Sometimes the idea of frugality is easier to achieve than the execution. Pinching your pennies until they squeak is sometimes less “cost-saving” than it may seem, and striking a balance between expense and frugality can be a time-consuming line to walk all the time. So, how do you know what to spend money on and what's okay to skim over? Thanks to the internet, we've got some great options for things that can seem frugal but come home to roost by thwarting money you could have saved from your paycheck.
1. Buying a “New” Car
This advice is debatable, as brand-new cars depreciate exponentially when you drive them off the lot. But on the other hand, used cars, especially if bought from a previous owner, can be full of problems that don't show on the outside. One person said, “My friends always tell me to buy a new car because mine is old. They drive new luxury cars and always have to take them in for service while I only have to do basic maintenance.”
2. Cheap Food
One individual mentioned “saving on food.” But deciding which food to save on can be tricky, especially when buying junk food is so easy. “Yes, on junk foods and candy, but I wouldn't save on fruits, vegetables, and other foods that help keep your health strong.” Sometimes skimping is worth it, and sometimes it's not. For instance, only buy cheap meat if you freeze it or use it within 24 hours. Meat that's on sale, because the expiration date is up, can be sketchy, especially if you don't plan to cook it thoroughly.
3. Washing Machines
Don't use your washing machine until it's stuffed full! This advice is terrible for three reasons. You'll run a load to have to run another load. Your laundry won't be clean, and your dryer won't be able to handle that much clothing, causing you to have to run it for much longer. One user assured another poster that they were on the right track. “You are doing it right. Full and stuffed are two different things.”
4. Eating Out
People who say eating out is easier than cooking at home are likely eating solo. Taking children to a restaurant so they can not eat the food you order is a complete waste. I can't tell you how often I've ordered macaroni-n-cheese to see it thrown away because my children wouldn't eat it. But they'll devour it when we make it at home. No thanks, we'll make our own and pocket the difference. We're not the only ones; someone pointed out, “Even buying fresh produce is way cheaper to cook than eat out. I can feed a family of three for three times on what it costs to order out once.”
5. Costco/Sam's Club
Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper and more cost-effective. When your budget is only fifty dollars, it might not be the best choice, as one participant made light of it. “Just get a Costco membership. I live paycheck to paycheck. My budget for each grocery trip is $50. Buying name-brand stuff in bulk is not in the cards for me.” Despite selling only name-brand items, a trip to Costco or Sam's Club should be enjoyed at least once for the experience.
While second-hand furniture and mattresses are a great way to save money, you do have to be aware that not all things are worth buying used. As one thrifty shopper reminded us, “Beware of bedbugs. There's been a resurgence of them for almost ten years now. This issue has curtailed me from even stepping foot into thrift stores. The cheap item you buy will cost you a huge markup if you bring bedbugs home.” For reference, the average cost of treating bedbugs is $1750 in the United States.
7. Tax Deductions
If ever there was a seriously terrible piece of financial advice, this is it! A neighbor of one respondent told them something so far off-base: “My neighbor said my wife and I should have kids for the tax deductions.” I'm guessing the neighbor doesn't have any children because if they did, they'd know that just one child will cost you five times what you could get in tax deductions. Never take advice about children from someone who doesn't have any.
Gardening can be a lot of fun, but to do it seriously takes a ton of work, a decent financial investment, and proper equipment, especially if you don't get a lot in the way of rain. For one user, it was too much work and not enough return. “Starting a garden — this cost me more money than buying the produce and resulted in unwanted things like bug bites that required going to the doctor and expensive treatment and a lot of pain. Not to mention a time sink that I didn't need. Never again.”
Fresh eggs are not to be trifled with, but caring for the chickens who lay those eggs is not easy or cheap. As one interested party said, raising chickens does not equal free eggs. “Getting chickens to produce eggs so you don't have to pay for them — no chickens are not free eggs. It costs a lot of money to keep chickens. The price of eggs is coming down.” The only way to break even here, or even come close, is to fertilize your chicken eggs, raise the babies, and butcher the chickens that have aged out of laying for their meat content. Otherwise, you're feeding chickens that don't produce but continue to cost money.
10. Take the Train
Trains used to be cheap transportation to get from point A to point B, but that isn't the case anymore. As somebody lamented, they also take forever to get where you want to go. “Take a train. Several people told me this frequently during college, and upon looking at train tickets was shocked to find that not only do trains take FOREVER to get anywhere (going down the east coast), but they weren't even that much cheaper than planes. Perhaps things are different now, but I don't have 24 hours to spend traveling somewhere that's an 8-hour drive.”
Whenever you mention trying something new, like gardening, for instance, or picking out new furniture, you'll get a lot of unsolicited advice. Especially in America, people tend to think someone's comments are a gateway for them to save them or score them a great deal. Most people will ask for advice if they're genuinely interested in your opinion. And if they don't ask, they're not concerned about things.
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