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6 Ways Being Cheap Can Cost You

Because saving money should never be about looking stupid

George Washington on one US dollar with sad expression holding a burning $100 bills

Forget inflation. Men try to cheap out in any economy. Getting something for a bargain is so part of our wiring it can trigger a condition known as $pontaneous Fi$cal Arou$al.

Example: We know a guy who managed to snag two 2023 Springsteen tickets for $80 each. He might as well die now and go out a legend.

But anything we care that much about has the potential to make us look stupid. “When you’re trying to save money, there’s a natural tendency to throw yourself into the deep end and go a little too far,” says Emily Irwin, senior director of advice and planning for Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management. “Initially you may have some frugal fails.”

Lest Frugal Fail become your new nickname around the house, here are six occasions when you can feel good and still spend less than you should.

Overstocking the fridge

When hitting the grocery store, it’s hard not to envision the best version of ourselves. We’re totally going to commit to cooking at home every day this week! But then tomorrow comes, and it was a long day at work, so you’ll just order takeout this once. One night turns into two, and then three, and all that food you overbought, especially the produce, transforms into monstrous mush while you tip the delivery guy.

Money wasted: $25—$100.

Try this instead: “Take a moment when you’re shopping and ask yourself: ‘Can I really commit to this?’  ” says Trae Bodge, a shopping expert at TrueTrae.com. “You have to be realistic. Some of us are more realistic than others.”

Cutting maintenance corners

Vehicles, HVACs and human hearts all eventually stop working (as can marriages). But annual maintenance visits cost money and, hey, you know that lawnmower still spits out that grass pretty good, right? And you feel healthy, right? Annual service checkups don’t really have to be annual … right?

Money wasted: $500–$1,000 or more (even death!), depending on what breaks.

Try this instead: “Make sure you are doing everything to proactively extend the life,” of the product or yourself, Irwin says. Call it investing $ today so you won’t have to spend $$$$ tomorrow.

Buying in bulk

Sometimes buying in bulk is smart. We celebrate the man who gets his Charmin unit cost below $0.47 per 100 sheets. But other stuff can be a sucker bet. You may save money buying a three-pack of sunblock, but if you don’t use it within a year it loses its efficacy, which means wasted money and a sunburn.

Money wasted: $10–$50, depending on what you wind up tossing.

Try this instead: If it has an expiration date and you’ll take months to consume it, forget bulk. Think “veggies, sunscreen and spices,” Bodge says.

Letting intro offers become permanent

TV and music services are biggies here. We know a guy who jumped at Showtime for $4.99 for three months because he had to watch Yellowjackets, and he still has Showtime 10 months later. “People sign up for subscriptions and forget they signed up,” Bodge says, or it just becomes a habit that’s easier not to break.

Money wasted: $10–$25 or more per month if you have several.

Try this instead: If you sign up, ya gotta sign out before they ding you. To stay on top of it, Irwin recommends calendar alerts to cancel the subscription before the introductory period ends.

DIY repairs

So another guy we know, this very summer of ’23, his wife is 8.33 months pregnant and the AC dies. But he knows how to fix it! He just needs the one part! Right now they’re on day three of 90-degrees-plus and he still says, “I will fix it” while his bursting, sweating, plotting wife whispers, “I will fix you.”

Money wasted: $100 into the thousands.

Try this instead: If you don’t have the tools, ability and time to fix it, admit it. “I thought I was being so slick fixing my own washer, but I didn’t fix it,” Bodge recalls. “The repair ended up being more expensive than it would have been.”

Buying just because it’s on sale

Who can resist 50 percent off? Could be anything — an ugly sweater, performance tires, taco Tuesday. Even more attractive for frugal shoppers: BOGO. Before you know it, you’re purchasing two when you didn’t even need one. But it’s a bargain. Is it? You do know retailers jack up the prices before they reduce them, right?

Money wasted: $25 into the hundreds.

Try this instead: Drop the impulse from impulse buying, Bodge says, because if you spend it, they win. “With 70 percent off there’s still 30 percent you’re paying for something you don’t need.”

(With additional reporting by Donna Fuscaldo.)

Photo credit: Getty Images
Follow Article Topics: Money-&-Career