You Know You're Too Frugal When...

Comedian Jim DailakisJim Dailakis realized he was taking frugality too far by saving a few dollars riding the bus and subway to work in New York City, despite the availability of a more expensive commuter train that cut the trip's time in half. Dailakis eventually figured out that time was money, and the extra $8 to ride the Long Island Rail Road was worth the cost.

"This was no way to live," says Dailakis, right, of his long commute 10 years ago when he arrived in New York from Australia. Since then, the comedian has earned enough money to change his poor travel and eating habits, and has vowed to spend the extra money when needed when it comes to his health or time.Typically people are frugal early on in their careers, when they can barely afford bus fare and a culinary "splurge" entails cheap Chinese takeout. That was definitely the case with Dailakis. But the recession has forced many people to turn back to their cheap ways. However, sometimes, the frugality can go too far.

Financial Highway recently published a list of signs that you may be holding the purse strings a little too tightly. Among them:
  • Feeling isolated because you have choosing to be frugal.
  • Hoarding items because you got a good deal on them.
  • Hate being frugal but feel you have to.
  • Compromise safety, such as by eating expired food.
  • In competition with others about how frugal you can be.
  • Your home lacks basic items, such as a bed.
  • You spend time saving money instead of earning money.
  • Feel there's no such thing as being "too frugal."
WalletPop has written plenty about offbeat ways that people are frugal, including a family that rented out their house and moved into an apartment so they could save $150 a month. Sometimes, the savings isn't worth the effort.

Frugality is different than poverty, which is not having enough money for necessities, explains Tina Tessina, a psychotherapist in Southern California. People who are suffering because they're saving money will have negative stress effects, Tessina told WalletPop.

"If you don't get to enjoy your life because of your frugality, or you deny yourself needed health care or other necessities, it will be damaging," she wrote in an email. "If you can enjoy the game of saving money, be creative about learning to do things in a less expensive way, and have fun doing it, then frugality won't have negative effects."

Dailakis, 43, remembers often eating inexpensive fried rice and other unhealthy take-out food when he had to save money, but now realizes it wouldn't have cost much more to eat healthy. He now buys organic food and eats healthy, something he says he won't ever scrimp on again.

"When I was frugal, I was just a lonely, miserable SOB," he says.

A gym membership was a great quality-of-life investment, said Dailakis, who saves money by not owning a car while living in New York, and instead renting cars or flying when he needs to travel. A friend still takes a bus to gigs, even though he can afford a plane trip, Dailakis said, adding he'd rather save on time than money on travel.

"I see so many people and they save money," he said. "But what's the point if you don't spend it?"

Author Kim Brittingham remembers obsessing over food when she was forced to be frugal with her money. Her financial budget forced her to deprive herself of certain things, and caused a need to overeat, Brittingham says.

"It wasn't until I recognized the feelings of deprivation that came with sticking to a tight budget -- feelings startlingly similar to those I once felt when dieting -- that I was able to return to normal eating," she told WalletPop in an email. "Being able to label and understand the phenomenon helped me come to a peaceful acceptance of where I am financially. I was able to let go of my feelings of frustration and acknowledge the good reasons I was choosing this period of frugality."

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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