Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Cost of Frugality

Is there such a thing as being too frugal? Where do you draw the line? Personally I draw the line at savings that I find trivial and at small, non-recurring expenses. My wife does not share my approach. She is much more frugal than I am, choosing to re-use anything and everything that she can. For example, she has been known to wash and re-use straws and single use plastic forks. Her drawers and shelves are full of items that she very rarely uses, on the off chance that she might need them at some point in the future. As far as I am concerned, anything that says single use on the packaging is headed for the trash once I use it. I am also pretty quick to donate my old items to Goodwill as soon as I decide that I am unlikely to use them in the near future. I don't like the clutter, and I cannot be bothered to try to sell most small things. The time it would take me to find a buyer is more precious to me than the few dollars I could make by going on eBay or Craig's List.

Frugality for me is all about saving, living modestly and reducing waste. However, I try to focus on the big things. For example, driving the same modest car (OK, junk car) for the past eight years has saved us a lot of money and was well worth it, especially since I am very utilitarian about my vehicle. It just needs to get me from here to there. Saving a buck a month by re-using plastic forks simply does not appeal to me.

For me, being frugal with my time is just as important as being frugal with my money, possibly more so. I lead a very hectic life, with three awesome boys to raise, a high stress long hours kind of job and a blog to write on the side. Saving 30 minutes is well worth $10 to me. It's really tough to get an extra half hour to myself, and I am very willing to pay for the privilege. If that means that I am not frugal, so be it. From my perspective, there is such a thing as being too frugal. That boundary is crossed when you start to sacrifice reasonable enjoyment and precious time in order to achieve what most people would consider minute savings.


Kyle said...

Excellent points - I tend to lean your direction on the scale of frugality. Although I have sold some of our kids clothes and toys on ebay for quite a bit of cash. But yeah re-using plastic forks and straws is not up my alley.

living off dividends said...

my mom is also pretty frugal. however she's frugal to the point of being a packrat which is pretty annoying.

if it wasn't for my periodic visits to make her throw stuff out, I suspect she'd be like that woman in shanghai who lived on the stairwell because she couldn't get into her apartment!