When Frugal Fails

When living a frugal life, mistakes don't derail your financesWhile I’ll never win an award for the most frugal person on Earth, I do make a huge effort to control spending and make sure that our money is being used for things we value or that will build wealth for the future. It works pretty well UNLESS life gets crazy. This is how to cope when frugal fails.

Life Is Crazy

I won’t lament about how busy my life has been lately. I am no busier than most people reading this post. I know many of you work, side hustle, raise families, stay physically fit, and make time for your friends. It’s a delicate balance and when something tips the scales in the wrong direction, normal routines can go off the rails. My scale is currently tipped.

Part of it is my fault with responsibilites I’ve chosen to take on as well as some new work opportunities that have come my way. Some of it is just the time of year. With school winding down, activities ramp up. Over the next few weeks we have several school and extracurricular programs happening in the evenings and on weekends. Plus, we are planning a birthday party and getting ready to go on vacation. First world problems at their finest!

Poor Time Management Means Increased Spending

When I know the week is going to be busy, I plan like a military general over the weekend. Buying groceries,  cooking meals that can be heated up later in the week, managing laundry and house cleaning; it’s like a well oiled system, unless it isn’t.

For the past few months, my down time has been minimal to none. I’ve been staying up late and using weekends to catch up with my online work. When I do have some time mid week, I’ve gotten distracted by household work that is not a priority, which makes me cranky.

The result of poor time management is being stressed, making mistakes, bad decisions, and forgetting important things. This usually leads to increased spending in one way or another.

Just Buy The Cereal!

I did not make time to go grocery shopping last weekend. As a result, by Tuesday, we were out of fruit, milk, and I had nothing to make for school snacks I was scheduled to provide. I had to work in Telluride, which does have a grocery store. It just costs lots more than going to Kroger. I decided to bite the bullet and pick up some things on my way home instead of going to my regular store later that night.

It wasn’t awful. Apples were on sale. I bought a small container of milk we can sip, but I refused to pay $5 for a box of Rice Krispies. Since my home baked snack was supposed to be Rice Krispy treats, this was a problem. I knew I had a box of Rice Chex at home and thought this would work just fine.

Well, I was wrong. Rice Chex do not make good Rice Krispy Treats. They tasted OK but did not stick together well at all. I’m sure the fact that I used extra butter to make up for the small quantity of marshmallows I had did not help. Anyway, they were not fit for school consumption unless I was willing to provide bowls and spoons.

I now have a bowl of Rice Chex kinda crispy, and I still had to go buy a pre-made snack for school (thank goodness for the bakery clearance section!). I should have just ponied up for the Rice Krispies in the first place. If frugality ends up costing more in later expenses or valuable time, it’s not worth it.

Money Mistakes

The other thing that happens when you are distracted is that you make financial mistakes that normally would be laughable. I recently paid our Chase Freedom credit card bill online. This card  is used for lots of our expenses, and I have two bank accounts linked for payment. One account is for normal bill paying. The other is one we use to save for yearly expenses like property taxes and life insurance. Since I just paid property taxes, the account is almost empty. You can see where this is going.

Yes, I scheduled the credit card payment from the wrong account. I almost had a heart attack when I got the email from my bank saying I had insufficient funds. Frugal people don’t over draft!

I immediately got on the phone to explain what had happened and made a payment from the correct account. The bank did not charge for my mistake,  but I still got zinged with a $25 credit card fee.

The Benefits Of A Frugal Lifestyle

While neither of these mistakes really hurt us in the whole scheme of things, it’s just like Mrs. Frugal Woods forgetting her lunch. You don’t want to dismiss stupid mistakes as no big deal. Blowing off unnecessary spending or time wasting can lead to lifestyle inflation. I certainly need to be better organized and manage my time more efficiently, but all is not lost!

We have one credit card we use solely for grocery spending. I was almost afraid to open the bill for last month, afraid it would be awful. Our max grocery budget is $500 a month. This bill was $499.81. I would love for our grocery spending to be $400, but I also know that I bought laundry supplies and paper products this month because they were on sale. Even though I was not paying attention, and even with buying household supplies, we still did not blow our grocery budget. Autopilot has been set to resist buying junk we don’t need!

Never Let A Fee Go Unchallenged

I also called about the $25 fee. Because we are never late on payments and pay in full every month, the representative waived it before I could even get the request out of my mouth. If we were continually behind on payments and maxed out, I don’t think Chase would have been as nice. Being a good money steward really paid off in this case.

When in debt and hemorrhaging cash, it’s very hard to start forming wise money habits. However, if you can get past the initial shock, being smart with money becomes second nature. I am always a work in progress, but even when frugal fails, it’s not that bad.

Have you had any frugal failures lately? Do you challenge unexpected fees?

 

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/Miles

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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Snipon.com.

37 Comments

  1. Laurie at the Frugal Farmer linked to this post, and I’m glad she did : ) My March involved a fail too, and for the same reasons – a busy life gone out of balance. It really is a comfort to know that I’m not alone in dealing with these challenges. And since you are able to take your mishaps in stride, I am encouraged to take mine in stride too. Thanks!

    1. I think we all have times where stress causes overspending, but the key is getting back on the horse and not letting it become routine.

  2. “Never let a fee go unchallenged” is right on. I normally pay off my credit card balance in full every month, but last month either I rushed through the payment, or I couldn’t properly read those numbers that are getting smaller every year (yes, it’s time to get my eyes checked again). Either way, I underpaid by about $4 which resulted in them charging me interest on all my charges going forward. A quick call took care of the interest charge as I am a good customer with a long history of paying off my balance monthly.

    1. I’ve found that credit card companies want to take care of their good customers. Yes, I agree it’s time to get an eye check!

  3. A couple of weeks ago I forgot my lunch on a Monday morning and I fell down the slippery slope. I ended up eating out all week, which should have been glorious, but really I just felt guilty. I forced myself to have a two week no spend challenge after that to get myself back on track.

    1. Sometimes those type mistakes are like dominoes and you feel that you’ve already slipped, so might as well do this and spend that. Congrats on getting back on track.

  4. Back when I was way more broke then I am now, I definitely binge stressed a lot more. I got a lot of parking tickets. I missed deals and like you mentioned, shopped and more expensive places if they were convenient. Now I do much better, but have those days/weeks/months at a time where I spend more than usual. In fact, this weekend was one of those weekends — I had a long week at work, so I ate out on both Friday and Saturday, and drank friday night too!

    This post came at a great time. It’s always nice to have a reminder that it’s not the end of the world — I was stressed and I spent my money on something I enjoyed, no big deal. My overall habits will lead me through the rest of my debt journey!

    Great post, thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. I think once you’ve turned the corner, you can recover quickly from mistakes or at least you know how to get back on track when you’re ready.

  5. It’s definitely tough to be frugal when you are busy, tired, overworked, etc. I know the times that I’ve taken the not-so-frugal path is when I’ve been tired and busy. If you don’t have time to plan things out you are much more likely to make mistakes. There’s a reason why some stay-at-home moms and dads are able to spend practically nothing on groceries – they have a ton of time to plan things out.

    1. I think I could probably always spend $100 less per month on groceries if I was at home all the time, but if I stayed home all the time now, it would certainly be way more than $100 less in income.

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