4 Ways to Tell You’re Being Too Frugal

Man checking out leftovers from fridge.

Image source: Getty Images

There’s such a thing as being too cheap.

Key points

  • It’s great to save money where you can, but be careful not to put your health and safety at risk to do so.
  • Leftover food and mattresses both have expiration dates.
  • Living without necessary insurance coverage will end up costing you more in the end.

For some people, not spending money on certain things is a mark of pride. Many of us have something we cling to as a tried-and-true way to keep more money in our savings account. For example, I would almost always rather repair something I already own instead of just buying a new one. So I’ll mend a jacket or take a pair of shoes to be resoled. Saving money in this way makes sense, and isn’t endangering my money, my health, or my freedom.

These other frugal moves, on the other hand? If you can say “yes” to any of these, you are being more frugal than what is good for either your health or your wallet.

1. You’re eating leftovers that are past their prime

Possibly unpopular opinion: I love leftovers. I enjoy cooking, and if I make a really great meal and get to eat it again the next day, or a few months down the line (because I’ve frozen extra portions), it’s fantastic. The same goes for really great takeout. In fact, a great way to save money on takeout food is to order enough to have for multiple meals. There’s a fine line to walk here, however — leftovers definitely have an expiration date.

The Mayo Clinic notes that you generally have three to four days to consume refrigerated leftovers before bacterial growth makes them unsafe to eat. You’ll get longer out of your leftover food if you freeze it, but you still only have a few months before it will decline in quality. If you routinely take advantage of your local pizza place’s “2 for 1” deal and live off pizza leftovers for a week or two at a time, you should rethink that. Food poisoning is no joke, and if you get sick, you may require expensive medical care.

2. You’ve had the same mattress forever

Your health is really the most important thing in the world; after all, if you’re sick or injured, everything in life becomes more difficult. Sleep is an incredibly important activity — if you sleep an average of eight hours a night, that’s one-third of your life you’ll spend asleep. To that end, when’s the last time you replaced your mattress? Bob Vila reports that while the mattress industry recommends replacing your mattress every seven to 10 years, the lifespan of a mattress is more complicated to discern than that.

The main way to tell you need a new mattress is that you’re no longer getting restful sleep on it. You might also be experiencing issues with allergies (not to be gross, but your mattress absorbs bodily fluids like sweat, along with dead skin cells, and these attract dust mites). Visually, if your mattress is sagging, lumpy, or looking worn out, it’s time to replace it. And if the springs inside are making noise when you lie or sit on your bed, it’s time. Don’t keep a mattress past its prime; living in pain or without good sleep isn’t worth the money savings.

3. You skip regular auto maintenance

Skipping out on regular car maintenance activities, like oil changes and tire rotations, may not impact your health directly the way the previous two signs might, but it will certainly cost you more money than you’ll save. Owning a car can be very expensive, and if you’re already paying $702 a month for the privilege, you may be tempted to ignore the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance. This can be an expensive and dangerous game, however.

Your car’s oil is extremely important to its performance, as it lubricates engine components and collects particulate material that could otherwise harm your car. Keep up with oil changes and regular maintenance lest you find yourself dipping into your emergency savings to pay for a big car repair bill later.

4. You don’t have all the insurance you need

Going without insurance can result not just in having to spend more money later, but in some circumstances, it can even cost you your freedom. Not having health insurance is dangerous for your health and your wallet. If you get sick or have an accident, you’ll be facing astronomical medical bills.

If you have a mortgage, you’ll likely be required to have homeowners insurance to protect the mortgage company’s investment, and it’s a good idea to have a renters insurance policy if you don’t own your home. Your landlord’s homeowners policy will not cover your belongings in the event of a catastrophe like a fire or a flood.

Another potentially expensive part of owning a vehicle is auto insurance. Note that auto insurance is required in every state but New Hampshire, so driving without it is illegal. If you get busted driving without insurance, your penalty for a first offense could be a fine or license suspension. But if it’s a repeat offense, you could be jailed.

Driving without insurance is a terrible idea because you’ll be left without protection for your own vehicle and physical wellbeing in the event of an accident. You’ll also have full financial responsibility for injuries to others and repairs for their vehicles if you are involved in a crash. The money savings are just not worth the risk of driving uninsured.

The above illustrations of frugality taken too far are just a few of many extreme examples. If you’re skimping on costs and the returns you’re reaping are not worth the money you’re saving, I’d urge you to rethink those moves. Saving money is great, but not at the cost of your health and happiness.

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