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5 Ways You're Frugal to a Fault

Farnoosh Torabi

Sometimes our attempt to save money backfires. Ever drive around for miles to find the cheapest gas, but really just waste time and money in the process? It happens to the best of us.
Here are 5 common ways we tend to be frugal to a fault.
Falling for Free

We like to think that the best price is no price. A free lunch? Sign me up! But think twice about “free” promotions since, in many cases, there may be hidden costs. Buy-two-get-one-free deals, for example, can entice us to spend more than we intend to, while "free shipping" offers may require a minimum purchase that’s still more than what we want to pay. Never forget that marketers use “free” campaigns to rake in big bucks. So, if the freebie is not a need or requires you to increase spending, you may be better off skipping the promotion.  

Extreme Couponing

Sure you might end up with more for less, but is all that clipping, running around and stocking up paying off? After adding up all the hours and gas mileage spent hunting down deals, you may be  netting less than you think. Coupons are beneficial when used in moderation, but if they become an obsession, as they have for many Americans, you may also end up with a space issue — with more cereal and toothpaste than you have room for. 
Dollar Store Deals

While there are some serious deals to be had at your local dollar store, not everything there is worth its discounted price. Consumer Reports has found that some items may actually be unsafe to buy. For example, be careful when buying products like extension cords, lamps and other electrical items, as they may bear false or missing UL labels certifying their safety. In a past test, Consumer Reports also found that about half of dollar store vitamin brands had fewer nutrients than claimed.
Fast Food Consumption

While fast food is quick and convenient, the long-term health and financial costs may outweigh the benefits and savings you pocket today. For example, the Cancer Project found that most items advertised on Value Menus were loaded with saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. Many items were also linked to an increased risk of cancer.  That said, fast food chains are becoming more health-conscious and adding healthful options to their menus. Stay informed on the go. The Restaurant Nutrition app and Calorie Counter app, both free, let you look up nutritional information for food items at many restaurants and chains.

Finally, while the DIY trend has become hotly popular in recent years, Doing It Yourself can sometimes do more harm than good. Research suggests that it’s cheaper in the long run to pay a pro for some time-consuming services or projects that require serious expertise. According to CouponSherpa.com, a few services you ought to leave to the pros are re-flooring or re-carpeting your house, changing your car's oil and doing your taxes, which experts say can help you earn a heftier return — or at least save you from overpaying Uncle Sam.
What are some other ways you’ve admittedly been frugal to a fault?  Connect with me on Twitter @farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.