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How Being Frugal Can Be Terrible For Your Health And Happiness

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While I consider myself frugal, there are instances where saving money isn’t worth the additional time investment. Let me share a story illustrating how excessive frugality cost me my health, productivity, and happiness.

Recently, we decided to attend Monster Jam for the first time, an event featuring monster trucks racing and performing stunts. Getting there offered several transportation options—bus, MUNI train, Uber, or car.

Opting for Uber seemed the most efficient choice for our group of four, costing approximately $27 each way for a 30-minute journey. If I were alone, I might have considered taking the train, but with four people, Uber became the more economical option.

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Regrettably, my wife and kids insisted on taking the MUNI train. My kids were really excited about riding the train. But, this required loading everyone into the car, driving to a MUNI station, parking, walking to the train station, and then waiting. The entire process added an extra 25 minutes each way. That’s one of the downsides of living on a hill. And the station closest to us wasn’t going where we needed to go.

Despite the $21+ savings per trip, taking the MUNI proved to be a suboptimal choice, considering the additional time and effort involved, even with kids riding for free.

Two Hours Of Entertainment And Then Back We Went

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After enjoying about two hours of Monster Jam, we decided to make an early exit, aiming to beat the rush. We jogged to the MUNI station, endured a six-minute wait, and hopped on the 45-minute ride back. A short one-and-a-half-block walk led us to our car, and we headed home. It had been a long day.

During the train ride, I opted to wear a mask, considering the reports of increased COVID cases and random colds, given it was winter. It had been maybe a year since I last wore one, so enduring a high-grade mask on the train for 45 minutes was unpleasant.

The Sneezing And Chills Began

Upon arriving home, my sneezing commenced, initially dismissed as allergies. However, the next day, the sneezing persisted. Despite managing to function, even playing an hour of tennis, that evening I found myself shivering. Before going to Monster Jam, I didn’t feel bad.

Two nights later after the show, I awoke with intense chills and sweats. Admitting my lack of energy, I informed my wife that I couldn’t muster the strength to drive our son to school. Consequently, she spent an hour on the road dropping him off and coming back. They were eight minutes late.

Even watching over my daughter at home while she drove my son was challenging. Concerned about not wanting to get her sick, I wore a mask but sadly lacked the energy to engage in play. All she wanted to do was jump all over me, but I had to tell her to keep a distance.

Saving $42-$50 On Transportation Wasn’t Worth It

The source of my illness—whether from riding the MUNI, attending Monster Jam, or an event the night before—remains uncertain. However, if this ailment did result from saving up to $50 by not opting for an Uber, it was unquestionably not worth it. The repercussions of my sickness are now evident:

  • My wife now dedicates roughly two hours each day dropping off and picking up our son. Typically, would take me 80 minutes (to school and back twice a day), but she takes 40 minutes longer overall as a less experienced and more cautious driver.
  • There is a risk I could spread my illness to the rest of the family. If this happens, then more misery will ensue.
  • My energy levels were too depleted to record or write on Financial Samurai the first day I was sick. Responding to emails or comments was beyond my capacity. As a result, I lost one day of productivity.
  • I could not participate in a USTA tennis match the first evening, letting my team down. At least we got a replacement.
  • The overall experience of feeling sick was dreadful.
  • I couldn’t help but experience resentment toward my family for not adhering to my transportation preferences.
  • I couldn’t spend time playing with my children for two days.
  • I missed out on seeing a friend who was visiting from Las Vegas

Given the circumstances, I would gladly pay $1,000+ not to be ill! Therefore, saving up to $50 by spending an extra hour taking the MUNI was undeniably the wrong call. Talk about lifestyle deflation due to frugality.

Finding the Silver Lining in Being Overly Frugal

Despite feeling like crap for days, there are some silver linings to being overly frugal and having my wishes ignored.

We Saved $50: Well, at least we’ve got a little more cash in our pockets, even if it came at a cost.

My Wife Gets Driving Practice: More driving practice boosts my confidence in her ability to handle picking up and dropping off our children safely. We set a goal a year ago for her to practice driving at least 24 times in 2023, but that never quite panned out.

My Family Might Take My Advice More Often: Perhaps my wife and kids will be more inclined to go along with my suggestion to take Uber or drive next time. Before getting on the MUNI train, I explained to my son the downside of getting sick. Given I got sick, then I might as well explain the situation further.

My Kids Will Appreciate Public Transportation More: Although taking an Uber is no longer considered a luxury, it is more luxurious than taking the bus or the train. By making my kids walk and wait at a train stop, this may increase their appreciation for public transportation and reduce the entitlement mentality.

My Kids Got To Practice Patience: Although my kids asked “when is the train coming” several times, they didn’t get frustrated or whine about waiting. And I was pleased with how well behaved they were on the train. Patience is a vital life skill.

Wrote This post: If I didn’t get sick, I wouldn’t have written this post warning people to think carefully about being overly frugal. I try to make lemonade out of as many suboptimal situations as possible.

When Not To Be Overly Frugal

For those of you grappling with frugality disease (don’t worry, we’ve all been there), it’s crucial to recognize the moments when being overly frugal might do more harm than good. In fact, these instances can be considered the worst times to pinch pennies and the best times to open up that wallet.

Spend on what you value.

Health and Well-Being

Your health should always take precedence over your frugality ambitions. When it comes to wellness, cutting corners might lead to more significant expenses down the line.

Whether it’s investing in nutritious food, a gym membership, or a restorative massage, prioritizing your health is a financial decision that pays dividends in the long run.

Professional Development

The old saying, “you’ve got to spend money to make money,” holds true, especially when it comes to investing in your professional development. Skimping on education, certifications, or networking opportunities might hinder your career growth. Invest in yourself.

Out of all the investments out there, it has the highest ROI. Have you bought Buy This Not That or How To Engineer Your Layoff, yet? I firmly believe these two books will change your life for the better.

Quality Time with Loved Ones

Relationships are invaluable, and missing out on shared experiences with loved ones due to excessive frugality is a regrettable trade-off. Whether it’s a special family vacation, a memorable celebration, or simply treating your friends to a meal, these moments contribute immeasurable value to your life.

Even though I got sick, I’m glad we spent $60/each on Monster Jam tickets. Let’s just hope the rest of my family members don’t get sick.

Home and Car Maintenance

Ignoring necessary maintenance for your home or car is a classic case of false economy. The same goes for deferring maintenance too long at home.

Change the tires, pay for regular service checkups, add premium gas when required. Not fixing the roof or pipe leaks are the biggest mistakes because water consistently is the #1 recurring damager of homes.

Delaying repairs might save you money in the short term, but the long-term consequences can be far more expensive. Regular upkeep not only ensures the longevity of your assets but also prevents small issues from escalating into major, budget-busting problems

Being frugal is admirable, but there are times when loosening the purse strings is not just warranted but also financially savvy. It’s hard to frugal your way to early retirement!

Can’t Help But Think of Death When Sick

When you’re sick, the specter of death looms closer than when you’re healthy. I can’t help but contemplate what life would be like for my family after I’m gone. Will my wife navigate everything on her own? Will my kids behave and heed her guidance as she balances investment management, potential consulting work, and childcare?

I believe she can and I believe my kids will listen, but for how long remains the question. We can endure challenging circumstances for a while, but eventually, something has to give.

This concern for my wife and kids, in the event of my passing, is the primary reason why I aim to assist my wife in securing a consulting job by the end of 2024. Despite facing criticism from several readers who deemed me thoughtless and selfish, the truth is that my family is at the forefront of my mind, guiding this strategic move.

With finite financial resources and escalating expenses due to a new house and our second child attending private school, it makes sense to proactively refresh my wife’s resume once our youngest starts school full-time in September 2024.

It’s wiser to save and invest for the future beforehand rather than waiting until the future arrives.

The More You Do as a Parent, The More Fear You Will Have

Parents need to be aware that the more responsibilities they assume at home, the more challenging a transition the family could face if the parent were to pass away.

Consider this scenario: If I were deployed overseas on a military assignment for one year, I might have less concern about my wife handling finances, doing household chores, and providing childcare because she would have managed everything during that period. She would have no other choice.

On the other hand, if I were a stay-at-home father, who rarely went on business trips, was responsible for managing family finances, drove the kids to school daily, and consistently spent four hours a day with them on average, my worries would escalate significantly in the event of my passing.

This concern is precisely why I felt such relief when we secured matching, affordable 20-year term life insurance policies through Policygenius. Rather than shelling out $480 per month for a policy, which is what other carriers quoted me, I secured a $138 per month policy with a $750,000 death benefit.

I would gladly pay a multiple of $138 per month to experience the ongoing relief I feel. Don’t not underestimate the value of peace of mind.

Hence, the more involved you are as a parent and the greater your responsibility for managing your family’s finances, the more crucial it becomes to secure a term life insurance policy.

Final Silver Lining of Being Overly Frugal

I sincerely hope none of you fall victim to the bug that has currently laid me out. However, if you do, consider utilizing your time in bed to contemplate contingency plans for worst-case scenarios.

In closing, I present the ultimate silver lining of falling ill: pre-mortem financial planning.

Despite having established revocable living trusts and death files, a timely reminder prompted us to revisit and update these documents to account for our new home.

Reader Questions And Suggestions

Do you sometimes take being frugal to the extreme? What are some other benefits of being overly frugal? What are some other determinants to wanting to save money? Do you think about death more when you are sick? How are you planning to take care of your family after you are gone?

Listen and subscribe to The Financial Samurai podcast on Apple or Spotify. I interview experts in their respective fields and discuss some of the most interesting topics on this site. Please share, rate, and review!

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. 

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