Mistakes People Make When Trying To Be Frugal

So, you decided to go frugal. You took another good look at what’s left in your bank account and said “It is time. I need to do this.” You thought being frugal was going to be easy. At home, you’ve seen some of your cousins doing it and testifying about how much they’ve saved in the past few months. Everything is working great for them, so why shouldn’t it be the same for you? What could go wrong? You never knew there are mistakes people make when trying to be frugal. But, you get into it anyways.

Jessie’s First Attempt at Frugal Living

Prior to the week Jessie was to start frugal living, he emptied the refrigerator in your kitchen. Well, it was getting empty before then, but he decided to rush it all since he was going to be starting a new life. He had to start on a fresh plate. Fresh meal timetable, fresh grocery list, fresh items in the refrigerator, and every other thing that he could possibly change.

He kept telling yourself. “It can’t be that hard. I’m going broke already. Let me make this big frugal investment to save myself a lot of money in the future. Indeed, purchasing new items for your frugal lifestyle is an investment. But, is it one you should be making now? He definitely didn’t think about that before going to the supermarket.

One week into frugal living and he was sparkling. He felt that his life was greater than it ever was. He hadn’t been to Starbucks since the first day, and he even took his own meal to work. Also, he was very comfortable with sitting with his friends, holding his food flask and chewing on healthy food he prepared himself, while they ate burgers and fries topped with a can of soft drink. When he got home daily after work, instead of watching cable, he pulled out a book and sat by the fire to read. Then, at the end of the week, he threw his first frugal party to celebrate. He invited friends and relatives, and served them his homemade delicacies. Although he knew he spent some money to do all these, he believed living frugally would help him save even more.

We should congratulate ourselves when we successfully pass milestones right?

But, after the first three weeks, his shoulders fell at work. He hadn’t saved so much money, and he was already tired. Being frugal was wearing him out. He wants to enjoy just like the rest of his friends, and he definitely misses Starbucks coffee. So, he withdrew some extra money from your bank account to give himself a big treat for the achievement so far. Two days later, he took some extra money again to go shopping. There was no turning back. He had given up on frugal living. It definitely looked like a better life outside.

What he didn’t realize was that he made several mistakes people make when trying to be frugal. 

Jessie’s story is not common to everyone. Of course, there are people who take being frugal seriously. Also, there are some who are even worse than Jessie. The problem is that they do not understand what frugal means.  Before we look at the mistakes people make when trying to be frugal, what is frugal living?

Mistakes people make when trying to be frugal

What is Frugal Living?

Frugal living is the act of cutting back on spending on several items and activities in order to save some extra money. So, there’s a popular myth that those who engage in frugal living are cheapskates. Some of your friends eyeball you whenever you walk past them, and you begin to hear whispers that you’re a cheap person because of your lifestyle. One of the reasons many people don’t want to live frugally is because they don’t want to be cheap. But, it is a myth. It isn’t true. Indeed, there are people who buy the cheapest things on the market regardless of quality. That is not what frugal living is about. 

Before we go into things that you should be doing as someone who lives frugally, let’s look at some of the mistakes people make when trying to be frugal. If when reading it, you see something you’re doing wrong, make sure you write it down. So, you can work to effect change from today.

Mistakes People Make When Trying to be Frugal

1. Thinking you must do everything at once

Like Jessie did, when some people are having lifestyle changes, they rush things. You shouldn’t. There are various frugal activities that you can carry out to help you save more money and keep your pockets happy. But, you shouldn’t do everything at the same time. For instance, you don’t have to cut your Starbucks coffee routine entirely, pay all your debts immediately, get rid of cable, and start eating only home-cooked meals immediately you start. It is going to wear you out, and you’ll stop being frugal even before you start. You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t do everything at once.

2. Spending too much money on being frugal

This is one of the big mistakes people make when trying to be frugal. Being frugal is about you curbing unnecessary spending. So, you spending some extra money to achieve it isn’t right. You can always make do with what you had before. If you need extra items on your grocery list, you can purchase them. You can also look for alternatives that will not be so costly. It’ll pay you in the end. Also, there’s no need for frugal parties with friends. They’re spending their money the way they deem fit. You shouldn’t also be spending on them.

3. Buying things you don’t need because they’re on sale

One of the frugal activities experts will always tell you to do is get items when they’re on sale. In our article, 10 easiest ways to save money on luxury fashion items, we also tell you to buy when it is on sale. But, what we did not tell you to do is get something you don’t need. Whether an item is on sale or not, if you do not need it in your wardrobe, kitchen, or anywhere in your life, don’t buy it. Else, you’ll have a house filled with useless things lying around. You may have to give them all out or even throw them away in the end. Now, that is a very terrible waste of money. If you don’t need it, don’t purchase no matter how affordable.

4. Buying very affordable processed foods

Buying affordable foods is not the mistake here. Of course, you may find some food items more affordable during a certain period. Or, the food is always affordable. One of the mistakes people make when trying to be frugal is when you buy processed food. Foods that have already been processed can be purchased, but should be done in minimal quantities.

Some people think that because they want to be frugal, they should buy the most affordable. And the processed foods turn out to be very cheap in their grocery store. Also, it involves lesser stress with cooking. You are making a mistake. Excessive consumption of these processed foods will lead to a problem in the end. You may have to spend all the money you have been trying so hard to save on health-related issues.

5. Buying second-hand items

I know you would roll your eyes right here. 

“Who doesn’t use second-hand items? We can’t all wear or use new products every time. Why would you be telling us not to use second-hand items?”

That’s not what I’m implying. You can use second-hand items like clothes, cars, and other things that are not too personal. But, before buying them, make sure they are in good enough condition. You shouldn’t buy something that will get damaged a week after. Here are some examples of items you should try to get new – 

i. Mattresses – Buying second-hand mattresses is just gross. Do you know where they are coming from? What if they are riddled with bedbugs? You should get your own mattress. One that you’ll be very confident to sleep on and wouldn’t give you troubles at night.

ii. Car seats – Your car seats should be new. Don’t go ahead to accept someone’s used car seat because they’re offering it to you at an affordable price.

iii. Children’s toys – Because you don’t know where those toys came from, don’t buy them. Children tend to put things in their mouths. These toys could have pathogenic microorganisms on them that would result in your child falling ill. So, get new ones for them.

iv. Bicycle and motorcycle helmets – Just like car seats, manufacturers built this for one person. How do you know that the helmet you’re buying is safe? You don’t. But, if you could find a decent helmet in very good condition and the right size, purchase it. Clean the padding or probably change it before use.

v. Furniture and rugs – Similar to mattresses, wooden furniture and rugs may come with their own share of bugs. Trust me, these bugs are very difficult to handle. You don’t need them in your home.

vi. Medical supplies – Having medical supplies in your home is very important during times of emergency. But, when you do not get the right medical supplies, you may be doing yourself and your family more harm than good. Purchasing used syringes, gauze, and other medical supplies without contacting your doctor is dangerous. For you to be able to use these supplies, your doctor has to give you the go-ahead. You have to hear that these apparatus are safe for reuse. If you don’t have the money to purchase everything right away, purchase them gradually until the first aid box is full.

6. Buying the cheapest thing you can find in the market – 

Do you know why your friends don’t want to go shopping with you anymore is because they realized that since you went frugal, you became cheap? You are one of those people spreading the myth that being frugal means being cheap. So, you do not check the quality of the items you buy before purchasing them. You shouldn’t be cheap, be smart.

7. Stockpiling

This is one of the funny things frugal people tend to do. When they go shopping for groceries and they discover that the price of one of the items they need has been slashed, they buy in bulk.

For instance, someone wants to purchase two sardine packs, but this person learns that the price has gone down by more than half the original price. What happens next is the person going home with 50 packs in hand and a big smile on the face.

If you can use the items before the expiry period, then it is fine to purchase them. But if you can’t, then you’re giving yourself problems. You’ll end up with a ton of spoilt items in your fridge with no space to store the items you really need. Don’t buy items in bulk because they are very affordable.

8. No priorities –

One thing I’ve discovered is that some people start living frugally because they’ve seen their friends do it and have testified about saving more. Some people don’t know the actual reason they decided to jump into frugal living. This is one of the mistakes people make when trying to be frugal.

The main reasons why people choose to be frugal is because they have a lot of debt to pay and it’s getting worse, they live hand to mouth and have no savings, or their income has been cut short.

Before you go into frugal living, have you asked yourself why you’re doing this? Do you have plans in place to ensure that you meet your goals? It’s almost rare to see someone who has everything settled deciding to live frugally. Do you want to save more money for your retirement? There are various plans to put in place to ensure you’re not living frugally in vain. If you don’t make these plans, you might end up disappointed.

9. Believing frugal living works by following a particular technique or strategy

Just like every other thing in life, things you do when living frugally do not work the same way for everyone. Don’t just receive advice from everyone and decide to go with it. You might be disappointed. Even experts do not know what works for everyone. Sometimes, you just have to find your own successful path to frugal living. Discover what works for you.

For instance, if someone can do without eating outside the house for six years, it doesn’t mean you should follow that route. You can make yours just once a month. Do something you’re comfortable with.

10. Not carrying out maintenance

Being frugal doesn’t mean you should avoid spending money at all. It means you should spend it on important things. Maintenance of your appliances is very important. For example, if you refuse to carry out maintenance on your car for over six months, one day you may be on your way to an important job interview and your car decides to breakdown. It is entirely your fault if this happens because you refused to spend your money on the right thing. Being frugal doesn’t mean you should be stingy to yourself.

Also, don’t try to carry out repairs yourself. If you don’t understand a particular appliance or how it operates, don’t try to repair it yourself. Call a technician. Else, you may end up causing more damage and ultimately, spending more money.

The Right Way to Be Frugal

1. Ease into frugal living comfortably 

Don’t rush into it. You shouldn’t just turn your entire life around overnight. The only way frugal living can truly work for you as a beginner is if you ease into it.

Make small changes until they become big ones. You should start from one frugal idea at a time, and not do everything at once. When you find yourself doing quite well at one thing, go deeper.

It takes 21 days for what you’re doing to become a habit. If you’ve lasted for 21 days, it doesn’t still mean you can last forever. For instance, if you started by taking Starbucks coffee only every Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, after doing this for a while, you can then try only Mondays and Fridays. You’ll find out that soon enough, you’ll stop it altogether. This means you were able to successfully incorporate being frugal into the lifestyle you were used to.

Another example as mentioned above is eating out. You can take your food to work three times a week and then eat out with friends for the last few days. You’ll discover that it will be much easier for you to take your food to work every day as time goes on.

2. Develop a frugal mindset 

Someone with a frugal mindset knows exactly (s)he is going with that lifestyle choice. There’s always a plan in place to make sure it’s successful and achieve the desired goal.

When one decides to leave being frugal after achieving a goal, the frugal mindset doesn’t disappear. Although that person may start spending well and use the money gotten to do whatever he wants, the memory of where he’s coming from is still there. There’ll be a very good knowledge of the difference between right and wrong spending.

The frugal mindset doesn’t make you a cheapskate. It makes you smarter.


Now that you’ve seen some of the mistakes that people make when trying to be frugal, you should be able to make better decisions about if and how you’re going to live frugally. You have to know what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there. Don’t become unnecessarily cheap that you even end up losing the respect of everyone. Be wise when spending and don’t ignore the important things in the name of being frugal. 

Share this post with your friends and loved ones. It could help them even better. 

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