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Frugality: How Low Would You Go?

Frugality: How Low Would You Go?

You may have heard that green is the new black. This can be associated with the intention of being more eco-friendly, and that defines a trend towards watching our pennies. Money, or lack there of, is driving many people to become more frugal. For whatever the economic reason, frugality has become a way of life for some. Is it possible to be too frugal?

Being frugal is not a new concept. My husband’s family had a saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” My mom used to squirrel away what she called, “mad money”, for times when money was tight and we wanted to do something fun. This type of frugality seems within the “normal” realm for most folks.

For someone like me, who has been championing eco-friendly DIY projects and has also forayed into dumpster diving on the rare occasion, being frugal has more to do with making wise and ethical financial decisions. Rather than saving every penny and missing out on all the fun, I like the old adage of “making do” and tucking away a little “mad money.” It’s a fine balance that allows for options.

This is all fine and good, but at some point, will some of us migrate over the line towards obsession? The New York Times addressed this recently in an article about what happens when frugality crosses the line:

“One way my husband and I save a little money is to use the shampoo, conditioner and other products we’ve collected from hotel stays. During the depths of the recession, when we stayed at an apartment rental, we stocked up on the hair products the owners had left for us to use. Still, I couldn’t help wondering whether we were being frugal or we were stealing…”

Do you think this is crossing the line? When does being frugal turn into being a cheapskate?

The Money Crashers believes that it is crazy frugal behavior if you’ve ever considered doing these tasks to save a buck:

  • Cutting dryer sheets in half.
  • Cutting Post it notes in half.
  • Got a run in your pantyhose? Wait until you get a run in another set. Cut each in half and use the two good “legs”.
  • Splitting two-ply toilet paper.

Are these questionable frugal tactics? Is it possible to be too frugal? What do you do that is acceptable or not acceptable in the name of frugality?  Share your stories of being frugal.

Read more: Conservation, EcoNesting, Family, Home, Life, Money, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, , , , , , , , , ,

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Ronnie Citron-Fink

Ronnie Citron-Fink is a writer, editor and educator. She has written hundreds of articles about sustainable living, the environment, design, and family life for websites, books and magazines. Ronnie is the creator of Econesting, and the managing editor of Moms Clean Air Force. Ronnie was named one of the Top Ten Living Green Experts by Yahoo. Ronnie lives in New York with her family.

122 comments

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11:40PM PDT on Jul 6, 2012

My parents lived through the depression. I learned from my mother to stand bottles on end, cut them in half to get the last drop out. Any one-sided piece of paper was reused. Ribbons and bows...even gift wrap was saved and reused. If it tore..you mended it, if it broke you first tried to come up with a way to fix it before buying a new one.This was just natural to me and it surprised me as I got older that people would say to me "Really? You do that?". I thought everyone did this...why wouldn`t you?

5:38PM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

I agree with Jamie L, as long as your frugality is making you happy and you don't expect or demand others to follow suit, then it is your choice.
If you have used the soap and shampoo at the hotel then take the rest home as they will only throw it out. If you don't use it leave it if you want. What people need to remember is that the cost of individual soaps etc has been built into the fee for the room so it is not stealing. But taking a towel is.
I truly don't see a problem with cutting a post it in half if you have a small note too write or a drying sheet if you have a small load.

2:55PM PST on Dec 18, 2011

I live a simple and frugal life....I don't feel as though I'm depriving myself of anything.

1:49PM PDT on Oct 18, 2011

I suppose it goes too far when you waste ridiculous amounts of time just to save a tiny bit of money. I quite enjoy the challenge of living frugally - then having the odd splurge.

10:38AM PDT on Jun 9, 2011

If a hotel gives you an individual soap, shampoo etc then it is for your use, if you don't use it then I cannot see why you shouldn't take it. If on the other hand there is a large soap dispenser and you filled a bottle from it that would be wrong. Generally being frugal (careful/sensible) is not only good for your personal budget it is good for the environment as a whole. Putting resources in to producing something just to throw part of it away (where it probably ends up in land fill) can never be a good thing so squeeze out those tooth paste tubes, drain the last drop from a bottle (and if you don't need the money you save from doing this then consider giving it to someone who isn't as fortunate!). Our savings allow us to give food to our local dogs home.

6:29PM PST on Feb 20, 2011

As low as possible!

10:32PM PST on Feb 18, 2011

sell the car! ride a bike whenever possible ! talk about saving money...

12:25PM PST on Feb 2, 2011

Frugality does not rule your life. Obsession does, and leads to a less happy life. If a person who saves the wax drippings from candles to make new ones is happy and it doesnt interfere with their life, can we really say its too frugal? To each their own.
Besides, cutting dryer sheets in half...why bother using them?

1:37AM PST on Jan 24, 2011

It doesn't rule my life, because I like to live, love & laugh, but I am frugal. When the creams get to the bottom, I cut the tube to use the rest, and when I get a note from work, it's one sided. So I make them into note size paper, and use the back as scratch paper. I haven't bought scratch paper in years...

Different people have different ways to save, and just because I have ideas doesn't mean other people don't have other or better ideas.

2:03PM PST on Jan 20, 2011

Good info, thanks.

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