4 Ways to Know You’re Being Too Frugal

Man checking leftovers in the fridge.

Image source: Getty Images

There is such a thing as being too cheap.


Key points

  • It’s great to save money where you can, but be careful not to risk your health and safety by doing so.
  • The remains of food and mattresses have an expiration date.
  • Living without the necessary insurance coverage will end up costing you more in the end.

For some people, not spending money on certain things is a sign of pride. Many of us have something we hold onto as a proven way to keep more money in our savings account. For example, I almost always prefer to repair something I already have rather than just buy a new one. So I’ll mend a jacket or take a pair of shoes to mend. Saving money this way makes sense and doesn’t jeopardize my money, my health, or my freedom.

These other frugal moves, on the other hand? If you can say “yes” to any of these, you’re being more frugal than is good for your health or your wallet.

1. You’re eating leftovers that are past their prime.

Possibly unpopular opinion: I love leftovers. I enjoy cooking, and if I make a really good meal and eat it again the next day, or a few months later (because I’ve frozen extra portions), it’s fantastic. The same goes for really good takeout. In fact, a great way to save money on takeout is to order enough for several meals. However, there’s a fine line to walk here: leftovers definitely have an expiration date.

The Mayo Clinic notes that you generally have three to four days to consume refrigerated leftovers before bacterial growth makes them unsafe to eat. You’ll get more time out of leftover food by freezing it, but you only have a few months before its quality declines. If you routinely take advantage of your local pizzeria’s “2 for 1” deal and live off leftover pizza for a week or two at a time, you need to rethink that. Food poisoning is no joke, and if you get sick, you may need expensive medical attention.

2. You’ve always had the same mattress

Your health is really the most important thing in the world; after all, if you are sick or injured, everything in life becomes more difficult. Sleep is an incredibly important activity: if you sleep an average of eight hours a night, you’ll spend a third of your life sleeping. To that end, when was the last time you replaced your mattress? Bob Vila reports that while the mattress industry recommends replacing your mattress every seven to 10 years, the lifespan of a mattress is more complicated to discern than that.

The main way to know that you need a new mattress is that you are no longer sleeping well on it. You may also have problems with allergies (not to be gross, but your mattress absorbs bodily fluids like sweat, along with dead skin cells, which attract dust mites). Visually, if your mattress is sagging, lumpy, or looking worn, it’s time to replace it. And if the springs inside make a noise when you lie down or sit on the bed, it’s time. Don’t keep a mattress past its prime; living with pain or not sleeping well is not worth the money saved.

3. You skip regular car maintenance

Skipping regular car maintenance activities like oil changes and tire rotations may not directly affect your health like the two signs above would, but it will certainly cost you more money than you save. Owning a car can be very expensive, and if you’re already paying $702 a month for the privilege, you may be tempted to ignore the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines. However, this can be an expensive and dangerous game.

The oil in your car is extremely important to its performance, lubricating engine components and collecting particles that could otherwise damage your car. Keep up with oil changes and regular maintenance so you don’t find yourself dipping into your emergency savings to pay a big car repair bill later.

4. You don’t have all the insurance you need

Being without insurance can result in not only having to spend more money later, but in some circumstances, it can even cost you your freedom. Not having health insurance is dangerous to your health and your wallet. If you get sick or have an accident, you will be faced with astronomical medical bills.

If you have a mortgage, you may need to have homeowners insurance to protect the mortgage company’s investment, and it’s a good idea to have a renters insurance policy if you don’t own your home. Your landlord’s homeowners policy will not cover your belongings in the event of a catastrophe such as fire or flood.

Another potentially expensive part of owning a vehicle is car insurance. Keep in mind that auto insurance is required in all states except New Hampshire, so driving without it is illegal. If you are caught driving without insurance, your penalty for the first offense could be a fine or license suspension. But if it is a repeat offense, you could be jailed.

Driving without insurance is a bad idea because you will be left without protection for your own vehicle and physical well-being in the event of an accident. You will also have full financial responsibility for the injuries of others and repairs to their vehicles if you are involved in an accident. The money savings are simply not worth the risk of driving without insurance.

The above illustrations of frugality taken too far are just a few of many extreme examples. If you’re skimping on costs and the returns you’re reaping aren’t worth the money you’re saving, I urge you to reconsider those moves. Saving money is great, but not at the cost of your health and happiness.

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