The Quick Report

You Are Wasting Too Much Time Being Frugal

Time is the most valuable and limited commodity on Earth. Spending too much time to save money is not frugal. We’ll show you how to evaluate whether you are spending your time and money wisely.

What’s More Important: Time or Money?

There’s an old saying: “Penny wise, pound foolish.” The Pound, being the British Pound Sterling (GBP/£), is the world’s oldest currency. An Americanism for the saying is “penny-wise but dollar stupid.”

Many people invest a lot of their time taking steps to save money. However, we can’t forget that we have a limited supply of time in a lifetime. We can make more money, but we can never get time back.

When Frugality Is More Like Futility

No judgment here, but there are many times that we all do certain things assuming we are being frugal. We often don’t stop to consider how much we are actually saving. In many cases, the benefit is rather small, and our time may not be worth the effort. 

Consider the Following:

  • Spending hours clipping coupons to save a few bucks.
  • Spending an hour on the phone on hold to reverse a charge that is a fraction of what you would earn during that hour.
  • Going way out of your way and expending more of your time to save $5 on gas.
  • Scrimping on food costs and the quality of food when you spend huge amounts on booze monthly.

The takeaway is that our time is often more valuable than the insignificant monetary savings or gains.

Rethink Your Time: How Much Is It Worth?

One way of re-examining your priorities is to put a price on your time. In other words ask yourself, “How much is my time worth?”

Between our jobs and whatever obligations we have during the week, there is only so much free time available. That free time has a value.

Keep in mind that your “free time” doesn’t have to be equal to the value of your time in labor at your job. But it does give you some perspective in comparison and prioritizes your time.


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The main point here is that if you put a value on your time, you might find it more prudent to “buy your free time.” This can help you to justify foregoing certain things that aren’t rewarding you enough for the time spent.

For example, it might be worth skipping spending an hour clipping coupons to save $10 and use that time to do something important or rewarding. The cost of that hour was $10. It’s a bargain if it makes valuable use of your time. 

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Frugal Doesn’t Mean Cheap

Another mistake people often make in trying to be frugal is to buy cheaper things. But it is better to consider the long-term need and use of a purchase. Ask yourself how often and how long you’ll need to use the item.

Many items today with a low price tag also have a short lifespan. Because of that, the item needs to be replaced more frequently. In the long term, you may spend just as much or more through continual replacement. 

Purchasing a higher-quality item from the start can mean you buy once and you’re done. Even if you have to repurchase, it may not be for several years. This saves you both time and money.

Focus on the Most Important and Largest Expenses

When it comes to being frugal, the best place to start is to look at the essentials in your life. Focus on the things that require and consume the most of your money. Three things are typically the most expensive categories in a person’s budget.

  • Housing: Consumes roughly 30% of the average American’s annual expenses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Food: Consumes roughly 12% of annual expenses.
  • Transportation: Consumes roughly 17% of annual expenses.

Ways to Stretch Your Money Where It Counts

The three essentials everyone needs are housing, food, and transportation. These are the first areas to look at when considering ways to reduce your expenses. Here are some ideas for doing that.

  • Downsize to a more affordable home
  • Negotiate your rent
  • Relocate to a less expensive area
  • Reduce or eliminate expenses for dining out
  • Reduce meal expenses without sacrificing nutrition
  • Consider carpooling or taking public transportation to work
  • Consider downsizing to a less expensive vehicle
  • Negotiate to work remotely from home
  • Reduce debt by paying off lines of credit with the highest interest rates first.

These are just a few of many possible examples for immediately reducing your expenses.

Final Thoughts

Frugality cannot be judged in terms of money alone. Time must be figured into the equation. Likewise, purchasing things that cost less than more expensive competing products is not always frugal. Poor-quality products can cost you more in the long run.

Most people don’t want to spend all their time working. To paraphrase a song lyric, no one has a tombstone that reads “I wish I spent more time at work.”

At the end of the day, frugality is about prioritizing your time. Ideally, it’s balancing how much of your time is required to earn an income and save money. However, that should not come at the price of sacrificing valuable moments and the irreplaceable time you have on this planet.