Thursday, July 17, 2008

How Frugal is TOO Frugal?

So how frugal really is too frugal? Thinking back to my college (or actually post B.A., but pre-M.S. days) days when I would save drink cups from fast food places (which I now realize was tacky and none-too-smart...hello the drinks are their biggest mark-up...why buy it in the first place if I am trying to be frugal!;) and eat top ramen and mac n' cheese for two of my three meals! I realize that for me, that was too frugal. I think there were some valuable lessons I learned from that time, I could have learned them in smarter, healthier way.

Some of my frugal misadventures have included the above mentioned ramen/mac n'cheese diet, with some frozen mixed veggies and a can of tuna mixed in for good measure. During that time I lived on a $40/month grocery budget. Crazy I know! I think that included food I shared with a roommate as well...which makes it even crazier. But it makes sense when you think about ramen being about $0.10/package, store brand mac n' cheese was 5/$1 where I bought it, and I had cereal, milk, a little juice and one can of soda pop a day. Add some green beans or mixed veg, occasional tuna and very little else and that works out to be about a buck a day. Crazy!

Looking back at that time I realize that I was a bit on the depressed side and overweight, and I think diet carries a good share of the blame. The benefit of this short-term lifestyle was that I finished paying of my $5000 or so in college debt as well as saved enough $$ for my first year of grad school during that time. A period of time with extreme frugality can be worth it however, but in light of what I know about nutrition, I would have spent a few more dollars a month on food, and cut out the processed garbage for the most part. Beans and Rice, Rice and Beans, good stuff!

Another negative to this time was my tight-fisted mentality. Although I have always loved to give to the church and to missions/ministries that have a need, during that time I shortchanged some of my relationships by missing the opportunity to be generous. It is a hard balance to strike, but instead of seeking that balance, I allowed myself to count every penny even when I probably could have been a blessing to someone with less money or financial sense(especially those closest to me!).

I think the point I am trying to make is that there is a time for extreme frugality, but it must be weighed against the costs. Not taking extreme measures cannot be an excuse relied on in order to retain comfort or to support old habits, but most everything can be up for grabs for a time when goals regarding financial freedom (which enables one to be in a position to give generously and think about more important things than debt).

Next week I will be sharing some of the things we do consistently that I would consider to be valuable frugal ventures for our family, and maybe for yours as well.

Where do you draw the line? Visit Biblical Womanhood for more frugal discussions.


Megan said...

Oh, I totally agree. There is such a difference between stingy and frugal! I did a post a couple of weeks ago on what we don't skimp on, too. I know people who feed their kids mac and cheese, chef boyardee, etc. because it's cheap. Well, you get what you pay for! Thanks for pointing this out again!

BarbaraLee said...

The kids like ramen noodles when they need to fix a meal when I am not home.

Rachael said...

I may have come off as sounding like we never eat things that aren't perfectly healthy...which isn't the case! There is a time and a place for a cheap, quick fix as long as you don't base your diet off that (which I did!). Thanks for the comments!

CC said...

Well according to a few commenters on my blog, I am apparently "too frugal" at times.

I do worry that my son seems talk about money a lot.

queenoftheclick said...

I had my ramen days and I loved it back then, but now I couldn't take the salt in it. I found so many ways to make those ramen could make it with a lot less water and the seasoning would coat those delicious noodles. Ya know, I don't even see big displays for Ramen like I did years ago.

Too cheap - buying store brand itemss that you don't love love - just buy the real item you love and enjoy it.

Too cheap - My mom puts water in the bottom of the ketchup bottle and shakes it. For me, that's a no no - but she likes to use all of the bottle.

Suzanne said...

I agree with you! I've scrimped and scrimped, then ended up paying more money in the long run. Sometimes you do have to spend a little more. I think it's just finding a balance for each person. I find it really hard to be super-super-frugal on food. But I can be in other areas (I cut my own hair, mend socks, use baking soda instead of toothpaste, etc.) My husband is very frugal with food, but insists on having a certain type of shaving cream.

Btw, the pic on the side of your daughter crying is sooo adorable! :)

Mom2fur said...

To me, it's 'cheap' when it is mean-spirited and hurtful, even in a small way. A friend told me about a neighbor who had well over 100 jars of peanut butter, but wouldn't let anyone borrow some. She would offer to sell a jar at full price, even though she got it cheaply herself. Apparently, she's so stingy no one likes her. How sad, and all to make a few pennies. And there's another way frugal goes too far...buying WAY too much of something you'll never use. PB doesn't keep what on Earth is this woman going to do with all those jars? Sure hope she had a lot of jelly on hand.
My kids (now all grownups) like ramen noodles, Chef-BRD and the like. There's nothing wrong with that unless it becomes your staple diet for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week!

CC said...

In answer to your question to me, I've deleted comments from my blog that I felt were mean-spirited. But some have commented about my re-use of my kids floss and things like that...