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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How frugal is too frugal?

Everyone has their limits of how far they will go in terms of frugality. Sometimes it's just because we refuse to do something, sometimes it's because we just don't want to do something.

For example, we all hear about how much money we could all save if we bring our lunch every day. But if you've been exploring the world of personal finance bloggers, you already know that there are a few bloggers who refuse to take that step. To them, it's worth tightening other budget areas in order to go out with friends or coworkers every day for lunch and get that break.

While I'm a lunch bringer (more for health reasons than money), the other day, I was wondering what my frugal limits were. Some of them are obvious. I don't want to give up my cable or my DVR. I don't want to give up my home phone (though that's because I was just tired of burning through cell minutes after I moved away from my family). I won't buy cheap pet food (though I don't feel like that's a choice - that's a responsibility I have to my pets).

I've been reading a lot about the Freegan movement on the blogosphere in the past few weeks. For those of you not in the know, Freegans do their best to not participate in the economy. They try to get everything without paying for it. The main highlight of this is dumpster diving for food. This just isn't a step I can bring myself to take. I know that frequently, this food is in almost perfect condition, like day-old bread, or slightly bruised apples, and is completely safe to eat. But I still can't do it. I'll buy day-old bread at the bakery for a discount, but I won't pull that same bag of bread from the trash.

Would I salvage items out of the trash? Maybe, if I stumbled across something. In college, it wasn't unusual to see furniture and other items in trash piles at the end of the year, thanks to students who just didn't want to move it home. (Of course, at our university, the St. Vincent de Paul society would come and pick up these items, so taking any of them felt like stealing from those less fortunate.)

There are probably other things I won't do or won't give up in order to save money (provided that I'm continuing to stay out of debt, of course). What won't you do in order to save money?


Tom said...

I'm with you on the cable. I refuse to give up my HD DVR. I also refuse to give into the notion that if you see something you want, think long and hard before you buy. A good example of this is a post I read about buying Mario Kart for Wii. The blogger said they had to stop themselves and think how bad they would feel in the future if they bought this game. I mean, seriously? A $50 game? I understand if you've been eyeing that 52" LCD... but a $50 splurge once in a blue moon is not going to end you.

Megan said...

That's an interesting point, Tom. I've never thought about what my dollar limit is on splurge purchases. I do know the post you're talking about, and I agree, the $50 game probably wouldn't be my limit, especially if it was once in a blue moon, as you said. For me, the tipping point is whether or not I want to splurge on a Wii!

I'd say my splurge $ limit probably depends on the item. A pair of cute shoes? I'll hold back. A new iPod because my old one died? I'll fork over the cash immediately.

Michele said...

I won't buy cheaply made clothing (which means that I don't buy a lot of clothes!) I'm all for buying cheaply priced clothing (at thrifts shops, sales, etc...) but I want it to last. And I have to love something to buy it, cheap or not. What's the point on spending only $5 on a shirt that you never want to wear?

I also won't give up spending time with my friends, even if what we're doing costs a little money. I have very little free time, so my time with them is especially important to me.

Mrs. Accountability said...

Great question. It brings to mind too many things to respond with here, so I may end up making a post on my blog, and will definitely link back over here. Very thought provoking!!

budgets are sexy said...

I like to be as frugul as i want until i can't take it anymore, and i stop for a bit ;)

So, for me, things like bringing lunch, saving gas by carpooling, etc is never a consistent thing. I will, in fact get all "Frugalled" out and stop...then start all over again.