Hey, Scrooge! 3 Signs That You're Too Cheap

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Frugality is a great thing. It can pave the way to financial freedom, security and even wealth. But it can also pave the way to madness, if you take it too far. Here are some signs you might be taking things to the extreme -- and what you should be doing instead.

1. You Put Way Too Much Time Into Penny-Pinching

The internet is full of people who like to brag about the crazy measures they take to save money.
  • They rinse out Ziploc baggies so they can reuse them.
  • They spend hours each week clipping and organizing coupons to save a few extra cents on a can of soup that they don't even particularly like.
  • They dissect nearly empty toothpaste tubes so they can scrape out the last bits of toothpaste.
They spend far too much time, in other words, for not nearly enough return.

Creativity and a do-it-yourself spirit is one thing, but if you find yourself devoting hours of your life to shaving off a few cents here and there, it's time to reconsider your savings strategy.

Instead of making your own laundry detergent, could you start line-drying your clothes to cut back on utility costs? Instead of reusing the same sheet of tin foil over and over again, could you invest in some Tupperware so you can store your food without any waste?

At some point, you need to recognize that your time has a value, too, and wasting it on extreme savings strategies isn't always the best way to spend it. I advise people to be frugal with their time, not just their money.

2. You Sacrifice Quality for the Sake of Pinching Pennies

If you've ever re-used dirty bathtub water, or if you use rags as "reusable toilet paper," you're pushing frugality too far.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-There are certain things in life that are worth paying a little more for.%Sometimes it's worth spending on an item that costs a little more but gives you better (or more hygienic) quality. Trimming your water bill by taking shorter showers is fine; trimming your water bill by only showering once a month is just plain filthy.

That $10 pair of sneakers in the bargain bin may seem like a great deal, but will you be saying the same thing a few months from now when they fall apart and you just have to buy new ones?

Reusing your coffee grounds may seem like a smart way to stretch your resources, but if you're just drinking twice as many cups to get the same pick-me-up, is it really saving you anything?

There are certain things in life that are worth paying a little more for, whether they'll last longer, save you down the road or give you an overall better experience. Next time you consider doing something extreme to save a buck or two, ask yourself if that buck is really "worth" it in the grand scheme of things. Consider the true "value" of your money.

3. You're Just Plain Miserable

As Ebenezer Scrooge can attest to, simply saving lots of money doesn't equal happiness. Money is meant to be a tool for living our best lives, rather than an end in itself.

While smart money management can absolutely lead to a happier life, you don't have to make yourself miserable now in order to be happier later. In fact, you shouldn't. If you live on the edge of self-enforced poverty for 65 years so you can be rich when you retire, will you really consider your life well-spent?

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Sacrificing some things (like regularly dining out) in order to pay down debt or build up savings is one thing. Never eating out, ever, even for your parents' 40th wedding anniversary dinner, is another.

Your money is a tool you can use to maximize your life, and as such, you can and should prioritize the things that make you happy.

If you adore good food, have a nice meal out each week -- maybe you can cut back in another area you don't care about as much. If you love to travel, investing in a once-in-a-lifetime journey can be "worth" just as much as some extra dollars in your bank account that you never let yourself touch.

Be smart with your money, and you can walk a happy line between financial responsibility and enjoying yourself once in a while.

And please, ditch the reusable toilet paper. That's just not good for anyone.

Paula Pant ditched her 9-to-5 job in 2008. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental units and runs a business from her laptop. Her blog,Afford Anything, is a gathering spot for rebels who refuse to say, "I can't afford it." Visit Afford Anything to learn how to shatter limits and live life on your own terms.
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