In the face of 40-year high inflation, you can’t help but watch your wallet get thinner. In fact, more than a third of American adults are tapping into their savings accounts to cover increased living expenses, withdrawing an average of $617 during the first six months of this year. As nearly everyone is feeling the effects of skyrocketing costs of everything from fuel to rent to groceries to entertainment, we could all use some helpful tips and tricks to stretch our dollars.
Being thrifty and finding ways to pay less for everyday goods is generally the way to go. But have you ever heard the saying “I’m not rich enough to buy cheap”? Turns out, some tactics that help reduce spending now can easily cost you more in the long run — whether in time, energy, or money.
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So when one user reached out to ‘Ask Reddit’ inviting people to share “false frugalities” — low-cost things that turned out to be expensive — most people are unaware of, the thread immediately became a hit. We’ve gathered some of the most illuminating responses to share with you, so continue scrolling! Be sure to upvote the ones you agree with and then chime in with your own experiences in the comments.
Psst! After you’re done with this list, check out Bored Panda’s earlier piece with tips on how to live more frugally right here.
There was a sub about how to budget food/living expenses. And the ideas that people had were ridiculous and required you to be financially well off enough to facilitate their idea of what saving money is. I don’t think I received advice from anyone who knew what it was like to be poor, or actually truly need to responsibly budget their funds.
One guy wanted me to plant a garden to grow some carrots or other veg. I explained that I have a small apartment, and that carrots are a dollar for a big bag. He actually got uppity with me and became a total shithead when I explained that I live in a small apartment in the middle of the biggest city in canada. There is no benefit to turning half my apartment into a garden so I can grow five bucks worth of veggies in a few month’s span. I can’t just go outside and plant vegetables. It’s also cold here 9 months out of the year.
I got berated out of the sub after pointing this kind of s**t out numerous times.
Image credits: anon
All construction………….do you want it done cheap? or do you want it done right?
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Surprised I haven’t seen this yet; using third party hotel booking sites. The sites guarantee you a room and a price but not the type of room you requested. Calling the hotel directly will not only guarantee the room you want but often they beat the price of the websites. On my last trip a particular site favored by an Enterprise captain quoted $129 a night, when I called the hotel they gave me $79 a night.
Bottled water. It’s marketed to appear that it’s healthier and cleaner than tap water, plus the plastic bottles are not sustainable. Just buy yourself a thermos or reusable water bottle and stop buying overpriced plastic with over-glorified tap water included.
Image credits: anon
Not going to the doctor/dentist!
Wellness checkups are important. Your prognosis will always be better if something is caught early on.
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Cheap batteries. They don’t last, they don’t work well, and many of them are duds. When I was in high school, I always, always listened to my discman. One day the batteries died so I walked up to the gas station and chose between the Duracell batteries and the bronze-colored batteries. I bough the cheaper no-names and they died before the day was over. And I had to go through social studies without music.
I learned two things that day; WWI history, and not to buy cheap batteries.
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I once watched a show about extreme penny pinchers. One episode depicted a man who spent about 3 hours a day riding his bicycle or walking around looking for dropped change around pay phones, gum ball dispensers, etc. The whole time I couldn’t help but think that even a minimum-wage job would yield him more capital for his time, especially once you factor in bicycle tubes and shoes.
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In general, people of this nature fail to realize that the benefits of having money is its positive influence on your quality of life. When your quality of life suffers in order to save money, you’ve completely reversed your priorities to a mind-boggling level.
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“Rent is throwing money down the drain”
Owning a home is not always smart. It can be, but not always. It’s not just the house cost, but costs in taxes, interest, insurance, repairs and maintenance, etc.
Then there’s opportunity costs. I know folks who can’t move until they sell, and can’t take better jobs cuz they can’t move. A house can be a big anchor in some contexts.
Image credits: Illah
Aggressive lane changing while driving.
All that accellerating to get into the “better” lane just wastes fuel, and you save a negligible amount of time.
There was a small TV documentary here in Australia I remember watching that did tests on it. They sent two drivers across Sydney in rush hour traffic: one who would change lanes only when it was absolutely necessary (obstructions, turnoffs, etc), and one who was super aggressive changing all the time.
The aggressive driver got to the destination 2 minutes earlier, though with *80% more fuel consumption than the other driver*.
When it comes to tools, buy nice or cry twice.
Image credits: SkinnyMac
I saw a popular comment here a couple weeks ago talking about reusing those little handwarmer packet things by slicing them open and adding more magnesium flakes obtained by shaving down sparklers.
For f**k’s sake, just buy some new handwarmers.
Image credits: Planet-man
Cheap, single ply toilet paper. You end up having to use way more just to get the same effect of the good stuff.
Buying heavily used cars, sometimes. There are exceptions, but all of my friends who religiously buy the cheapest car they can find are always having trouble. Very expensive trouble, that sometimes adds up to close to the cost of a new car, or at least a better maintained used car.
Image credits: Sqyud
Heating and air-conditioning. Being uncomfortable, irritable, and unproductive isn’t worth the few hundred dollars you save by lowering the heat or not turning on the AC.
Doing the dishes by hand vs. using a dishwasher. The dishwasher requires a lot less water, time and energy.
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i went to greggs, a well known bakery in the UK. I bought a sandwhich and a drink. as i went to pay, the guy offered me the meal deal. “a sandwhich a drink and crips (chips) for only £1.99. a sandwhich and a drink was £1.59. the sandwhich was £1 and the drink was 59p. by themselves, crisps (chips) were 20p but as part of the meal deal they were 40p. this means that the SPECIAL MEAL DEAL OFFER was more expensive than buying each item individually. CLEVER F*CK***
Travel and times: A lot of people take the cheapest flight they can find, but to me, saving 50 bucks on a $500 ticket isn’t worth a 7am flight or a red eye.
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I knew a fellow who owned one of the most expensive houses in town, but was too cheap to run his swimming pool filter except when he was actually swimming. With virtually no filtration, the water would get thick with debris and algae. He would then by stuff to kill the algae, but then he would have water full of dead algae. And the crud would stiff on the pool bottom, making it very hard to clean off. He spent way more on chemicals than he would have spent on electricity. The owner of this cement pond was a retired rocket scientist.
People with flex fuel vehicles buying E85 instead of gasoline. The reduced mileage you get out of E85 eats up any saving you get at the pump.
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Home brewing beer.
It’s a wonderful hobby and I highly recommend it, but don’t think you’re going to save money.
Mobile phone contracts with a free iPhone etc.
You think you’re getting a good deal with a free phone but with 35 pounds a month contact for 2 years, they really screw you.
You think you are saving cash on the off chance the product you bought doesn’t hold on and you need repairs, but I don’t know anybody who has ever been happy about this choice
On the opposite end of the spectrum, car insurance for rental cars. My father and his colleagues used to travel the world and rent cars for several weeks at a time. It would only take one car accident in all those years of renting cars to justify the cost. Many of these rentals were for off-road use. The rookies thought to save cash passing on the insurance and would eventually shell out thousands on repair
Not paying off your mortgage to save the tax breaks…
While it is nice to save taxes, the long term financial benefits are astronomical when you free up a mortgage payment.
Being cheap with anything you’re going to use a lot or over a long time. Better to spend $180 on a single frying pan that will last 10+ years than buy a $40 frying pan each and every year because they c**p out so easily no matter how careful you are with them. This metaphor, of course, fits the bill for almost any frying pan that is non-stick or costs less that $100 to begin with.
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In many cases, buying a name-brand product with a coupon is *still* more expensive than buying the store-brand.
Or, buying something just because it’s on sale, but not necessarily because you need it.
“Buying that rent-to-own laptop Consumer Reports checked out is equivalent to paying 311% interest, which is far worse than the 30% interest rate you see on crummy credit cards.
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Cloth diapers. You still have to buy special (expensive) detergent, and run so many loads in the washing machine. I worked it out when we started cloth diapering 3+ years ago, and it cost the same as if we just did disposable diapers.
Plus all the TIME put into washing/drying/assembling.
I like cloth diapering, I do recommend it, but I hate when it gets lauded as a cheap alternative.
(Edit: Yes, really, you do have to use specially formulated detergent. You don’t? That’s cool. Your diapers are getting build up of both ammonia and detergent. Good luck with that smell and the leaks, and that is coming from experience.
Also, nowhere did I mention the upfront cost of the diapers themselves. When I talk about price, I’m talking about water and electricity bills.)
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Justifying the purchase of anything solely because it’s a “good deal.” I hear this misconception all the time.
If you spend $100 on shoes, even if you bought it at 99% off, you’re still out $100. You haven’t saved a penny, and that’ll be a real problem if you needed that $100 to pay your utility bills.
Edit: clarity and $10,000 shoes.
Cheap legal services.
A good lawyer that takes 3hrs at $300 an hour will do a much better job far cheaper than a shitty lawyer that takes 5hrs at $200 to do the same job.
This is partly why good lawyers are so expensive – because they’re cheaper.
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Steam sales. You think all these games are a great deal, but you end up playing very few of them and proceed to buy new games you would buy anyways. Remember, you didn’t save $7.50, you spent $2.50.
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Hybrids. Sure, you save $200-$500 dollars a year on gas costs. But every 5-10 years you will have to replace the battery pack, which can go from anywhere from $2,500 to as much as $6,000, especially on some of the new electric cars with larger packs. Not to mention the initial bump in price you pay with most hybrids. You add a small cost for low rolling resistance tires every time you change them.
Furthermore, the so called point of a hybrid car is saving the environment. The materials used in hybrid cars, specifically the batteries and other components that require rare earth elements, not only require more energy, but put out more harmful types of chemicals than traditional processes. The story gets worse if you go with a plug in hybrid, as 60% of wall power comes from coal plants, a less cleaning fuel than gasoline.
Dining Plans at college. I literally could go out to eat for every meal for the price of them. And I often did. I saved a ton of money because I don’t eat that much/snack more often .
Buying a big cheap house far from your common destinations.
You will pay with time, petrol, housework, sleep, your relationships, and/or career
1.Buy or rent a small house with a 10-30 minute commute.
2. Let happiness ensue.
I know people that skip going to the doctor until the last minute to save the office visit payments. It’s a terrible idea since by the time they get there the simple cold turns into pneumonia and costs much more to heal.
Professional home repair services. Real companies have insurance, you can sue if things go wrong. Some handyman that someone knows is likely going to do something that violates a warranty, will be judgement proof, and won’t get a permit.
Where I work, we do price adjustments on products that have gone on sale since the customer purchased them. Most of the time, the refund isn’t worth the amount of time, energy, and gas the customer uses driving to the store.
People overinflate the hell out of their tires to get better gas mileage, then have to spend much more to get new tires when they wear out far sooner.
Shaving with a straight razor. It’s a larger down-payment to start into it (simple but nice razor, strop, and brush cost me about $100), but I recouped that in less than a year just by not buying more cartridges. In theory, a razor will last pretty much forever, for free.
Here’s the problem, though. I nicked my blade and had to repair it, so I bought about $80 worth of reworking stuff (much less than I could have spent). Then I bought a fancy 1930’s blade and restored it. Then I bought a better brush, and a better stop, and a better shave mug, etc.
I started because it appealed to my practical side. Then it quickly became a ritualistic money hole.
Stopping at Costco for just one thing because its cheaper than the grocery store. Sure I save 3 dollars on the initial item that I went in to get, but the bill at the till always seems to average 400 bucks.
Image credits: The_Devil_Memnoch
Restaurant specials. It’s rarely cheaper and it’s typically food that is about to go bad and needs to be sold instead of thrown out.
Leasing a car instead of buying one. I’m not gonna get into the specifics but it’s pretty much always more costly
Rewards points. You are paying for them.
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A $5 pair of sneakers is not a deal, no matter what your wallet says.
Maybe consider them if you only need shoes for another month…
I don’t want to start a circlejerk, but, console gaming. By building a gaming PC for ~$800(including a keyboard and mouse) you can get a mid range rig that will last you a console generation of gaming. Yeah, you’re spending about $300 more on the console, but you don’t have to pay for online gaming. It covers the need of a PC for school, work, and general personal use. You’ll save a lot of money on games, and, when the next gen of consoles come out, you’ll already have a case, cooling, PSU, RAM, optical drive, and HDD or SDD. The only things you’ll need to upgrade to keep up with next gen are GPU, and CPU (and maybe motherboard depending on socket type changes). Which will only cost about $300-$400 to get your rig back up to par.
Next time you go shopping, grab a calculator and work out the cost per 100 grams (or whatever equivalent weight) and you’ll almost invariably find that the products with the big ‘Sale!’ signs are not the cheapest.
Of course it’s impractical to do this with every item so you can of course estimate, or shop at a store that all ready has the cost per 100 grams of the price tag like I do.
pretty much everything that’s bought in bulk.
“Oh hey, if I buy like 30 of these jars of peanut butter instead of just 1, then I could get them for only 1 dollar each, instead of the 1.50 that they usually are.”
Yes, but you’ll end up wasting/not eating all that peanut butter and you just wasted a ton of money.
Insisting that a $15 subscription to an MMO makes it “too expensive”. Ok, this isn’t necessarily a false frugality, because in order for you save money by playing an MMO you’d have to do it instead of other things, but if you realistically look at the cost of entertainment it pans out it’s an incredibly cheap choice.
Going to see a movie for 2 hours? that’s 15 bucks easily right there, if you go all out of concessions it can easily run you 20+.
Night out? Easily 50-100 bucks depending on what you eat, drink and do.
When all is said and done, 15 bucks for a whole month of access to a game is an incredibly good deal if that game entertains you. Of course if you have no desire to play an MMO you can’t save money by becoming a WoW shut-in, but you’d be surprised how many gamers are out there who say stuff like “I want to try *PopularMMO* , but the subscription is too expensive”, and then follow it up with “Let’s go see *RecentMovieRelase*, it’s probably a bad movie, but I have nothing to do on saturday night”.