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One of the most beautiful (and often most frustrating) things about the English language is that many words can mean two (or more) entirely different things to different people (homonyms, am I right?). We’ve all been in the middle of a conversation and had one of those super awkward and confusing “Who’s on first!?” moments where we just stare at the other person and smile like we know exactly what’s going on. (Oh my god, can he tell that I’m faking it?).
“Frugal” is definitely one of those words for me. When most people hear the word frugal, they think “cheap” or “stingy”. They think that being frugal means nickel and diming at the farmers market or shopping exclusively at the dollar store and Goodwill.
But when I think of the word frugal, the first word that comes to mind is “selective”.
I call myself (and this handy dandy blog) frugal because I’m very selective about what I spend my money on. I rarely purchase clothes, but when I do, I’m not looking for cheap so much as sturdy. However, I only buy what I need. If I don’t need a dress, then I won’t buy a dress (that’s the selective part).
I live minimally and spend selectively.
…for the most part.
However, there are some things that even I don’t cut corners on.
Today I’m going to share with you the times when even I believe it is NOT worth it to be frugal.
1. Organic Food
My all-time favorite topic, and my wallet’s least. If you know me personally, then you probably know that clean, organic eating is a big deal in my household. I only have one body, as I assume most of you also do, and I try to take care of it as best as I know how.
There are numerous studies that show organic food to be more nutritious than nonorganic foods. Not to mention the harm that pesticides cause to agricultural workers and the damage they do to the environment.
We won’t get into all that in detail because that’s not what this post is about. The bottom line is this: to me, eating organic = eating ethically.
Some people, like BreAnna of Crafty Coin, have found a way to cut their organic grocery budget waaaaay down, even beyond most non-organic consumers’ regular budgets.
My grocery spending isn’t the worst, but it’s definitely not as sophisticated as it could be either (I plan on changing this in the near future – update coming soon). I like to shop locally, and the small mom ‘n pop shops in my area don’t often offer the same bargains you can find at bigger chains. (I couldn’t even tell you how far away the nearest CostCo is…).
Unless you’re really strapped for cash and can’t cut from anywhere else, then it’s worth it to spend a little extra for higher quality food. Your body will thank you.
And supporting local farmers is rad! Visit here to find a local farmers market near you.
This one took me a long time to learn. Too long. I would buy cheap, uncomfortable shoes all the time (like those rubber flip flops from Walmart that leave blisters on your feet and squeak in the rain). It was like clockwork – buy cheap shoes, wear for three months until they break (sole came off, sprung a leak, hole in the toe, etc.), throw out shoes, sulk about not having any boots/flip flops/flats for a month (I usually only have 1-2 pairs of each at a time), buy another pair of terrible, cheap shoes.
My poor feet were miserable for so many years and I had no idea there was a better way. What I didn’t realize is that I could have saved so much time, heartache, and even money if I had just bought higher quality shoes!
Won’t make that mistake again.
I still don’t buy $500 Gucci shoes. But now I’m willing to spend $100 on a good pair of boots that’ll keep my feet warm on snowy winter walks.
Side note: Check out some of my favorite minimalist shoes (not affiliate links, I just seriously love them, and they make your feet really happy) –
3. Tech Protection
I don’t mess around when it comes to protecting valuable technology (laptops, phones, websites, etc.). But believe me, I used to. I always had this mindset of “Computers never crash. As long as I take care of mine (which I also didn’t do very well because I didn’t know how) I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
My naivety ended with one entirely laptop-less college semester. Never again.
Since then, I always make sure all my devices are backed up in multiple locations, security measurements exist and remain up to date, and I purchase cases and screen protectors for everything!
4. A Good Vacuum Cleaner
This one made it on the list mostly because I spent so many years with crappy vacuum cleaners.
First it was my parents’ Rainbow – you know, the one you have to fill up with water and put together every time you use, then find a place to dump the nasty water and try not to throw up in the process. I have to admit, they clean pretty darn well, but they can be a huge hassle, especially when you’re vacuuming a three-story house.
Next came the Walmart vacuum cleaner. I thought I was being super thrifty with this one – bought the extended warranty and everything. That way if it broke, someone else had to fix it. Nope, wrong again. It broke 4 times the first year I had it. The nearest location to have it repaired was a 3-hour drive, so I YouTube-d it and spent hours taking it apart, figuring out what was wrong, cleaning it, and putting it back together. At this point, I’m pretty much a vacuum cleaner mechanic.
Then this bad boy came along and ruined me for all other vacuum cleaners. I love the Shark – cleans like a pro, it’s super easy to navigate (it’s literally called “The Navigator”), and most importantly, it’s reliable.
So I bought a really crappy vacuum cleaner for $40, replaced it once (another $40) and then ended up with a $200 vacuum cleaner that works amazingly and has already lasted longer than both the other vacuums combined. Lesson learned.
What about you? When have you found that it’s not worth it to be frugal? Does anyone besides my parents still use Rainbow vacuum cleaners?
I’m a financial coach and author + owner of Goodbye to Broke. I love all things personal finance, money management, and healthy living. And I talk to my dog way too much, if we’re being honest.