being too frugal

5 Downsides of Being Too Frugal

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Living with frugality mindset (without being cheap) is something I’ve consciously tried to do for many years now, but is there such a thing as being TOO frugal?

For the most part I love frugal life, much prefer it to extravagant life. It’s great, I’ve saved so much money. But let’s talk about the downsides, shall we? Roses still have thorns and all that.

This is not an article to deter you from frugalism – no, not at all. I have zero regrets adopting this lifestyle. I just want to share the bad that comes with the good. I want to let you know when being too frugal *might* be a problem.

#1 – Embarrassed by old stuff

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on an IKEA couch purchased almost five years ago. There are stains that won’t wash away. The sides bore scratch marks artistically done by the cats. They’re particularly proud of the bits of thread coming out.

My coffee – black, like my heart – have since cooled. The mug was RM2, bought from a thrift shop. There’s a couple of chips around the edges. I’m a daily coffee drinker, and the coffee stains don’t quite wash away, no matter how hard I scrub.

The drying rack is right in front of me, loaded with laundry I did yesterday. I’ve owned that nightdress for about five years now! Hey, I never noticed that hole in that shirt before…

Sometimes, particularly after I had a round of mindless Instagram or Pinterest, a part of me cries out for an overhaul. Clothes overhaul. Home decor overhaul. Kitchenware overhaul. While we’re at it, accessories and bedding too.

I, too, like the idea of being surrounded by new, beautiful things. Then the internal dialogue starts, and I start to reason with myself why complete overhauls will NOT make me happy, there MUST be an underlying reason for all these feelings, am I simply feeling bored instead?, and I forget about it until the next time I open Instagram and Pinterest again.

Related: 23 Things That I Can Do At Home, Instead Of Spending Money

#2 – Unable to share much on Instagram

downsides of being frugal
USA-Reiseblogger / Pixabay

See, I take digital marketing for Ringgit Oh Ringgit seriously. I want as many people as possible to talk about money candidly. That’s how I view my role, anyway.

I’m active on Facebook and Twitter. But not as much on Instagram (my handle). A lot of Malaysians are there, and I’d love to reach them, but most of the time I simply don’t know what picture to snap and share.

I can’t do #OOTDs – my style is really nothing to shout about. Plus, see Point #1

Showing off new stuff I bought is a no in most cases, too, unless it’s an absurdly good deal or there’s a story behind it. Also, I don’t want to advocate for consumerism too much, you know?

I’d love to be more active on Instagram. Maybe I’ll start to post more grocery hauls? Any other ideas?

#3 – Procrastinate on things you’re too stingy to delegate

Oh man, what a big one.

DIY culture goes hand in hand with frugalism. If something breaks, you fix it yourself. Clean your house yourself. Prep your food yourself. Paying premium for conveniences should only be done sparingly, a treat.

I agree, yes. But it’s not like I have eternal motivation to do everything, you know? Especially cleaning – what a never-ending chore! Broken things in my house takes forever to repair, too. I’d wait until I can’t ignore it any more. Like that time I waited forever to get someone to fix the ceiling leak, until it turned moldy!

And these are services you CAN delegate. Things that I can’t delegate, I procrastinate even more. How I wish someone could just come and declutter my house, and help me donate/sell the stuff I no longer need!

#4 – Not being an early adopter of technology

downsides of being frugal
namair / Pixabay

I subscribe to this frugal advice: never get the latest gadgets.

Last time, I used to be SO snobby about this and pooh-poohed the people who regularly update their gadgets to the latest versions. I felt superior to them, thought of myself above them. I mean, it takes a lot of financial commitment to be an early adopter of technology. I used to think they had low self-control.

How judgemental, right?

Now, I have a different take – I value the contributions of early adopters. They are the ones who are brave enough to test new technologies and vote for a gadget’s future with their own money.

Without early adopter’s initial demands, I don’t think the gadgets I use and love now will ever get into higher production, thus reducing the cost of ownership for me. They’re also among the first to support smaller startups and businesses that work with new technologies: drones, VR, 3D printing, etc.

If it weren’t for them, those industries wouldn’t grow. They’d just die off, taking technological advancements with them.

I read a thoughtful opinion piece from an early adopter a while back (lost the link unfortunately). They are very much aware of the financial damage they do to themselves. They are also online-shamed a lot. But they do it anyway, because they are passionate about technology and enjoy testing out new features never tried before.

So yeah, thank you early adopters. As long as you don’t get into unnecessary debt or anything, go for it.

(Side note: I guess you can also apply ‘early adopter’ broadly to other fast-changing industries too, like fashion).

#5 – Loneliness

downsides of being frugal
RoyBuri / Pixabay

Relationships are important and key to a happy, fulfilled life. That’s a fact.

Rationally, I know I shouldn’t be stingy when I want to develop new friendships and maintain old ones… but it’s still hard for me to justify the expenses.

Right now, I’m trying to balance and hit the sweet spot between these two options:

  • Option A: Don’t go out too often. If I stay in I’d save on transportation, food and other going-out costs. Plus, reduce impulse spending and peer pressure-related spending. That’s good for my wallet.
  • Option B: Feel bouts of loneliness when I decide to stay at home.

Friends in my personal life reading this, I miss you ;_; I’m sorry I don’t get to see you more often. Will try my best to make more effort.

Those of you who have a good social life AND reasonable social-related expenses, how do you do it? I need help with this.

Last thoughts on downsides of being too frugal

Even though there are downsides of being too frugal, I think I’ll continue at it. It works for my lifestyle and personality, and I think the pros far outweigh the cons. Plus, I like the lifestyles that complement frugalism – minimalism, DIY culture, zero waste, capsule wardrobe, small home movement among others.

Would you consider yourself frugal? If yes, do you relate to any of the above? What downsides do you personally experience?

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  1. #1 re coffee mug stains – baking soda works wonders for my decade old FOC red & white Nescafe mug
    #4 interesting POV. I’ll reassess my opinion of early adopters
    #5 thank God I’m an introvert . I do spend with selected ppl. Helps to cultivate meaningful relationships even if few.

    1. The way you choose to live demonstrates strong core values and I find myself nodding furiously to each of your points. On instagram, I think you will shine by sharing your frugal way of life, I think it is very inspiring. I too struggle with trying to spend more time with friends and spending more money vs staying home. Some months back I find a sweet spot to inviting friends to my place for a dinner and gossip sesh or just to hang by the pool and relax. After all, meeting friends is because we miss each other’s company. Occasionally I will also ajak a friend to just walk and talk, this is a great way to get some exercise in, feeding the body and soul. Love your blog, keep up the great contents! 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for your kind words, TS Chan! I’m going to try invite friends over more often 🙂

  2. #5
    What I do:
    i. hang out with poor people, spend <RM5 at mamaks and gerai tepi jalan
    ii. hang out with rich people, they will belanja everytime.

    May sound like I'm joking but I'm actually serious.

    p/s: Have to use a pseudonym so that my friends don't leave me.

  3. Nice post! I am trying very hard to convert my lifestyle into this way because I wanna save more money. And when I say I try very hard, I recently relapse to the old ways i.e. spending too much because my self-control is soooooo baddddd *smacks forehead* wonder how long it takes you to finally settle into this lifestyle? Mind sharing?

    1. Hey CheapoWannabe,

      Personally, I noticed a mindset shift once I delve more into the emotional side of spending, the one responsible for auto-pilot behaviours.

      In no way I’ve mastered spending – I still do the sporadic impulse purchases – but much less than before.

      I guess I have 2 strategies:
      – intentionally avoid myself at places with high temptation, and
      – try to understand what emotions I go through, so while the damage is done, at least I’ll learn something from it

      I wrote about the emotional side of spending in this post:

      All I can say it, I’m still a work in progress, but enjoying the journey 🙂

  4. Hey Suraya!

    I chuckled when I saw you sharing this post on Facebook because it was exactly what I’ve been pondering within myself lately- have i been overly frugal?
    I dived into a semi-minimalist’ish, budgeting lifestyle when i came across your blog some months back.

    Certainly help to grow the numbers in my bank account to the point I once saved 70% of my income after expenses that was parked purely for savings! what a thrill that was! (2nd hand myvi,paid off ptptn)
    Gah at one point I went to the extreme by opting to find an open air parking for free instead of paying 2 bucks for 3 hours parking rate! yeah,ridiculous i know! but I’ve mellowed down since.LOL

    Anyway, I completely agree with you on the ‘going-out cost’ it has gotten the best of me and i’m on the road to recovery. Perhaps, I could be coined as an extremist at one point but really I blame myself for calculating every single penny I saved daily to the point where it consumes me for everything else.

    Instead of the usual weekend dating with movie and a meal at the mall with overpriced noodles, I’ve introduced myself and partner by going hiking each weekend and brunch/dinner treat at local eateries which we equally enjoy for the price we pay and save Wednesdays for movie dates with cheap tickets that seems friendly to our wallet and budget speadsheet. Somehow this approach works very well the ol’ frugal me.
    Other than that, i’m an introvert so I have a handful of friends to deal with lol

    Things I’m working on:
    to say, it is okay to get (blank)

    1. Hey Fru-gal,

      Saving 70% of your income is awesome! Good job! Looks like you’re managing your money well!

      LOL I can relate with the extremes – used to obsess over everything and mellowed down a bit, too. I used to keep all my vege scraps to make vege stock HAHAHHA

      Glad to know you found happy mediums 🙂 Thanks for swinging by!

  5. #1 – sometimes if buying certain things will makes me happy means i would just tell myself that i have emergency fund + a bit of savings aside. Once a while splurge a bit more is nothing wrong. how if i die too soon? i cant take the money to my coffin…(yes i go to that extend and think just to convince myself) haha 😛
    #5 – try potluck at home and invite your friends / siblings . you will spend lesser by cooking just 1 – 2 dishes.

    1. Hahaha I also have those ‘what’s the point of having money if you can’t enjoy it Suraya’ moments loool

  6. Got a free coffee machine by signing up for a cashback credit card. Bought coffee capsules, invited friends to come over for cheap coffee 🙂 Other than that, I’m super bad at savings and not to mentioned being frugal. Learning from you. Thanks for sharing!

    1. That sounds like a nice evening tbh, thanks for sharing that idea!

      And no one is bad at saving money, they’re just learning and not there yet 😛 You can do it!

    1. Hahahahah Charmaine thank you, you’re sweet. Happily I’ve just bought two pretty mugs to replace them ^_^

  7. Last time i am frugal and very stingy… but i hate it a bit so i changed to balance lifestyles …

    I love beautiful and high quality things and i do very much research to get the best with lowest price … i fact i have to browse several shops before buying the things… i make sure the things i bought i well kept and maimtained and it will not broken easily…

    It works for me…

    1. Hi Khairul Hazwan,

      I think I’m at that stage now, balancing between frugal and cheap, learning the difference in practice and everyday life. Sounds like you have a good system going on, keep it up!

  8. Good Post.
    Helps to refelect why you do certain stuff kann..
    1. Cofee cup stain baking soda with bit warm water. Burnt stuff in pan.. baking soda +vinegar.
    2. I just think am gypsy with all thd mismatch stuff. Its the awareness especially with impact of trash we produce and then trying la here n here… Exchange with friends. Beli nothing buy bulk.
    3. Insta does not hv to be food pix or home pix.. Maybe quotes with great tips and some cute cat in background. (your own cat) hehe
    4. Make duit stretch.. Mmm like dis.
    A. Miss that fancy orchestra bought tix for the evening rehearsal one. Budget one rm30
    B. Yoga. Try the free ones at the park on weekends. And buy tht bulk class pass for 6 mths etc. Family package n share accounts like spotify/netflix.
    C. Really swap clothes n go bless shop.. Freeze food kalau masak extra..

    1. I laughed at the ‘just think am gypsy with all the mismatch stuff’ ahahahha

      Thanks for the tips, Juju Nathan 🙂

  9. i went from racking up credit card debts to being super frugal to get in control of my finances again. While i’m proud of the progress i’ve made, i also suffer from all the above!

    on point #5 – i find that having honest conversations with my friends about what i can and cannot afford, while it can be awkward and difficult, can also be very rewarding. It sometimes also allows my friends to open up about their own money worries. And then we realize, all of us cannot afford the staycation anyway! So no need la, lepak at home only also can – the time we spend together is still going to be of value.

    i shared my money fails and wins in my 20s on Rutin’s podcast. If you have the time, would love for you to have a listen. 🙂

    i’m a new follower to your site and have already learned loads about what i can do with my money in a short time. Thank you Suraya!

    1. Hi Amira,

      Thanks for the kind comment and also for producing the podcast episode – nicely done!

      I love the personal sharing there. Sometimes, we just have to be the first one in our friend group to voice it out, so others feel relieved that its a shared experience

  10. I totally can relate on the first point of being embarassed of old stuffs. I only have like 5-6 ‘going out blouses’ and most of them are already 5-6 years old! I am just 23 yrs old so I am still afraid of people judgement or if my friends ever thought that I am super cheapskate because I still wearing the same clothes when I was 17. I can describe myself as frugal and being the XL size makes it harder for me to find cheap clothes. On another note, I am so glad that my close friends understand my situation and we also often have lepak session at each other house than going out! (going to fancy cafes tortures my soul). regardless I do afraid If I am missing out a lot during my youth just to save money 🙁

    1. Hi Fatin Haziqah,

      Thanks for sharing, glad my experiences are relatable 🙂 And yeah, saving money is nice but FOMO can be hard. But back to the fundamentals – spend on what you enjoy, skimp on what doesn’t

  11. Hi Suraya,

    What a nice and honest post. I feel the same way about procrastinate, old stuff and building relationship with friends because I want to stick on my financial goals and I love travelling.

    *Procrastinate: I try to wait until 6 months to service my A/C
    Luckily, my sister keeps telling me to do it else it would cost more when the A/C spoiled. For this kind of stuff, on the road to healing, I feel perhaps it would be good if you can ask your hubby/family members to remind you the next time you want to procrastinate 🙂

    *Old stuff: we can refer to Marie Kondo/feng shui tips, such as learning to say goodbye to old stuff that no longer serve their purposes (you’ll be happier drinking with a nice coffee mug), while keeping broken things will block your luck 😉

    *Building relationship with friends: same here… thank God for internet, lol
    Usually, I would plan my catch ups so I can be sure that I have enough budget to spend

    “Spend on what you enjoy, skimp on what doesn’t” – totally agree
    Thank you for sharing this, you’re not alone in this journey! :))

    1. Hi Clara,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic, enjoyed your honest views too. You sound like you’re applying mindfulness, that’s awesome 🙂

  12. hi just wondering if this lifestyle is sustainable, meaning if you got into any relapse of going on a spending spree after being frugal so long? also to avoid falling into said relapse, how do you suggest like do we go for like a self reward session (still controlled spending, not relapse) once in a while ? interested on your thoughts on this! 😊

    1. Hi newbies,

      Something like revenge spending? Hahah

      I don’t have the data, but if you think a controlled spending works for you, go for it!

      Personally I saved a rather big amount, then only comfortable with splurging

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