce over the store brand, price is usually your only consideration — they’re basically the same product. But when it comes to bigger-ticket items like clothes, electronics and cars, make sure your price-hunting obsession isn’t tricking you into buying something that will actually cost you more in the long run.
Investing a little more in a pair of timeless, well-built shoes is worth it if they will last you through several seasons and will never go out of style. Buying a cheap pair of shoes, on the other hand, may mean you’ll be shelling money out twice to buy another pair next year when the cheap pair wears out. Buying a used car from your cousin may seem like a steal, but if that car is on its last legs (or wheels), you may wind up spending more on repairs to keep it going than you would if you purchased a well-inspected, gentler used model from a dealership. It may cost you a little more up front, but you’ll wind up paying much less in the future to maintain it.
Being a hoarder. You’ve seen the TV shows — people who buy store rooms full of diapers because they got them practically for free, even though they don’t actually have any kids of their own. Granted, if you’re going to donate those items to a shelter or other worthy cause, feel free to put your money-saving skills to good use. But if you find yourself buying tons of things you’re never really going to use, does it really matter how great of a bargain they were?
Forgetting your stockpile. If you’ve got a more reasonable stockpile built up from your savings skills, make sure you’re using it to its fullest capacity. Keep items that will expire first (like food and medicine) in the forefront of your shelves so you’ll use them up first. There’s no point in having a stockpile if you let half the items in it spoil before you can use them.
You spend more time couponing than you do anything else — and have little to show for it. Shows like Extreme Couponing in the US have people believing that if they work tirelessly enough, they too can walk away from a grocery store with hundreds of quid’s worth of items for only a few pence. But there are lots of tricks the people on those shows get away with that you and I can’t. The store lets them break their orders up over several cash registers to get around “per person” limits. They’re allowed to use coupons for items that aren’t exactly the same as the items they’re purchasing. There are plenty of (sometimes shady) tricks that these people employ to get to those impressive bottom lines, because they are on a TV show and they have a huge camera crew with them.
But for the average person, couponing can only take you so far. You can save a lot if you do it smartly, but you’re no longer doing it smartly if you find yourself spending hours and hours each week clipping inserts and making detailed spreadsheets, only to save just a little more than you normally would at the store. Unless you plan on bringing that camera crew with you the next time you go shopping, normal, average-person couponing should be your goal. Devoting your life to clipping will probably not get you the results as-seen-on-TV.