Don’t get me wrong, being frugal has its benefits. I credit a strong sense of frugality for my ability to eliminate student loan debt or even find the money to start The Frugal Feminista.
As a personal finance philosophy, Frugality will enable you not only to build wealth, but to maintain it. But when taken to the extreme, the practice can make you seem cheap, greedy, and operating with a scarce mindset.
The behavior is straight-up cheap, unacceptable, and predatory. And in the end, you lose a lot more than you save when you exhibit these five extremely frugal ways.
1. You promise a donation or a contribution, but never give it. There is one thing to be short on money and not be in a position to give back to a cause that you care about or your community. But it’s completely different story to promise to do so, but never do so because you simply do not want to come up off the money.
2. You want to go half on everything, but end up taking more than your fair share. I had a friend that claimed that she was never that hungry and insisted that we go half on lunch items. After a few experiences of seeing most of the food be eaten by her and half of the check be paid by me, I learned to say “No” to this strategy. In essence, this friend was being selfish and taking advantage of my generosity. This practice is bad for food sharing and for friendship.
3. You wait for your birthday to ask for items that you wouldn’t pay for (though you can afford them). Are you asking your family and friends to pay for a ticket to Paris for your 35th birthday, though the idea of paying for yourself would eliminate the prospect of the trip altogether from your mind? Do you ask for the designer bag or shoes from your bae, but if someone were to ask that of you, you would quickly say no? This is what I call a financial double standard and a surefire why to identify when you're taking frugality to the extreme.
4. You always want to borrow. I actually had one family member sneak into my home to borrow shoes so she wouldn’t have to purchase new ones for herself. She wore them so much that they started to look beat up and in need for replacement. I rarely saw her after my shoe situation no longer served her.
5. You say things like, “I don’t have any change” as a way to get someone else to purchase a low-cost item. I remember walking with a friend on a hot summer’s day and the Mr. Softee truck passed by. I decided that I would treat myself to a chocolate cone. My friend said that she wanted the same, but only had a $10 bill and didn’t want to break it. That was her way of saying that I should pay for her. I remember succumbing to that logic and feeling used and resentful afterwards. The next time she tried that tactic, I reminded her that if she wanted something, she was going to have to break her bill and buy it. There would be no more freeloading on my watch.
I understand that funds can be low and your money can be funny. And in those rare instances, we have to rely on the kindness of friends and family to help us out. But if you find that you are building your wealth by cheating others of theirs, then you are taking frugality too far. Don’t do it. That’s suspect and criminal.