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When Frugal Goes Too Far

Not too long ago, I was getting ready to check out at Aldi and noticed they had their beautiful floral bouquets on sale for half price. Since Aldi typically sells their floral bouquets for $3.99, they were marked down to $1.99 each and they still looked amazing!

I love fresh flowers and I love a great deal, so I was excited! However, as I walked over to pick one up and put it in my cart, I felt a twinge of guilt. Immediately, I started questioning whether or not I should buy the flowers. Yes, they were on sale for $1.99, but I don’t have a fresh flower budget category (!) and the money would have to come out of our grocery budget for the week.

Back and forth the arguments went in my head: Should I really use our grocery money to buy flowers? I shouldn’t spend that $1.99 on me–especially on something that’s just going to look pretty for a few days and then die. But $1.99 is a great deal and they will really brighten our kitchen table.

I picked up the flowers and then put them back three times. I was so conflicted about what I should do.

Finally, after a few minutes of standing there having my mind play tug-o-war, I snapped back into reality and realized how crazy I was being (and how ridiculous I must look to other people passing by!)

Yes, it’s a good thing to carefully examine every purchase. Yes, it’s a good thing to make sure anything you’re purchasing is a good deal and that it’s something you can afford.

For me to stand in the Aldi check out lane, though, and spend close to five minutes waffling over whether or not I should spend $1.99 on beautiful flowers is not only wasting time and energy, it’s taking frugal too far.

Frugality is not about living a miserable and bland existence, it’s about being wise stewards of our money so that we have more to save, give, and yes, spend on the occasional splurge. As long as you have the money in your budget, it’s okay to buy things on occasion just because.

In fact, if I can’t justify the occasional splurge for something that will bring beauty into my life, then I’m probably bordering on becoming a tightwad.

So, armed with fresh resolve (and the realization that we had plenty of wiggle room in our grocery budget), I picked up the flowers, purchased them, and guiltlessly enjoyed their beauty for the rest of the week.

Have you ever taken frugal too far? I’d love to hear your stories and how you’ve worked to find a healthful balance between living a frugal life, but also allowing yourself enough breathing room to enjoy life, too!

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230 Comments

  • Nancy says:

    Umm, have you been at Target watching me? I had been looking at the same purple cami on the clearance rack for at least 4 weeks. It finally got marked down to $4.48, and armed with my $3 off coupon, I STILL wasn’t willing to pay $1.48 for it. Yesterday, it got marked down to $1.98, so yup, I got it for free. I think I took frugality too far. The item could’ve slipped away from me, and it was the perfect shade of purple that I needed to match something else in my wardrobe. Sigh… BUT, you are so right! We need to make decisions that make us feel good sometimes, regardless of price.

  • theresa says:

    i think you are right that going back and forth for five minutes is going a little too far for someone in your financial situation, crystal – but for me, at this time (about 30 days away from completing our emergency fund), the flowers would be a no – and there have been many times when 1.99 would be more than i have spent feeding my entire family dinner! i am keeping “to everything there is a season” in the front of my mind right now – sometimes it is a negative thing – we have had our spendthrift season, now it is over, but most of the time it is a positive thing – if we will be careful now, we will have more flexibility later – so, for me, too frugal at this time would be skimping on four food groups for my children or neglecting to change the oil in our one family vehicle – but i have got vision for those aldi flowers! we are just not there yet!

    • Amber says:

      Theresa, that perfectly describes where we are now too. Very well said!

    • says:

      I know how you feel. I strive to feed 8 of us for $3 a day (3 meals snacks for everyone) and right now buying food is just not possible.

      Sometimes, when I smell the stargazer lilies, I just walk over to them, pick them up, take a big whiff (or three!), and put them back in the water. I enjoy them right there in the store for that moment, and that has to do for now.

  • may says:

    i know exactly what u all mean.. for few years now kept telling each other not to buy presents for one another for birthdays and anniversaries.money has been really tight. but i have been always secretly wishing he would find or even make me a cheap gift. how sad is that? =(

    • says:

      May,

      You are not alone. You should ask him if he would do something for your birthday or anniversary. Give him suggestions of ideas that could be done with things you already have.

      I remember asking my husband to buy milk for 2 years in a row for our anniversary. I missed being able to buy milk (we have had enough powdered and evaporated milk in storage that I could cook, though we weren’t shopping for food). I LOVE milk. The second year, he bought it. It was a HUGE splurge for us to buy a gallon of milk, and it was a big deal to me. I worried about the money (after all, we weren’t shopping for food) but it was a very meaningful gift to me.

      We don’t usually do gifts either–no budget for it–but you can give each other gifts of service. Perhaps there is something that he could do for you, such as clean the kitchen, mop the floor, clean the bathrooms, etc. In turn, you could take out the trash, vacuuum the car, etc. Gifts of service just cost your time, and though they aren’t a physical gift, they are nice, too. Perhaps you could have him cook dinner for you, or you could give him the gift of a nice meal (even if it’s just a new bean recipe).

      One thing that we do that is nice on those days is that we take the time to do something at home together. Usually we play a game together after the children are in bed. It’s nice to just spend time together, even though we can’t go out.

  • karrie jablonowski says:

    To the question…No..Ive never been that frugal, but I’m trying to learn. Im one of those,”Hmm..they are on sale so ill get like 6 bouquets, and my house will look and smell amazing!!” lol Ive spent my whole life over induldging on everything. Im trying really hard now to be somewhere in the middle to start, and get a lot of free stuff while im at it. lol Love the story though. Thanks for sharing that..

  • Becky says:

    Very funny–I feel your pain, Crystal! My possible over the edge moment happened last weekend. We went to a casual dinner party at someone’s house with several friends. We took 2 fancy desserts, 1 large expensive bottle of a limited release beer, a nice bottle of wine, & a 6 pack of beer (I know, I know–sounds like we have drinking problems). My husband & I had met some family out for appetizers & drinks beforehand, & so we hardly ate/drank when we went to the party. My husband drank a couple of the beers we brought, we shared the special release beer with the friends, & I had a 1/2 glass of wine that the hostess served me which was box wine that I know she keeps in her fridge at all times (nothing against box wine since we often enjoy it, just was cheap compared to what we brought). When we were leaving, I grabbed a couple of the remaining beers & the bottle of wine we brought that was unopened. I felt justified in doing it since we had brought so much and eaten/drank so little, but I just felt cheap doing it. I regretted it when we got home & especially hoped that nobody saw me collecting it as I left. I think I should have left it all–I’ve been feeling guilty about it all week.

  • says:

    Thank you for writing this so I know I am not the only one in the world who struggles with this!

  • says:

    So good Crystal! I have absolutely done this before. Thanks for the reminder.

  • says:

    After gaining 30 pounds, I was still shoving my haunches into my medium underwear…I was no longer a medium, for sure. Nothing makes you feel worse about your body than underwear that doesn’t fit! I thought I could lose the weight quickly enough to make do. So glad I gave in and bought underwear that fits! And now I feel like I look pretty good!

  • Joy says:

    I did the same thing yesterday at the the thrift store. Saw a really beautiful purple shirt new with tags from Kohl’s around $4 for me. I stared at it for a good 1/2 hour. Put it in my cart. Took it out my cart. Put it back in cart. Took it out of cart again and put in back on rack. I’m kicking myself now for not getting it. I guess I felt guilty because I had already borrowed money from my almost 13 y.o. son to go to thrift store in first place. I did buy a never used purse for $3 though to replace my falling apart one. LOL.

    • says:

      I think you did the right thing. You went to get a purse to replace yours. That was the important thing. You didn’t really have the money for the shirt, so putting it back was the right thing. It doesn’t matter how good of a deal it is if you can’t afford it.

  • Emily says:

    I was crying one day at the grocery store because my budget that week was “essentials only” and my son wanted me to make Turkish Delight for his birthday. Turkish Delight at our house is simply Jello made without all the water so it makes Jello Jigglers and then I roll them in powdered sugar. Since I had powdered sugar all I needed was a 69 cent box of green Jello. There I was standing in the Jello aisle going back and forth about buying it and crying about going over my budget. Seriously?!?!

  • Dara says:

    Thanks, Crystal, for sharing your story! As a black-belt couponer, I also struggle with any purchase which might fall under the category of a “luxury.” A particularly tricky area for me is movies. The last time I’d seen a movie was in September, and I didn’t even pay — I was taking the children I babysit for. But there’s a discount theater near my home with $3 movies, and they only charge $1.50 on Tuesdays. So this week, I decided to force myself to “blow” 6 quarters on this extravagance, and enjoyed a wonderful Tuesday matinee of “Puss In Boots.” Hurray for simple pleasures!

  • DJ says:

    My husband and I will go together to the card aisle on Valentine’s Day, pick out the cards we want, exchange them right there, then put them back! HA! My dad says this is taking my frugality too far.

  • Erin says:

    I did a similar thing once, but decided to pass them up. When I shared the story with my husband, hoping to get a pat on the back for my frugality and self restraint, I was surprised by his reaction. He felt horrible. He was working hard because he wanted to take good care of me. And when I felt like we couldn’t afford to spend a few dollars on something so simple, it made him feel like a failure as a man and provider of our family despite all his effort. Sometimes its good to remember moderation in all things!

  • says:

    LOL I did this at Aldi’s just last week! I keep looking at all the flowers, picking up each and every bunch. After a seemingly ten minute look over I passed the flowers over. I just couldn’t do it! To see that most of the flowers were a little beat up I decided to save my buck ninety nine for something surely less frugal. Bah probably produce haha.

  • says:

    How funny this is to read as the last 3 weeks I have been adding tulips to my grocery cart during my weekly shopping trip. However, this week I began to feel guilty about the $3.99 I was spending on these beautiful flowers that really gave me a pick me up everytime I walked by the kitchen table where they were displayed beautifully atop a vintage cake stand in an ironstone pitcher.

    So….this week I spent $5.99 and purchased a potted Gerbera Daisy that will still atop that vintage cake stand, but should last me until Spring Break before I manage to kill it…And, I feel like I just saved a ton of money.

    I guess what I am saying is I totally get what YOU are saying! Frugal doesn’t mean we have to deprive ourselves of a touch of beauty in our surroundings. Sometimes we just may have to re-think how we get that beauty to sate our frugal mindset…..

  • robbin says:

    I love most of these ideas but one. Shoes for growing feet. I have a couple friends who never got new shoes. They were always preworn. Now as adults they have serious and expensive foot leg n hip issues. My goal is to save but not hurt my kids. So unless the shoes are new we don’t buy em anyplace but a shoe dept. Sadly one of the people is my mother inlaw and she either can wear expensive sneakers. Or tie shoes both run over $80.00a pair. No slippers flip flops or even sandals work and I mean to the point she can’t walk has to be on bed rest and get treatment.

    • KC says:

      Totally agree when it comes to shoes. Buying a new pair instead of a used one is like teeth cleaning now or dental work later. Just my opinion.

    • Sarah says:

      I totally agree. My compromise is to only have 2-3 pairs of shoes for my son, but make sure they fit well (that 1/2-inch between his big toe and the end of the shoes is important, they last longer that way).

  • Becky says:

    Yes, I’ve taken frugal too far…even on groceries. I guess I’m a tightwad, but my husband is a free spirit, so I have to compromise sometimes. We have a budgeted item called “spending money” which we use to splurge on ourselves and most of my spending money goes to Bath and Body Works. Even there I feel the need to go to the outlet because the prices seem so much better than at the regular store.

  • says:

    I think about this ALL THE TIME! I can really get myself in a WAD over whether to save or give. Normally, the Lord reminds me of the story when Mary poured the expensive perfume all over His feet in lavish “waste”. Her “mis”use of the perfume glorified the Lord AND enabled her to experience abundance. HE delights in our pleasure as His children, and He loves to give us abundance when we can embrace it. He blesses us with money and the ability to enjoy nature, gifted people, art, and the joy of sharing with others. Oh that I will stay close enough to Him to hear him telling me when to bless and when to BE blessed. 🙂

  • Deb says:

    FYI….I bought a potted plant at Aldi’s a year or so ago (for a good price!) and found out later that it had aphids. Infected several other of my plant menagerie before I realized it was infested! Lesson learned: CHECK under the leaves before buying fresh flowers or plants there!

  • Jocelyn says:

    Thank you for sharing this! Recently had a conversation about a similar subject with some friends. I believe God calls us to live without worry and be generous. We are called to be good stewards and use all we have for God’s glory.

  • Christy says:

    I have a 4 year old boy and 1 year old boy. We have paid for haircuts for the 4 year old for about 3 years now. Just starting getting 1 year old’s haircut and I have been stressing about how I cannot spend $45-50 every 6 weeks for all 3 of my boys to get their haircut (including DH). I have long, curly hair, so I only get it trimmed every 3 months for $40 each time–yes I know that is expensive, but when you find someone that can cut curly hair w/o butchering it….Well, anyway, about 7 weeks ago, we paid for all 3 boys to get their hair cut. About 3 weeks ago, DH and oldest were due. DH got his cut but I was determined to save money and cut the children’s hair myself. 3 weeks later, I finally decided to cut my now very shaggy 4 year old’s hair. DH tells me our clippers broke months ago. Great! Did some research on the internet and many of you frugal mommies cut your sons’ hair with scissors, no clippers. A friend of mine cuts her 2 year old twins sons with scissors, no clippers, and regular scissors at that. Read a lot, watched youtube tutorials and set off to cut. BAD IDEA!! Of course, DH told me it was a bad idea before I started. Ended up driving up to CVS and buying a $20 haircut kit (with clippers) to try to undo the damage. The clippers were sooo much easier and made it look a little better, but there is a huge bald spot in the back where I had cut too short with the scissors before using the clippers and around one ear is absolutely horrid–again from scissors. So now DH is insisting on taking him to the haircut place tomorrow and is laughing at me about my frugal attempt that has turned into a $34 haircut ($20 for clippers + $14 for fixing it). I am willing to give it another shot next time he needs a cut now that I have the correct tools and figure they may be a money-saving purchase in the long run, but DH is against it!! 1 year old will need haircut soon…… Hats off to all you frugal mommies that do this successfully on your own and hoping the daycare lets him wear his ball cap tomorrow! Also having your 4 year old scream at you, “You should have listened to your husband,” is wonderful!!

    • Sarah says:

      hahaha! Your husband sounds like mine! He’s very good at pulling me back from the edge when I’ve gone too far. But he’s also been a great partner is my couponing efforts. He actually has a coupon swap with a bunch of ladies in his office at work! I’ve been so grateful for his help the last few months, since this pregnancy (and my ornery 3-year-old) are kicking my butt!

  • kathy says:

    Thanks For the laughs. Here’s mine. When our son was a toddler and I was a stay at home mom I decided I could save money by cutting his hair. Well when I finished we went to see grandma who said bangs were not right.She proceeded to trim them. Well needless to say We had to take him to our beautician to straighten out the mess. Her first words were What in the world happened to this child?LOL we never confessed but you think she knew? LOL Also when this same child was about ten and I showed him anew shirt I bought him his first words were “How much did you get off? ” That’s when I realized I would need to be careful not to go to far.

  • kathy says:

    One last comment /thought. That wonderful child is now a responsible young man with a family of his own. His comment to his wife was that if she wanted to learn how to save money (they were newlyweds at the time )talk to my mama. He meant It as a compliment. Just a word to encourage young moms.Teaching your children to save by example is a wonderful life lesson that will come back to bless them and you if not taken too far. May God bless each of you in your efforts to be good stewards of what He has given you.

  • Sarah says:

    Our family’s “too frugal” moment was 3 years ago when replacing the tile in our dining room. My husband and father-in-law went shopping for all the supplies (which included some beautiful tile that we’d got on a great sale). Well, hubby thought about getting that cardboard backer board that you put down underneath the tile to keep everything stable, but his dad talked him out of buying it because it was so expensive, and he’d tiled his kitchen without it and never had problems.

    Well, the 2 of them spent all of the 4-day Thanksgiving weekend cutting tile on our front porch (to stay out of the pouring rain) and worked like dogs to get the job done in the time they both had off work. Well, our townhome was built on the side of a hill back in the 1960s, so there’s definitely some settling going on with the house.

    After a month or two, the tile started cracking. After several months, all the grout had crumbled and had been swept away (yeah, no so fun cleaning a floor when you have more of the floor in your dustpan than actual dirt).

    Two years later we were finally able to afford to replace the flooring, so for two years hubby had to look at that floor and regret cheaping out and not buying the backer board. Cheaping out ruined all that hard work and wasted the money and time spent on the project.

  • kathy says:

    Just. A follow up note. Reading all this made me definitely think straight while in CVS today. Husband only likes one kind of Listerine mouthwash. Only one brand and one kind. It was on sale at good price. He’s completely out and for one moment I thought about not getting it because I had planned on a one dollar coupon and discovered it was only fifty cents! Then I thought about this blog. I bought hubby’s choice and he’s very happy. Thanks for helping when we almost slip back

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