Jun 06 2008

I don’t want to be obsessed with money or being frugal

Blog reader Maria left an insightful comment the other day, and I want to highlight it and discuss it:

“Some people treat thrift as a religion and I don’t think that’s any healthier than having poor spending habits. I don’t want to die sitting on a pile of money–even if that means my kids would get a better inheritance. I want to appreciate it as a gift from God, and use it to live simply but comfortably, enjoying some “fine” things in life, and using my money to bless others. I don’t do that perfectly for sure–it can be really hard to find the balance, but I wish I saw more of a balance between thrift and hedonism. It seems for so many it’s one or the other.”

Well put, Maria.

Sometimes, saving money can become an unhealthy obsession.

I want to be clear: There’s nothing wrong with trying to save money and stretch your dollars as far as they’ll go. We all want to be good stewards of our resources, after all.

But sometimes, we can take the frugal lifestyle a bit too far.

We need to be cautious when our focus shifts from, “I want to provide for my family in the best way that I can,” to “I want to get as many free things as I can.”

Some go to drugstores, stockpiling deals and hoarding items, perhaps donating extra purchases. But, for some, going to CVS can start to resemble attending “The Church of CVS.”

I certainly don’t want to be judgemental of anyone (I hate it when I’m judged!) but when I see pictures of people’s cabinets absolutely overflowing with a 10-year supply of toiletries — a supply big enough to where they can start their own store — I have to wonder: Isn’t that a bit excessive?

Where do we draw the line? When do we cross over from being smartly frugal to being dangerously obsessed?

When I was new to the drugstore game, I made several trips per week, stocking up on things whenever I could. I bought several things I’d never use, reasoning that since they were free or could earn me money, I should buy it. I’ve since donated those items, and now, I try to watch my purchases to make sure we really will need the item, or I really will donate it to someone who needs it.

With a baby on the way, I’m working the drugstore deals again in the hopes that I’ll have a large stockpile of necessities by December or so. But how can I be sure I don’t get too carried away?

It’s not just toiletries that can get me into trouble.

As you might recall, Shane and I are working hard to build up our emergency fund. We’re attacking our goal with extreme focus. All our extra money goes into that fund. We aren’t depriving ourselves of necessities but we aren’t spending money on anything beyond the absolutely necessary.

But could we actually be depriving ourselves? We aren’t being as generous as we could be when it comes to gifts for others, for example.

I need to do better. I need to keep my focus where it should be — on God and on why I’m trying to be frugal in the first place.

It’s so easy to get excited about saving money, that it can turn into an obsession — or worse, idolatry — that I think it’s worth evaluating from time to time, to make sure we aren’t going bananas.



23 Responses to “I don’t want to be obsessed with money or being frugal”

  1. Great post, Kacie! This has been on my mind as well and I posted about a similar topic today. It is important to find balance between being smart with money and with actually LIVING (not to say you can only live by spending money). Because as well all know, life is fragile and it is important to enjoy the days that we do have.

    Marcy’s last blog post..Doing What’s Best for YOU

  2. I agree, that’s why I feel my blog is as much about lifestyle/having fun as much as about saving money. It truly is a balance. It’s great to recognize that!

  3. I’m realistic that I’ll be “obsessed” about this for awhile – it is my learning style – but hopefully I’ll know when to pull back. After awhile, some good things become habit, and other things are deemed not worthwhile.

    Sean’s last blog post..Taking an Inventory of My Subscriptions (using Categories)

  4. What a great post. You don’t really see that many posts about limiting it. It can definitely become an obsession though. Good reminder :)

    amanda’s last blog post..Make $305+ Thanks to MoneySavingMethods

  5. It’s much easier to be obsessed than balanced. Obsession means you can feel comfortable and sure. Balance means constantly checking to see if things are still on kilter. It’s healthier but like most healthy things it’s harder. Pity.

  6. I totally posted about this very topic that letting debt rule your life is stupid.

    I AGREE. Money is meant to be spent, and meant to make your life easier, not harder. It’s a bloody disease if you can’t spend cash

    Fabulously Broke’s last blog post..FB Tried Tested and True

  7. I agree with Mrs. Micah, it’s harder to be balanced. That’s why I don’t beat myself up when I indulge myself, or buy something that wasn’t in the budget.

    Sarah F.’s last blog post..Frugal Friday – No more $15 pizzas

  8. I totally understand where you are coming from! Sometimes I feel like I am worrying too much about money between paying off debt and saving. I think there needs to be a balance for people, and hopefully I’ll find that soon!

  9. I tend to err on the side of “tightwad” instead of balance… but I think you hit the nail on the head- it’s not healthy to be obsessed about money. The verse “You cannot serve both God and Money” is usually applied to those seeking to be rich, or those in debt- but being obsessed about trying to save money is still making Money the focus in an unhealthy way.

    Joanna’s last blog post..Subscription Math

  10. I know what you mean about people buying up all the deals and having more than they could ever use. My 2 CVS’s near me are frequently wiped clean of any and all deals and it is so frustrating! I don’t want to get everything, I just want to get the deals that we need and will use within a couple of months. I am not going to go buying tons of blood pressure kits, or hair coloring kits, I don’t use those.

    A couple of weeks ago I was garage saling in a nearby neighborhood and came across the woman who wipes the shelves clean in my area. She was selling everything that had been a recent deal at CVS and Walgreens. This was a very nice neighborhood, $400,000 homes. She had the deals by the caseload. I was very annoyed, because I try to get what we need and she is reselling for even more of a profit than she already got buying things she obviously didn’t need. It is frustrating!

  11. I agree with the rest, finding balance takes time, effort, trial and error. I have judge, lost perspective and am just getting it back. I will probably lose it again, it comes and goes.

    But I also wanted to say about the not being obsessed with money and being frugal that that is the reason sometimes I feel like I need a break from blogging. I don’t want to think about being frugal or spending little money everyday. Sure I do it but I don’t want to “think” about it, be obsessed with it., you know?

  12. This is a great post and I think you’re brave to voice your opinion on this.

    Joanna above said it perfectly. Money can be your master in many many ways.

    Money should be a tool, one that helps you achieve goals and maintain your priorities.

    Thanks for posting this!

  13. I think too that sometimes people use their own frugality as a way to feel superior over those they deem less thrifty which really is the greater issue.

    Michelle at Scribbit’s last blog post..The Last Child

  14. Balance is so hard! It is easy to turn frugality into an idol…which do I spend more time on during Sunday afternoon, my Bible or the ads?

    Ann’s last blog post..Harmony’s dress rehearsal

  15. I think that most of what this boils down to is weighing your time vs. return. At some point if you are making $100 an hour but are spending 30 mins of each day clipping coupons I doubt the return will be worth the time. I know for myself being thrifty comes in handy and allowed me to quit my day job to pursue my own dreams. Balance is key and I can see how it would be easy to keep up the habit even if it is not worth the time invested..

  16. Well put!!!

    I did want to mention though that the more diapers you can stock pile the better. Even if you choose to go the cloth route… it may be nice to have a good selection of sizes for the diaper bag etc! :)

    Babychaser’s last blog post..A Little Pneumonia and No House Keys!

  17. I wrote a similar post after going through a scary health crisis last year (actually me and my dad). See link in URL.

    None of us are promised tomorrow and I certainly don’t want my life to be wasted counting pennies. You do have to keep a balance, especially with kids. These years go so fast and though I am not one to “buy” all kinds of things for them, I’m not going to deprive them of an occassional trip to the zoo or camping or whatever.

    Balance is so important. Thanks for a great post!

    Kelly’s last blog post..The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Snowflaking

  18. You bring up some good thinking points. The line will be in a different place for each of us, but there is definitely a line. When it stops building your relationships and starts dismantling them, that’s probably a good place to rethink any saving strategy. Great post.

    Sara’s last blog post..Working When Inspiration Strikes

  19. I agree with you on all counts, especially the CVS part. It’s too easy to get a bit obsessed with stocking up. I’m playing my own version of the drugstore game, where I buy only things I use, and I don’t stock up too much, only within reason. Sure, maybe I could get “more” for my money, but it still feels wasteful to be buying things I don’t use.

  20. I’m flattered that you included me in your post. :) I like what you have to say.

  21. Great post. I haven’t gotten into the CVS thing – I don’t use many drugstore type items so am not sure the time spent would be worth it to me. I do have a difficult time striking the balance. On one hand I want to be able to spend some money – after all I do work hard for my money, and other people get to buy things and have spending money, but on the other hand I feel guilty when I buy something. Then again I’m swayed by what I read, lol. I read someone’s blog where they are spending $160 a *month* on groceries for their family of four and feel guilty, and wonder how do we go so wrong? Then I read this type of post and feel like I’m not so horrible for getting myself a nice birthday/Mother’s Day gift that I’ll be confessing about on my blog sometime soon.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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