Walking The Fine Line Between Frugality And Scarcity

When it comes to saving money, there are many ways to economize.  Taking your lunch to work is a great way to avoid overspending.  Then, there’s finding better alternatives.  A generic store brand is worth a try and may be just as good as a name-brand item.  Ultimately, there’s doing without.  However, the habit of doing without may offer diminishing or detrimental returns.

Frugal, froogal, froot-gle.  Nothing good can come of acting out a word that sounds way goofy.  I’m reminded of 18th-century farm living where vocabulary was as limited as the society’s vocational opportunities.  No one’s saying that you can’t adjust some habits downward, but developing an austerity habit may not help your future as much as you think it will.  Frugalizing to the nth degree can be harmful to your well-being.

It’s best to not be in a situation where you have to take a drastic giant step back.  By avoiding lifestyle inflation, you won’t have to lifestyle-deflate.

I’m all for being thrifty but when your health, appearance, or regard for others starts to decline, it’s time to reevaluate.

Too Froogal

I have a few deal-breakers when it comes to being frugal.  Rule #1 – I will not postpone medical care, and neither should you.  Medical insurance, doctors, and prescriptions can be expensive but you can find alternatives for medical needs the same as any other cost.  You can try taking care of yourself to avoid problems altogether.  You’d be shocked at how a good diet eliminates many problems.  You can look for an alternative treatment that has less side effects and longer-term results.  Acupuncture is a good alternative for treating all types of illnesses.  So is herbal medication.  I know how much controversy there is on this topic, but I haven’t taken a prescription drug in 25 years.  I had very bad side effects from taking too many antibiotics many years ago and stopped cold-turkey.  Since then, my go-to treatment is acupuncture and an appropriate homeopathic medicine.  I have saved a bundle in medical insurance and out-of-pocket expenses.

Deal breaker #2 is – I will not wear socks or underwear with holes.  Same for stained or damaged pieces.  When wearing things with holes is OK, cost-cutting has hit fanatical.  C’mon people, keep some standards.  You can be cost-conscious without looking like a pauper.

Here’s one of life’s dirty tricks.  You want to save on a product, buy the cheapest you can get your hands on and the piece of crap breaks after only a few uses.  This is a common cheap-o disappointment that occurs when buying low-quality merchandise.  If the product is still somewhat useful, you have to deal with adjusting the item to get it to work right, like using it only on a Wednesday when it’s not cloudy or tilting it a certain way to get it to activate.  So, the money you’ve spent was a waste and you have to shell out more money to replace it.

When buying someone a gift and spending as little as possible, are you running the risk of looking unappreciative of your relationship with the person for the sake of a few bucks? The $30 or $50 that you don’t spend may not be worth jeopardizing a relationship.

Lastly, I tried postponing purchases of certain items only to suffer the consequences of doing without until the next payday, credit card cycle, or trip to a certain store. I ran out of so many items that it upset my household routine.

Developing Harmful Money Scripts

The real danger is in developing a lack-based mentality. By constantly short-changing yourself or others, you run the risk of engraving a scarcity attitude on your personal psyche.  When vowing a life of poverty, like a monk, and it becomes normal, the brain waves become permanent.  You don’t want to trigger a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The goal is to reach an abundance frame of mind, not effect a deprivation lifestyle.

If you’ve read any of my previous material, you know that money scripts intrigue me.  My fear is that when habituating a low-spending pattern that evokes too much negativity, you could accidentally establish a new money script.  In The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge, Scrooge embraces his life of sparsity.  He allows himself little pleasure, little heat, and lacks the insight into his miserly attitude at life. It’s a self- punishment of lingering feelings of worthlessness and, worse, he imposes it on his workers.

The target should be a healthy level of financial management.  This entails managing earning, spending, and accumulating wealth to support a comfortable life and retirement.

Related posts:

Financial Happiness

Money Scripts


Do The Right Thing, Use Moderation Elsewhere

Those of us that know the ins and outs of tax-deferred retirement accounts are doing it to the max and saving some on the side.  Yes, by sacrificing now, money not spent today pays for tomorrow’s comfort.  That doesn’t mean that cutting the budget to the bone will make us that more wealthy in the future.  Yes, every little bit helps, but not at the cost of threatening relationships, health, or mental stability.

If you’re covering the basics and maxing out your retirement accounts, don’t crimp every other area of your life as well.  Your enthusiasm for money management will soon turn you into a major grump.  Being broke all the time is not fun, trust me on that one.

I’d rather stay with my Pilates classes even though I could be saving that money each month.  Because I value how I feel and the exercise class keeps me honest about my fitness level it’s added to my physical health.  How I take care of myself today determines how I will feel tomorrow, so I am invested in how I manage my health today.  To offset diminishing muscle mass, I am adding another class to my repertoire.  It’s not as expensive as the weekly Pilates and will add variety to my exercise challenges.

Having a Suitable BackUp

The balance is in having a suitable back up for every area of cutbacks.  For example, bringing your favorite lunch and looking forward to eating it is a healthy way to avoid spending big bucks buying lunch every day.  But if you skimp on your favorite food altogether and bring something bland, you will find a reason to be at the deli getting a $10 sub, chips, and a soda.  The bland lunch will become so unappetizing that you’ll be back at the deli every day.  Mission Failed.  You’re better off spending slightly less while simultaneously preserving your happiness.

Another great example of mine is having a $5 sample product that substitutes for a full-size expensive product that I’d like to postpone replenishing.  While my empty container sits and waits to be replaced, I’m using the sample size and not feeling deprived.  The $5 bottle has carried me through until I’m ready to buy the $100 version.


Life requires creativity.  Finding artful ways to garner abundance while reaching financial goals produces a heightened sense of accomplishment.   Financial hacks should be associated with positivity, not negativity.

Related Post: Financial Freedom

3 Replies to “Walking The Fine Line Between Frugality And Scarcity”

  1. My frugality got me through some tough years but now that I’m past those, it’s really hitting me how ingrained my scarcity mindset is. Over the past year I’ve worked really hard to shift toward an abundant frame of mind and I’m going to keep doing that inner work!

    1. Hi NZ,
      Yes, it’s trippy how quickly our minds conform, and it’s just as mentally challenging to switch back to thinking big.
      Glad you’re past a rough patch!

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