frugality sucks frugal

Being Frugal is Overrated

When I started this blog, I thought “yes! We aren’t big spenders! We can jump in and discuss how frugal we really are.” Ironically, after over a year of blogging, I’ve realized that being frugal isn’t the answer. 

Frugality is all about cutting costs, but sometimes that’s not the best financial action plan. We still maintain some level of frugality, but it has shifted from counting costs to living mindfully.


Under the traditional definition of frugality* we’ve failed in several ways:

  • I don’t coupon – I used to limit my couponing to hard goods only and only at Target. I did occasionally get shampoo for free, which did get me pretty pumped. Now I spend my time doing other things. I don’t read the coupon blogs anymore because I don’t go to the stores as often anymore. As for shampoo, Mr. T and I are nearly done using our hotel shampoo collection at which point, we’ll travel again or just buy a cheap bottle of Suave.
  • I spend money on food – During my attempted frugality, I cut out restaurants and expensive ingredients. I limited us to the cheaper produce and I kept meals simple. While most of our meals remain simple, I have no problem buying the incredible ingredients. This past 6 weeks, I’ve been making myself a yogurt parfait with fresh peaches for lunch every single day. A box of peaches at Costco is nearly $14 and we used to ration ourselves. Now, if it’s peach season, I’m buying at least a box a week! I mean, spoiling myself with fresh fruit seems like a much better choice than so many other things I could be splurging on! Also, this past weekend, Mr. T and I made homemade, fancy Ravioli. It was fun to make, the kids got involved, and while it was definitely more expensive than buying basic Ravioli, it was a fun and delicious family activity.
  • I’ve raised my travel budget – You heard me. I’m all “I’m not spending my money so I can retire early” and then I go and RAISE my travel budget. Yup. Precisely. After Mr. T and I took a big trip this summer, I came home and started making crazy plans. We specifically determined that travel to see siblings was one of our priorities. So, we took a look at the calendar and planned two more trips! We also made tentative future international travel plans with the kiddos. This is where we enjoy spending money. Where money can directly purchase happiness, it seems like a good place to spend. As with our big trip, we’ll conservatively travel hack to cut down on costs, but we are okay with seeing increases in this category.
  • I’ve lost my purchase guilt – I used to buy stuff, but then I’d go through this elaborate mind game where I had to justify why I bought it, etc. After simplifying our home and our finances, I know what fits in that picture and I know what doesn’t. I have a better sense of my happiness to money ratio. If something scores high on that, I buy it. On the whole, this ends up being way less than the amount of stuff I used to buy (which really wasn’t that much to begin with!), but I don’t feel guilty about it. I just buy it.
  • I still buy toys for kids – I know, ultimately experiences are better and growing up with the experience-based Christmas, we were taught early-on that the time together is more important than the present. But while I’m more conscious about which toys I purchase, it’s still fun to buy the perfect toy for my own kids or my nieces and nephews. And I always stipulate that there’s no fault in passing it on as soon as the kid outgrows it. Childhood is short. It’s fun to experience each stage while it’s there. Pretty soon your 8-year old will be donating all her Minnie Mouse shirts and declaring: “I just don’t like Minnie anymore.”
  • I don’t make stuff – Back in the frugal days, I tried all the DIY Pinterest cleaner, soap, etc. Some of it was better than others, but it was a hassle. I’m perfectly happy with the cost and performance of store-bought stuff.

I’m sure that’s not a complete list of all the ways we’ve failed in frugality since writing about money. But it’s an interesting trend. Instead of worrying all the time about cutting costs, I actually spend less time thinking about money at all. Instead, I live my life and assess what makes me happy and what doesn’t.

Has our total spending gone up? Nope. In fact, it’s gone (slightly) down! It turns out when you just focus on true happiness and living your life, you have no time for frugality!

* Google says: “Sparing or economical when it comes to money or food.”


Northern Expressions: Don’t be an Ironing Board


The Process is PART of the Product


  1. I’m still frugal by choice, but I’m right there with you. Some days, I have to really stare at my blog tag line to remember my purpose (living purposefully). At times, frugality helps me achieve that, but there are other times where it does not.

    • MaggieBanks

      Definitely true. We don’t just spend all willy nilly. But if it is something that will actually add value, we don’t hesitate anymore. Done.

  2. I think the word frugal can mean different things to people. Some take it as: never spend money. Or: always buy the cheapest option. We try to hit our end goal with less money. But those savings just get applied to other things that we care about even more. (like traveling!) And I hate coupons too! Unless the coupon is stuck to the item I am about to buy, I don’t use them. I am also frugal with my mental energy and focus, and they are a huge waste of that.

  3. This is a refreshing post – I’m right alongside you on this. Although we’re frugal on some things, we still feel that you going overboard is a mistake. If you die living like a pauper while trying to save for FI, then it just becomes a waste.

    We don’t spend a lot on the day to day, but we still try to take vacations once or twice a year… and these are nice vacations like cruises (with balconies, of course!). But we don’t go overboard otherwise and spend too much outside of the base cost.

    I think balance is the key and it sounds like we’re on the same page with it.

    — Jim

  4. Mrs. FI

    Well said. Frugality is a good starting point to getting your finances on track but in the end it’s all about being mindful of what your spending achieves. If spending on travel makes you happier while spending on clothes doesn’t, then spend on travel and only buy clothes when necessary. I’m always looking for ways to spend less where I can, but sacrificing happiness and health is not an option. And since travel and food are both good for my health (it’s scientific I’m sure), I don’t see myself scrimping in those categories now or in the future ?

  5. Matt @ Optimize Your Life

    “We still maintain some level of frugality, but it has shifted from counting costs to living mindfully.” The more I read and research and experience, the more I find mindfulness to be the solution to a lot of problems..

  6. You’ve definitely come to terms with your financial priorities, and shoudn’t feel the need to justify these decisions. There are so few people who actually consider how to apply their earnings.

    We just returned from our own summer trip. We kept costs down, but did splurge on a couple of things (can’t beat fresh Maine lobster). Sure, some might chide us for going on a vacation when we’re still paying off debt, but you can’t put life completely on hold either. We had a great time and it was well worth the fairly minor set back in our debt payoff journey.

    • MaggieBanks

      Life is worth living now as well. It’s only worthwhile saving money that will be better used in the future. And if you put all the money there, your current self suffers and that impacts your future self. It’s a difficult balance.

  7. Frugal is in my blood but there are so many ways to be frugal than your typical frugal tips from PF experts. You can be frugal by buying high quality food items. Sure they’ll cost more but they are better for you in the long run, hence reducing medical bills. 🙂

    • I was thinking about this too. I don’t feel very frugal when I buy organic products, but I only buy what we use – and I hope that the health benefits will help us save money one day. We are frugal in many areas, but being conscious of your choices makes a big difference in happiness too.

      • MaggieBanks

        Yes… our grocery budget, especially in Alaska, is sometimes higher than it could be, but health and taste are important!

    • MaggieBanks

      Yes! And that’s the road we take with health. Fresh produce is worthwhile… always.

  8. Yeah we’re in the same boat. We could spend less in some areas, but we’ve gone from spending wantonly to spending more mindfully. If something needs to be bought, buy it. Don’t agonize over cost, or whatever, just get the best for what’s needed.

    It reminds me of one afternoon I spent almost 3 mintues analyzing which bag of chips to get because the one bag was $0.60 less than the other bag, but the per ounce price was better. So, if i’m getting a better deal but spending more, is that really a better deal? Then I mentally slapped myself for wasting 3 minutes of my life debating $0.60… lol

    Our local grocery store has coupons hanging in front of the items that are on sale, so if we’re not already reaching to buy it, then we don’t go seeking it out because of a coupon. it works great!

    • MaggieBanks

      That’s fabulous! Fred Meyer’s has that sometimes for hard goods, but never manufacturer coupons. And yes… I’m done worrying about the little things. Too much of my brain.

  9. The Green Swan

    We don’t check all the frugal boxes either, but being mindful is a pretty big win in its own right.

    I’ve come to realize in recent years that I’m an experience spender. We’d like to travel more now, but with a two year old we are limited. Eventually that will become a bigger piece of our budget (hopefully around the time daycare isn’t in our budget anymore…). There are something things that are just too valuable to forego for the sake of frugality and having the money to see the world is important to us.

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m definitely an experience spender. And I completely agree with you!

  10. I agree with all this, Maggie

    As Mrs. PIE’s favorite aunt in the UK would say in her best British accent:

    “Life is not a dress rehearsal”

    Too many great things to do and places to visit. Find your balance with spending and see where it takes you. If you get it right, it will be good.

  11. i’m not particularly frugal either. I subscribe to the Buy it for Life camp, which often means spending more upfront to save money in the long term. I feel a bit bad when I buy it, but not having to go shopping again for a long time makes me feel better (and the items tend to be nicer).

    I’m spending about 15% of my overall budget on travel, but even then I’m finding ways to lower costs. Taking the bus to the airport, staying with friends, utilizing credit card bonuses…. I’m traveling a lot this year but everything is perfectly reasonable. The Harry Potter play ticket was kind of a splurge though 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      That play is worth the splurge. 🙂 We did it too! I have a hard time with “but it for life” clothes. What if I stain it? But them Im mad when it rips or gets holes or whatever

  12. Hey don’t be so quick to pull yourself out of the “frugal” basket! Frugality definitely isn’t a “one size fits all” and from what I’ve seen from you I say you belong in the frugalster club for sure.


    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Jasmin. But focusing on frugality is stressful. Focusing on true happiness and peace leads to frugality naturally in a lot of areas… so I like that!

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