4 'Frugal' Habits That Can Cost You

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Sometimes, attempts to be frugal don't pay off.

Being frugal is a good thing, in most cases. After all, you don't want to spend money unnecessarily as it might put you at risk of ending up in credit card debt. Or it could make it harder to accomplish financial goals, like building your savings.

But some habits that may seem frugal at first glance can actually end up costing you money in the long run. Here are four examples.

1. Using coupons for purchases you don't need

Coupons and sales seem like an opportunity to save, but that only holds true if you're getting a discount on things you would have purchased anyway.

No matter how good the deal is, it shouldn't entice you to buy something that you didn't already plan to purchase. Otherwise, you're simply spending money on an impulse item because a marketing gimmick worked to convince you it was a frugal buy.

Instead of letting coupons or sales dictate what items you purchase, decide what you need to buy in advance and then look for discounts on those particular items.

2. Planting a garden

Growing your own food may seem cheaper than buying it at the grocery store, but it can actually cost a lot of money to get a garden started by the time you buy seeds or plants, soil, and weed and pest control products. And unless you're a skilled gardener, your harvest may not be enough to justify the upfront costs of getting your garden growing.

Before you decide to plant a garden, do the math to make sure your investment will pay off. Or look for free or low-cost plants, which people sometimes give away if they have an overabundance.

3. Driving long distances to save a few pennies

Sometimes, certain stores or gas stations may have a slightly lower price on gas or other items. But if you drive long distances to buy these items -- or spend a lot of time driving to multiple stores to get rock-bottom prices -- then you could end up spending more on gas and wear-and-tear on your vehicle than the savings you achieve.

Instead of wasting time and money driving around, find one store that tends to offer good prices on most of the things you purchase and stick to it.

4. Always buying the cheapest item

Finally, choosing the cheapest item every time isn't always the best way to save money. Instead, if you're buying something you use frequently, it may be worth paying a little bit extra up front for a higher quality item that will be more durable.

Shoes are a good example of this. Buying a cheap pair of shoes could mean you end up having to replace them quickly because they don't hold up. If you instead opted to upgrade to a sturdier pair that lasts for years, you'd save more in the long run even if you initially pay a higher price.

Ultimately, always look at the big picture and make sure a decision that appears to cut costs on the surface will actually save you money over time. That's the best way for your frugal habits to pay off -- and it might help keep a little more of your hard-earned cash in your bank account.

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