Can you be TOO frugal? We’ve done some crazy things to save money. All of them have paid off financially. However, sometimes we look back and laugh at the things we’ve done. We end up asking ourselves, “WHY?!”
But, the answer is always the same. We have made intentional financial decisions all throughout our marriage for one reason: we wanted to be debt-free, mortgage-free, and retire early…very early.
If you have ever wondered, “Can you be too frugal? Is it ok to be frugal? What makes a person frugal? How can I be frugal but not cheap? How frugal is too frugal?” Then you have come to the right place!
What does it mean to be frugal?
Frugal, adjective: economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wastefulDictionary.com
Being frugal means not spending money on things you don’t need.
For us, it means not spending money on new clothes when there are clothes we love at the thrift store. It means not buying a brand new car when a used car is just as reliable. It means not shopping on Amazon just because we’re bored.
If you read the tagline at the top of this website, then you know that we have been debt-free and mortgage-free since we were 25.
Now, we are working on the early retirement part. Currently, we will be able to retire when we’re 45 years old.
We have done a lot of different things to save money over the 11 years of our marriage and we’ve put all of it in the bank so we can achieve these goals.
When I look back over these many years, I am proud of what we’ve accomplished. But, y’all, sometimes I can’t help but laugh and wonder, “Can you be TOO frugal?”
Here is the question:
Can you be TOO frugal?
Let me tell you a little story. I like to call it “Ma Ingalls Goes Cruising.”
Ma on a Cruise Ship
Back in 2014, I was packing us for our 4th Caribbean cruise. This one would be different than the other three because we were taking our baby girl with us. She was 20 months old, irresistibly adorable, and almost potty trained.
Now, I’ve always been a cloth diapering mama. I like the thought of not putting disposal diapers in the land fill and I REALLY like saving money.
Baby Girl didn’t wear diapers at home during the day. She only wore them at night, just in case. But, you know how it is when you’re traveling. Your schedule isn’t the same as when you’re at home and you’re never sure when you’ll have another bathroom break. It could be miles before you find another clean restroom.
A cruise ship is really no different.
There are restrooms everywhere, but I don’t like taking my children to the public restrooms. I always take them back to our stateroom where it’s quiet and cleaner.
The point is, Mama might have to do some major speed walking with that stroller to make it back to the stateroom in case of an emergency.
Emergency diapers to the rescue.
Disposable or Cloth? That is the question.
An ordinary person would probably pack disposable diapers when going aboard a cruise ship but not me. I decided to pack cloth diapers for that 7-day Caribbean cruise. I mean, I’m no ordinary person. I’m not frivolous. I don’t spend money like it grows on trees! Come on now!
I’m frugal and slightly pioneer-ish.
So, I filled half of her suitcase with cloth diapers.
If you’ve ever cloth diapered a baby, then you know that those diapers must be washed. Let me just say that these diapers were just “wet” because she was mostly potty trained. So, it’s not like I was having to deal with big messes on cloth while travelling. But, still, they must be washed.
Washing cloth diapers by hand does not scare me. If Ma Ingalls can do it, so can I. No big deal. (I’m holding up my arm right now so you can see my muscles.)
For example, after we bought 10 acres in another part of the state, we decided to be pioneers and live on it in a 16 foot camper…with our infant. We had so much fun but we quickly realized we didn’t do enough planning, so we went home.
However, during that time, I washed cloth diapers in a 5 gallon bucket with a water hose…outside…in the wintertime. We would frequently take our laundry to Grandpa’s house to wash it but I needed a quicker turn-around on the diapers. So, “Hand me a bucket, y’all. It’s diaper washin time!”
Washing cloth diapers by hand on this trip was going to be no problem. I am superwoman after all. (Start rolling your eyes now.)
Here is the problem though: I could never get them to dry! I would carefully wash them in the bathroom sink in our stateroom then I would hang them up to dry in the shower. I don’t know what it is about cruise ships, but things just don’t dry on their own. Ever.
On that particular cruise, we had an inside room. So, I didn’t even have the option of hanging them out on the balcony.
*Note: That wouldn’t have worked anyway because it’s against cruise ship regulations to hang any type of clothing material on the balconies because they can become a fire hazard.
Now, we laugh.
We look back on that trip and laugh. I can’t believe I took cloth diapers on a cruise ship. I’m pretty sure our cabin steward had never seen someone hanging cloth diapers out to dry. I mean, I should have just brought along my hoop skirt and bonnet as well.
I took the cloth diapers because I wanted to save money even while on a cruise. I know that sounds crazy but that’s just the way I am…slightly crazy…
On all of the cruises since then, I have taken disposable diapers for our young children. I like to think that I have grown and matured in my frugalness. Ha!
A while back, The Man and I were talking about that trip. He had completely forgotten about me taking cloth diapers on the cruise ship. He hung his head and said, “I’m sorry. I should have told you not to do that. I should have packed a package of disposable diapers for you.”
I just grinned. He probably wouldn’t have been able to talk my stubborn self out of it anyway!
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I think there are far too many people who don’t take their money seriously. Recently, I saw a meme on Facebook that said, “I know I was meant to be rich by the way I spend money.”
People laugh at things like that. They are in debt and they think their irresponsible spending habits are funny.
I’m not that way. I don’t think wasting resources is funny and I definitely don’t believe it gets us any closer to our early retirement goal.
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However, I think that in this circumstance, I was trying to be TOO frugal!
By the time we went on that cruise, we had been debt-free and mortgage-free for several years. We were going on a cruise because that’s our favorite way to vacation and The Man had shopped around until he found an awesome deal.
So, why not just take a few disposable diapers to make life a little easier?
Can you be too frugal?
No, I don’t think you can be too frugal. However, you have to make sure you don’t cross the line and start being cheap.
Being frugal enhances your life.
Being cheap can often times make your life harder.
Sometimes you must spend a little money to make your life a little easier. I have learned this on many occasions.
Here’s my advice: don’t take cloth diapers on a cruise ship!
Here is what frugal is not…
I don’t think most people have the problem of being TOO frugal. I see so many people who waste money everyday and keep digging themselves into a deeper hole.
The entire time, they try to convince themselves that they are enjoying it, but I am convinced they aren’t. When the bills come in the mail or they need new tires on their car, I have a feeling they wished they would try harder to save money.
I am convinced they lay awake at night and regret some of their purchases and the growing total on their credit bills.
Give it your best, y’all. Try hard. Be different. You don’t have to be ok with the status quo. It’s ok to swim upstream. It’s ok to save your money for a bigger goal instead of blowing it on Sonic drinks, new cars, and trips to the nail salon like everyone else.
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Is it ok to be frugal?
It is ok to be frugal.
Being frugal is what enabled us to become debt-free and mortgage free by the time we were 25. It also allowed us to pay our first (and only) mortgage off in 13 months.
Being frugal will enable us to retire when we’re 45.
So, from where I’m standing…YES, it’s ok to be frugal.
How can I be frugal but not cheap?
Being frugal is about saving money but not making your life (or anyone else’s life) harder.
Order water at a restaurant but still tip the waitress well.
Buy a quality used car.
Don’t buy coffee out, instead buy a quality french press to use at home.
Buy clothes at a thrift store, but buy brand new underwear. 😉
Can you be too frugal?
You can’t be too frugal but you can be cheap.
Strive to live a fulfilling, frugal life and you will be amazed at what you can achieve!
You can do this.
Keep up the good work! Swim upstream.
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