Sure, you can save money doing these things. But at what cost in time and happiness?
Frugality is sometimes held up as the way to get ahead financially. After all, every penny you pinch is one that you can save (and invest) for future wealth.
But sometimes those frugal habits aren’t worth it in the long run. Following are well-worn ways to legitimately save money that might not always be worth what you give up.
1. Not owning pets
According to the ASPCA, owning a dog or a cat can cost more than $1,000 a year. That’s a pretty good chunk of change. You can bank that money and be frugal by not owning a pet. But for animal lovers, does it make sense to avoid pet ownership?
Having a pet has its benefits. In fact, according to the CDC, pet ownership can lead to lower blood pressure, alleviate feelings of loneliness, help improve mental health and promote exercise. Even though pets can be expensive, they also have their good points, and it might not be worth giving them up.
2. Making your own laundry detergent
You can save money by making your own laundry detergent, but do you have the time and space for that? Sometimes, a time-consuming task isn’t worth the money you save. Plus, you need room to store the raw materials for making your laundry detergent.
Instead of using the time and space to make detergent on your own, consider getting a low-cost, high-quality laundry.
3. Buying generic brands of your favorites
One of the biggest pieces of advice for frugality is to switch to generics. Generic brands can be a good way to save money, but should you give up your favorite items in favor of generics?
In some cases, your favorite items might not be as good in generic form. You deserve to be happy and enjoy some simple things, even if they cost a little more.
Rather than switching to generics for your favorite things, consider getting generic versions of things that aren’t as important to you — and that you truly won’t notice the difference with.
4. Changing your oil
Another staple of frugal advice is to change your own motor oil. While this can save you money every few months, it might not be the most efficient use of your time.
Changing your oil can take between 30 minutes and an hour (or more), depending on the car you have and how practiced you are at the process. You also need to make arrangements for the proper disposal of the used oil. You might need to take it to a facility that could charge a small fee.
Rather than spending the time and effort to change your oil, you could take it to a quick lube shop and work on other tasks while you wait. It might take less time and free you up to be more efficient without worrying about oil disposal.
5. Buying secondhand products
In some cases, buying secondhand can make a lot of sense. You get something you can use (like clothes or some sporting equipment) at a discount. However, some secondhand products might be dangerous to buy used.
One example is a car seat for your newborn. Experts and governments recommend against buying used car seats. Bike helmets should also be avoided secondhand. After a crash or after a certain period of time, they might not be as effective.
For safety reasons, there are some products you should buy new, regardless of how much money you might save by purchasing used.
6. Going out of your way for cheaper gas
All sorts of apps can help you find the cheapest gas in town. But is it worth it to make an extra trip to save a few cents per gallon? If your vehicle gets about 17 miles to the gallon in city driving, but you end up going out of your way regularly to save 5 cents per gallon to fill up your 20-gallon tank, are you using your time efficiently?
Driving all over to save a few cents on gas takes time and energy; by the time you use the gas to find the cheaper gas, you might not be saving as much as you think.
7. Going to multiple stores to make different purchases
This is another example of when something might take more time than you want to spend. You might save money by going to different stores to make various purchases, but it can take time.
By looking at sales circulars, you might plan a grocery route involving five different stores to get the best prices on each item you purchase. However, that will take time and energy. If you’d rather use your limited time at home with your loved ones and pets, paying a little more to get your shopping done in fewer places might make more sense.
8. Avoiding hobbies
You can definitely save money if you avoid hobbies. After all, hobbies can be costly, depending on your choice.
For example, you need to buy supplies if your hobby is painting, drawing, pottery or woodworking. Sports-related hobbies can also cost money in equipment and memberships.
However, hobbies — even if you don’t monetize them — can bring benefits that can be hard to quantify financially. According to Utah State University, hobbies can result in reduced stress, better mental health and even enhanced social interactions. Your hobbies can positively impact your wellness, even if you’re not being frugal.