Home » Do You Fall Prey to the “Frugal Failure”?

Don't let a Frugal Failure stop you from trying again to achieve success.

Do You Fall Prey to the “Frugal Failure”?

Don’t let a Frugal Failure stop you from trying again to achieve success.

Kim over at Eyes on the Dollar had a great post the other day called When Frugal Fails.  It was about a poor choice that she made in the name of saving money that ended up costing her more in the long run.  I’m not sure about you, but I’ve had many a frugal failure that has watered down our efforts to get out of debt. What’s frustrating about the Frugal Failure is that it’s most always preventable; however, in order to prevent a frugal failure one must recognize the “pre-thinking” associated with making a frugal failure mistake.


My Longstanding Frugal Failure: Not Being Organized

How many times has not being organized caused a frugal failure in your life?  There have been numerous times that we’ve not been able to find something around here which has led to us needing to buy another one to replace an item that was in the house……somewhere.  Swim goggles, sunscreen, diapers and wipes that I’ve had to purchase and ridiculously expensive convenience stores because I’d forgotten to get them at the big box store earlier in the week – the list goes on and on.

Not being organized has cost me more money than I care to count, and I’ve worked hard in the last 2 years to become more organized and stop those preventable frugal failures from draining my bank account.  What about you: has not being unorganized diluted your frugal efforts?


Moving Too Fast

Another big frugal failure for us, although we’re working on it, is simply moving too fast. We’re rushing around trying to get two hours’ worth of work done in an hour and a half (sound familiar?) and next thing you know we’re having to spend money we wouldn’t have had to spend had we (okay, “I”) slowed down a bit and made a plan.

With kids, the most common frugal failure in this area comes in the meal genre.  We’re rushing too fast, don’t think to pack snacks, and an hour into our errand-running spree everyone is “starving”. What do we do?  Of course, we hit the local drive thru or the Walmart snack aisle to get some expensive (and horribly unhealthy) food. I’m getting better: we now skip the drive thrus and just get $5 or so worth of snacks, but I’m working toward the day when we’ll leave the house fully stocked with an array of frugal and healthy snacks to keep us from the first-world definition of starvation while on the road.


Not Thinking Long-Term

The most vivid short-term thinking mistake that I can remember off hand (although I’m sure there are dozens more that I’ve blocked out emotionally because they were too painful 🙂 ) had to do with a Christmas morning gathering. It was a half hour before “go time”, and I was prepping the camera and the video camera (no combo cameras back in those days) for the big event.  We had 25 or so guests arriving for a Christmas lunch and gift opening when I realized that the da*n camera battery was dead!

Now, here was the clincher: Earlier in the week I’d been at the local big box store, and batteries had been on the list, but in my attempts to be frugal, I decided to wait and make the battery stock up purchase till the following month.

And then, here I was, party pending, all big box stores closed due to it being a holiday, and very few options in site.  I sent my step dad up to the 24-hour pharmacy on the off chance they carried the particular camera battery I needed.  They did: at twice the price of the big box store battery, but I was screwed. I could choose to skip pictures that year, or pay twice the price and have the Christmas memories stored forever. Of course, we bought the batteries.


Being Afraid to Ask

Here’s another frugal failure that I am slowly working on beating.  Case in point: My biz account and our personal checking account are at the same credit union.  I love our local credit union, for many reasons, but one thing that thoroughly annoys the crap out of me is that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between the biz checking account debit card and the personal checking account debit card.  Even the numbers on the card are nearly identical.  For the second time in less than six months, I accidentally used the biz debit card instead of the personal debit card this week, overdrawing the account as it was a big purchase and costing myself $40 in fees.

I called the credit union, asking (semi-passive-aggressively) if they could help maybe by getting me a biz card in a different color or style, and hoping that they’d offer to refund the fees. “Sorry,” came the curt answer from the customer service rep. “Nothing I can do.”.  I hung up, ticked off and still $40 poorer.

A day later, I was reliving the phone call with the credit union rep as I checked our accounts online, and realized that I was still mad: both at the customer service rep and at myself. I contacted the credit union online since I was online looking at my emptier checking account anyway, and recounted my experience with the phone rep, the fees and my frustration with the identical-looking cards.  A short while later I got a message back with an apology, saying they’d refunded my fees and were sending out a different biz card for me to use.

Now, the other gal said there were no other design options, so we’ll see if I simply end up getting yet another identical debit card to get confused with my other two, but hey, at least I got my 40 bucks back. 🙂

The take-away is that those of us subject to these types of frugal failures could likely save ourselves a lot of cash if we’d be willing to identify and conquer the 4 money-wasting mistakes above. so don’t give up on trying to beat your frugal failures to the curb.

What’s your story? Do you fall prey to any of these frugal failures?



  1. Kirsten says:

    You beat me to the punch! The other day I was contemplating a post on how lack of organization / too much stuff has cost us extra money in the long run (late payments because a bill gets lost, our cashing things you already have but can’t find, and house cleaners because there’s just too much stuff!)

  2. Kalie says:

    I can relate to the moving too fast failures. While I try to keep peanuts in the car to avoid “starvation” on the road, I have broken so many glass objects in the kitchen by rushing around and dropping them! In the last 9 years I’ve broken the French press, Pyrex baking dishes, lots of drinking and wine glasses, the crockpot stoneware, the pitcher of my blender… It’s bad.

    I simply take time to be frugal–to plan ahead, to shop around, to be organized and prepared, and to take good care of your things. I’d add the part of slowing down can be fixing what you already have instead of buying new. Mending and fixing requires time but can save a lot of money (and time replacing things).

    • Laurie says:

      I can identify, Kalie, and I completely agree on the subject of fixing things instead of replacing them too. That one’s been a huge money-saver for us. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Kathy says:

    We are fairly organized but I’d say our weakness is failing to take inventory before we go to the store. Just yesterday, I got some shredded cheese to use in the upcoming Easter dinner. Now we’d had tacos earlier in the week so I should know how much cheese we had. But I failed to even glance in the refrigerator before I went to the store so of course I got more cheese. When I came home and put it away, I had not one but two other packages of cheese! My husband does the same thing with nails screws or some other item he needs for a project. Pure forgetfulness (or laziness) or our part.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, been there, done that, although we are fairly good about the taking inventory part. That is one area where our “frugalness” outweighs our being in a hurry. 🙂

  4. My biggest frugal failure is in not being organized as well. I am very organized with my business and client information and it’s almost as though I use all of those skills in that capacity that I have none left for my home life. The last two years, though, I have tried to put better systems in place in our home to combat this, but I still have slips like misplacing train tickets and finding them after they expire or filing away something I need which leads to hours wasted trying to find it.

    • Laurie says:

      I hear you!! I make slow progress in this area, but still have a long ways to go. Like you, I’m organized in my biz life, so home is where I let loose, I guess. 🙂

  5. One of my biggest frugal failures is… buying cheap merchandise because: 1) I’m in a rush and not researching 2)Not thinking long-term 3)Afraid of asking.

    An example, broken vacuum (bought a cheap one). Instead of asking to borrow to use one and then research for a GOOD vacuum. I went on and bought another cheap vacuum that yes, broke a few months later.

    I used to do this not just for vacuums but other things as well. Great post, Laurie.

    • Laurie says:

      OH no! I’m pretty good about that stuff – I try and buy the mid-range model on stuff and hope that I’ve found a balance. Usually, it works. 🙂

  6. We had short term thinking cost us more money they we would have liked just this past weekend, if we would have done a bit more planning we could have saved some money. It’s a never ending battle.

  7. Inertia can be a big one for me, meaning, it may take time and/or effort to make a change, and it just doesn’t feel worth it at the time. I fell prey to this one last year, when I was investigating changing propane companies. We locked in at $2.77 per gallon this year – the “absolute lowest” our company could go – and now people are paying $1.80 per gallon to the company we were considering changing to. I’m too frightened to sit down with a calculator and figure out exactly how much this has cost us this year, but I’m not making the same mistake again!

    • Laurie says:

      Most propane companies seem SO dishonest to me, and I hate dealing with them. I’m sure there’s good ones out there, though.

  8. I think moving too fast and not being organized goes hand-in-hand. My wife and I have been moving very fast the past three years (basically since being married) due to school, work, and honestly adding blogging on top of it all. It forces you to pick and choose what you spend time organizing. Yes, in my ideal world every square foot of my house, my car, my computer, and everything else would be organized. In reality I have to prioritize what is organized and weigh the potential financial risks.

  9. I have definitely been guilty of all of these as well, the one that I succumb to the most is moving too fast. Some days I feel as though I am trying to pack a 30 hour day into 24. And when I’m moving so fast, I make fast decisions, don’t double check things, etc. Sometimes it doesn’t cost me anything but time to go back and fix things, but then again, time is money too. Glad you at least got your $40 back! And I hear you on keeping card separate. I have a personal credit card, a card for Ryan and Associates expenses and another one for The Heavy Purse. 🙂 It is easy to get them confused!

    • Laurie says:

      It is easy!! I’m determined not to incur anymore overdraft fees though, one way or another. It’s so frustrating when you’ve got the money sitting in the account you meant to debit it from in the first place.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, seriously? That’s so frustrating for you, I’m sure, but it makes for a good story for the rest of us, LOL. 🙂 I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I had a similar story happen a few years ago when I called the heating guy out b/c our air exchange system wouldn’t go on. Turns out I just had to turn on the “on” switch. I made him promise not to share names when he told the story to others. 🙂

  10. It seems we constantly forget something at the store and then, when we go back to get the thing we needed, we end up spending even more.

    Perhaps you need a fun sticker to put on one of your debit cards?! Then you would just have to remember which one you put the sticker on. Lol! Maybe it isn’t such a great idea;0)

    • Laurie says:

      Yes!! That SO happens to us. LOL, yeah, I don’t trust myself with the sticker concept. We’ll see what happens with the arrival of the new business card. 🙂

  11. I struggle with the detailed analysis many manage to do on their budgets. I’ve definitely used our income level as an excuse to not really watch groceries and things like that when there’s probably real savings to be had. Only so many hours in the day…

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Adam. I’d be curious to see what you found if you committed to spend-tracking for just one month. I know for us, that changed our financial life.

  12. Iforonwy says:

    We try so hard to be frugal, coupons, comparison shopping,tracking spending, research etc and it does work. Then I blow our savings on high end vacations. But it’s OK as we have been so frugal over the years, it’s all 2nd nature now, we have no debt, are mortgage free and FI so all that being frugal over the years means a fun-packed retirement for us.

    Incidentally the next big trip is planned for next year, already budgeted for and I have worked out how we can pay ourselves back what it will cost us.

    Please don’t feel that we are bragging here just wanted to say that if you are careful then there really is jam tomorrow!

    • Laurie says:

      I love it when you share this stuff! It shows what kind of a life you can life if you choose to get out of debt. So excited that you guys get to go on another big trip – life is meant for us to have fun!

      • Iforonwy says:

        Thank you so much for this comment Laurie. It means a great deal to me. We deliberated a long time about this next trip feeling guilty because we just can do it if we want to. But ‘Im-in-doors pointed out all the times when we have not eaten out or gone to the pictures (oops sorry movies!) prefering to same up for “jam tomorrow”.

  13. I’m glad you got your $40 back! My biz and personal cards look the exact same too, so I keep one in one spot and one in the back slot of my wallet so I don’t get them confused. If the new card they send you is the same, perhaps you can do this or make a mark on it with a sharpie to keep them separate?

    • Laurie says:

      I do that too, but somehow I screwed up that day – so frustrating! I’m really hoping the new card they send will be different. That will help a lot. 🙂

  14. I can totally relate to the not planning ahead and the disorganization fails–I’ve been guilty of both of those! We used to forget to buy stuff at the discount grocery store (which is farther away) and end up needing to get things at the much more expensive store we can walk to, which always irked me so. We’ve since gotten better with our list-making (we walk around the house and physically check every cupboard), but we still have those slip-ups. To which I say grrrrr! But, I just remind myself that no one’s perfect (something I feel like I tell myself a lot… 😉 ).

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, I hear you. It took me many years to stop trying to be perfect, and I finally realized “perfect” is never going to happen and cut myself some slack. Now I just try and work toward “improved”. 🙂

  15. Tre says:

    I would have to say not being organized has led to many a frugal failure for me. In fact, I found one of Little Tre’s Christmas presents when I was cleaning my closet last weekend!

  16. Frugal failures suck! Jay calls them frugal slips. Emily (simple cheap mom) calls them frugal wipe outs. Whatever they’re called, I find them so aggravating, especially when I’m trying SO hard to economize. Exceptional tips, Laurie! Truly helpful ones at that. 🙂

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