Deia B is a personal finance and travel blogger at NomadWallet.com.
Personal finance is just that—personal. That’s why many tips for “living frugal” that I see on personal finance blogs or social media don’t interest me. They’re simply not applicable to my situation. In fact, some frugal tips are highly impractical for most people. Consider these popular frugal tips, and then take some time to reconsider.
The prices at your neighborhood grocery store may be slightly higher than the prices at the wholesale store, so you can certainly cut your grocery bills by shopping at the wholesale store. But if you have to drive to the other side of the town in heavy traffic to shop there, your extra gas usage may cancel out any grocery-related savings—and just consider the price you pay where time is concerned.
The same idea also applies to filling up your gas tank. If you drive out of your way to a station where the gas is a few cents cheaper per gallon, you may be wasting your gas getting there.
Whenever Extreme Couponing comes on TV, I get the urge to get my scissors out and start clipping coupons, but I usually manage to stop myself. Buying things with coupons and stockpiling them can potentially save you some money, but you probably won’t save as much as the people on TV do.
For one, coupons won’t do you any good if you’re loyal to certain brands. Couponing requires you to be flexible enough to take advantage of whatever deals happen to be on offer. If you can be flexible, then you’re in business. If not, you’re going to be disappointed.
When it comes to food items, coupons are more commonly available for processed foods. If your diet consists of a lot of raw foods like beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables, coupons aren’t likely to help you save much.
Beyond that, when you have coupons, you may be tempted to buy more than you need just because everything is cheap—or because the coupon requires you to purchase a certain amount before receiving a discount. Don’t forget to read the small print.
Making Your Own Detergent
Every now and again, I see recipes for DIY detergents on Pinterest, generally promising to save a few cents per load, which would add up over time.
The problem with making your own detergent is you can probably save just as much money by buying store brands or finds coupons to purchase regular brands. There are really cheap detergents out there. And because Americans tend to use too much laundry detergent, you can try reducing your cost per load simply by pouring less detergent into the machine.
DIY detergent doesn’t come with detailed instructions, so you may have to make blind guesses on the amount of detergent to use and which fabrics are safe to use. If you happen to make a wrong guess, the few cents you save on that load won’t be enough to justify damaged clothing items.
That said, there are plenty of versions of the DIY detergent recipe out there. With some trial and error, you may be able to find the one that works for you.
Growing or Raising Your Own Food
Growing your own tomatoes and raising chickens in a backyard coop may sound like great frugal tips. After all, food is often one of your biggest expenses and producing your own raw materials means getting food for free, right?
Yes, you wouldn’t have to buy your food items at a grocery store anymore, but that doesn’t make them free. Consider the cost of overheads, such as fertilizers, gardening tools, and cages. The upkeep will also require a lot of time and effort.
On the bright side, producing your own food items may give you a sense of accomplishment and would make a great hobby, if you’re into it. You may also find yourself whipping up fresher, healthier meals. Just don’t expect gardening and raising chickens to make a huge difference in your bank account, especially not right away.
Using Non-Disposable Items
It seems we’ve reached a saturation point for disposable stuff, because non-disposables are back. I’m talking about things like fountain pens, cloth diapers, lunch carriers and shaving brushes.
Non-disposable items are kinder on the environment and can eventually save you money, but you usually have to pay more up front. You may also be tempted to spend more money than you need to. For example, one good, well-made shaving brush lasts a long time. But because you feel like you’ll use it forever, you may feel the urge to upgrade your brush, buy unnecessary accessories, or collect a few different brushes. Don’t fall down that rabbit hole.
And remember, non-disposable items went out of fashion for a reason: disposables are a lot more practical. For non-disposable alternatives to be worth the cost of initial supplies, you need to be committed to adjusting your habits from the very beginning.
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