Avoid these 5 Frugal Spending Traps

Spider Web


If you’re reading this then you probably have a desire to live a more frugal life. But developing a finely-tuned frugal mindset can take some time. It’s not easy. When you first start trying to spend less on things your eye catches every potential deal that’s out there. However, there are a few traps that can end up hurting your chances of success.  I offer up a few that I’ve seen trick me in the past.

1. Buying the Wrong Products in Bulk

This is the classic trap. You see a crate full of something and look at the total price. In your mind you quickly calculate the per-item cost and you are blown away at the savings. You buy it. Three months later you still have two-thirds of the product left and no desire to use it, or even worse, it’s expired. If you’re a regular Sam’s or Costco user you know what I’m talking about.

2. Free Trials Turn into (Oops!) Credit Card Charges

We’ve all signed up for a free trial and accidentally forgot to cancel after the trial period. It happens. You end up paying an extra month of something that you stopped using after the first free week. If you use free trials, please make sure you set yourself a reminder to cancel the subscription. I use my MS Outlook calendar at work.

3. Chasing the After-Purchase Rebates

With a little work, the after-purchase rebate can work out great. Mostly though, we get a product home and never take the time to mail in the forms to get the rebate. You’re too busy using whatever it is you bought, right? Also, if the rebate is a reward instead of money, make sure it’s a reward you want. Bottom line: try to buy products with in-store rebates and get all your money up-front.

4. Not Reading the Fine Print

You mean I have to buy two? You mean I have to dine-in to get the deal? Take the time to read the small print on all your coupons, as they will inform you of what kind of deal you are really getting.

5. Confusing Cheap for Frugal

Lastly, don’t ever confuse frugality with being cheap. There a big difference, in my opinion. Find the balance between sacrificing your time/effort and the price you are paying. Also, try to avoid sacrificing quality if it’s a product that you will be sitting on, sleeping on, or depending on in some way.

Have any other common traps associated with trying to live the frugal life?  List them in the comment section below.

Photo: by foxypar4

Want My Free 31-Step Money Guide*?

Subscribe for free. Get my guide *31 Days to Improve Your Financial Life, welcome series, and regular Five Things digest. Join 30,000+ other followers.

Powered by ConvertKit

About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created this website back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. Very good list PT, and I’ve honestly fallen for every single one of them :-(. #5, can also come in the form of buying cheap items that will need to be constantly replaced instead of paying for quality ones that will last longer. A friend had a pampered chef party and I thought about purchasing an apple wedge maker for $12(it had a lifetime warranty), but then figured I’d just get one at Target for $5 and save a few bucks. I’m on my 2nd one, so for $2 I could of had a lifetime warranty.

  2. @Frugal Dad – Thanks for adding in that extra tip.

    @Shanti – good point! i’m sure once I have a couple of kids running around and a deep freezer I’ll be more prone to stock up on things, but for now I like to keep the cubbards lean.

  3. Shanti @ Antishay says

    On the opposite side of things, I find that when I see something on sale, sometimes I don’t buy it even though it’s lower-priced because I don’t want to buy in bulk. For example, if deodorant is on sale, I used to buy three or four, since they basically last forever, and I’ll use them someday, right? But when trying to put every last penny toward debt, I stopped multiple-buying things on sale because then I’d have more money now. But when the thing goes off of sale and I have to buy it now, the tables are turned.

    I guess there’s a juggling act to be done when determining what to buy when. Would you like to spend a little more now to save later? Or would you rather keep your money now but probably spend more later? Hmmmm.

  4. These are very helpful, I am guilty of the bulk purchases even though there is only two of us. Rebates are something I don’t always follow up with either.

  5. Frugal Dad says

    Good traps listed…you mentioned the buying in bulk trap of not using the product before expiration. I would add to that – buying in bulk is not always cheaper. Sometimes the per unit costs are actually lower if you buy two of the smaller package to get the same quality. Like you, I always run a quick unit cost calculation to determine which one is the better buy.