Frugal to a Fault

Most of the time I’m happy with my frugality. I don’t mind clipping coupons, waiting for sales or even going without. I like watching the figures in my bank account rise while simultaneously watching my mortgages shrink. I’m the kind of girl who brings a $10 coupon to brunch with my girlfriends and then asks, (without batting an eyelash), if they’d mind choosing the half-priced matinee over the late-night show.

I’ve been counting pennies for as long as I can possibly remember and while I relish the fruits of my labor I recognize I can also be frugal to a fault. There was the time I wasted thirty minutes searching for coke reward codes that I clipped but temporarily misplaced. Do you know how many codes it takes to earn a decent reward? Let me just say that twenty minutes could’ve been better spent.

There was the time I nearly kicked myself for losing $5 worth of coupons somewhere between the entrance of the grocery store and the checkout line. I actually spent thirty minutes after I left the store mentally retracing my steps.

Or how about the time I tortured my husband by searching for coupons for every item he unexpectedly threw into our shopping cart. Our fun little romp to buy ingredients for a new recipe turned into a torturous forty minute trip.

A few weeks ago I realized that the crappy, too-short-for-a-six-foot-girl stroller I registered for was preventing me from taking walks with my son. The weather has been relatively warm but I’ve walked through the neighborhood only a handful of times this winter.  To be honest it feels like pure torture to push that awful stroller around. I feel my shoulders hunching to reach the low handle and within twenty minutes or so my back begins to ache. I still have a fair amount of pain from prior medical problems, so I’m not keen on making this part of my body hurt anymore than necessary. As a result we haven’t been walking much.

I knew the stroller was downright awful, but I hated the idea of shelling out money to buy a new one. Simply put, strollers that fit my size and stature aren’t cheap.

One particularly warm day I took my son outside to run around the backyard. When he was finished we took a walk down the street, holding hands, picking up leaves and investigating every acorn he found along the way. It was a beautiful afternoon and I wanted to stay outside but I knew he was getting too sleepy to walk much further.

I wanted to take him for a walk, but really didn’t want to push that stroller. As we headed back inside on that sunny day I realized the simple truth: my frugality was interfering with my enjoyment.

Over the past few years I’ve gotten rid of a lot of my compulsions. I don’t clip coupons too often anymore and I don’t wake up early every Sunday morning to stock up on freebies at the drugstore.

While I’ve gotten better about things I still have to remind myself every once in awhile to sit back and relax. While saving money is important it is not the end goal. In fact, in my mind there is no longer a finish line to this race.

I want my life to feel like a healthy 5K challenge where I can run, jog or walk my way up and down streets while people clap and cheer no matter how fast or slow I travel. I want my life to feel balanced. I want to save when and where I can, but also recognize that I will not deprive myself just to save a buck.


With this new philosophy in mind I bought not one, but two new strollers. One very tall jogging stroller for long walks around the neighborhood and one easy to fold stroller that fits neatly into my very small trunk.

8 thoughts on “Frugal to a Fault”

  1. If you hadn’t bought the new strollers, I’d have suggested trying to add something to the handles to make them taller.

    But since you did, how about trying to sell the old stroller on craigslist or somewhere similar (to a shorter person). If you hardly used it, you may be able to get a good portion of the cost back. Or maybe try selling to a consignment shop.

    And I understand about the too short, back pain thing. We have a vacuum with an extendable handle. When my boyfriend puts it away, he always puts the handle all the way down. Often when I am about halfway through vacuuming (our small apartment), my lower back will start to ache like crazy. Then I realize that I’ve not pulled the handle up and have been vacuuming slightly bent over the whole time. I feel like an idiot every time, but that doesn’t stop me from doing the same thing a month or two later.

    • Consignment or Craigslist is a good idea. I have a few other baby items I could try to sell at the same time. I thought about handle extensions, (they make them for wheelchairs), but I didn’t think they would fit properly, because the handle to the stroller is pretty rounded. Overall though I didn’t like the way my stroller maneuvered either, so the new one is better for reasons other than just height.

  2. A good stroller (or two, or three) really is important in the first couple of years of new motherhood. I have twins, so we’ve had 5 strollers: a double Snap & Go for the first 9 or 10 months , a double jogger for outdoor use after age 6 months, a double Maclaren that could fold and fit in my car trunk for errands (I didn’t get much use out of this, honestly, but mostly because soon afterward I hired a weekly sitter and ran errands during this time), and two separate inexpensive umbrella strollers that have been incredibly useful for separate appointments and family outings as the girls grew older — the double Maclaren was far too small for two older toddlers to sit in happily, so I gave it away to another twin mom; the double Snap & Go was also given away to someone expecting twins.

    I didn’t have time to comment directly on your post about lessons of the past year, but I read it and was going to comment that one of the most important things anyone ever told me as a SAHM was simply, “Convenience isn’t a dirty word. Your time is money, too.” If you have to pay $8-15 for an hour of babysitting ($10/hr is the going rate here in STL), then shopping at different stores for the best deals isn’t really saving you money. The make-do mindset is worthy to a point, but there’s a fine line between making do and martyrdom and I’ve seen an awful lot of friends cross it (as well as myself on a few occasions!).

    • Thanks for this lengthly comment Ellen K. I totally agree that strollers are a necessity and worth spending money on. I just wish I had come to that conclusion earlier. Also I love your comment about convenience. Since I’m staying home with my son and no longer bringing in a paycheck these are all things I have to keep in mind!

  3. I can also be frugal to a fault (e.g,. dealing with confusing coupons, not buying something that I need because it’s not on sale, etc.) but when it comes to major baby purchases, I am willing to dole out the dough to obtain products that are high-quality and comfortable for both me and baby. My wallet may be lighter but I love our large Uppa Baby stroller (perfect for mall excursions), Maclaren Quest Sport umbrella stroller, and Peg Perego Convertible Premium and Britax Marathon 70 car seats!

    • Oh no Beatrice! Now I’m going to have to check out all of the strollers and car seats you listed! If we have a second, (still not so sure about that one), I will definitely spend more money for better quality and comfort and the same goes for my son moving forward. I SO wish I had come to that conclusion earlier.

  4. I think “frugal to a fault” is when someone does unethical things like trying to get the “kids under 10 eat free” deal for their 12-year-old, ordering an expensive meal when out with friends and then asking to split the bill equally, paying the babysitter for exactly 2.75 hours instead of rounding it up to 3, and things like that!

    • Good point. I have known people to do that and I do not agree with that kind of behavior. When I worked in daycare parents were supposed to pay us if they were late to pick their kids up. The day care didn’t pay us for that extra time and I can’t tell you how many parents would say, “I don’t have any cash. I’ll get you next time.” I can count on my hands the number of times someone actually paid me. They forced me to work for free and it made me sad not only because I wasn’t getting paid, but because I loved watching those children and spent a lot of quality time with them. It’s no fun to be the last kid picked up day after day and I made a point to make that time special for them. I only wish the parents would’ve recognized that and paid me accordingly 🙁


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