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How Being Cheap Can Sometimes Cost You More

Mar 11, 2020 3 min read Zina Kumok

Key Takeaways

  • Couponing isn’t a goldmine. And it usually destroys your opportunity cost.
  • Purchasing cheap wares becomes extravagant over the long term.
  • Investing in your career or health is always a dollar well spent.


Excessive consumption is a big problem in the U.S. Too many people are living beyond their means, purchasing items and financing a lifestyle they cannot really afford.



Spending too much money is an obvious problem. But, believe it or not, being overly frugal can also be problematic, in ways you may not have ever considered. Read below to see how you can avoid letting attempts at frugality overtake your life.


Why couponing may not be worth it

A few years ago, reality TV shows were filled with coupon queens who could perform feats such as buying 10 bottles of bleach for $1. They were praised for their ability to save money, and some consumers were inspired to emulate them.

But this kind of bulk shopping isn’t always going to work, especially when it comes to items that expire. Bleach is one of those items – after six to nine months or so, it loses its effectiveness, according to chemistry, biology and physics instructor Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Plus, most coupons are only for household and toiletry items and prepared foods. It’s rarer to find coupons for fresh produce and meat. Coupons for six packs of chocolate pudding aren’t going to be good for your diet, even if they’re almost free.

This doesn’t mean you should never use coupons. Services such as Groupon, for example, can make couponing easier, and you can receive a variety of savings opportunities. The point here is that you shouldn’t let the process take over your life and end up being more of a time-waster than it is a boon to your wallet.


Buying cheap may cost you more money

It’s always tempting to buy the cheaper item if you’re trying to save money. Why spend $100 on a pair of boots when there’s a $40 pair?

Sometimes, however, it’s better to buy the former. A pair of $100 boots that will last you for three years will cost you $33.33 a year. If a more cheaply made $40 pair will only get you through one season, then you’re actually going to spend more money in the long run.

Some brands actually offer a lifetime guarantee. Even if you spend more money upfront, you’ll have the benefit of getting a replacement in case something goes wrong.

You don’t have to bust your piggy bank to buy quality items. Consignment stores often carry designer brands for more than half off, and certain websites also sell reliable brands at heavy discounts. Better product for a lower price? Can’t beat that.


Don’t skimp on investing in your career

One of the worst ways you can save money is by not investing in your career. Networking events, conferences and training sessions can all impact your salary in the future. But you have to make the investment now.

For example, joining your local Chamber of Commerce might cost $1,000 in dues, but you’ll meet lots of new people. If you decide to switch careers or change jobs, you’ll already have a built-in network.

Skipping lunch with your coworkers most weeks is probably fine, but it’s good to go every once in a while. Many people hire because they are referred by people they know, and it’s easier to find a job if you have a well-established network of coworkers.

If you’re trying to stick to a budget and grow your career, research what makes the most sense for you. Do you need to attend that extra training in person, or can you find an online course? Does it make sense to have a business coach, or will a few books from the library work?

If you do have to splurge, you may be able to take a tax deduction for business expenses that your office doesn’t reimburse you for.


Don’t put your health on the back burner

For years, I avoided buying a gym membership. “I’m too cheap to pay for that,” I told myself. “I’ll just work out at home.”

But I didn’t. I had tennis shoes and workout clothes, but I never felt like working out. It was only when I joined a gym that I finally had the motivation to exercise regularly. Sure, I spent more money, but I was working out several times a week and boosting my fitness and health.

Some people can run at the park or bike in their neighborhood for exercise. Others need a group class or a personal trainer to keep them on track. Staying healthy is a lifetime goal, and unless you’re putting a gym membership on a credit card that you can’t pay off every month, it’s worth the expense.

You can also save money by asking for discounts, checking if your health insurance offers rebates if you provide proof of a gym membership or buying exercise gear secondhand.


What you can do next

Sometimes the urge to avoid spending is fueled by concerns over money. But many of these issues, like building an emergency fund or having enough for daily expenses, can be circumvented with the right planning. It’s about taking small, but significant steps today.



Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. She has written for the Associated Press, Indianapolis Monthly and more. She also writes a blog about how she paid off her student loans in three years.


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