Failed attempts at frugality

Quite often we look at ways to optimize our life, we do this by considering if there are any alternative or more efficient ways to fulfill our needs.  We have succeeded in many things like making our homemade yogurt, bread and ginger beer. We even managed to create this website, with the help our friend youtube, and without any kind of skills in coding! But there are times when I go a bit overboard (Mr DN seems to be a bit more balanced) and I have made some interesting and not so helpful experiments along the way. Here are five attempts that didn’t quite go according to plan:


1. Cutting my own hair

A year back a few of the frugality bloggers declared that they are cutting their own hair and it’s saving them tons of money. With only a small initial cost, you are able to eliminate possibly hundreds of euros a year from your budget depending on how often you visit the hair salon. I calculated that I usually go to the hairdressers four times a year and I pay approximately 140 euros a year for my visits. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see the number is quite low to begin with because I don’t dye my hair. But I saw the “big bucks” that we could save, so I bought scissors and a hair cutting tool that I had read people used when cutting their own hair. I did some research on the scissors and the tool and figured that their cost would equal to one visit to a hair salon. What an investment!

My scissors and my hair cutting tool arrived, being spontaneous as always (Mr DN has experienced his fair share of my spontaneous ideas) I decided that maybe one of my sisters could try to cut my hair 20 minutes before we were leaving to the summer cottage to spend some quality time with family. She didn’t have much experience, but how hard could it be? Apparently quite hard, she cut my hair using this clip and my hair looked very “choppy” afterwards (it was advertised as a layered look). I tried to fix it myself but with no experience in cutting hair it just got worse. I may have shed a tear or two and then we went to spend a weekend with the family. One of my other sisters tried to fix it (she has a bit more experience on this matter) but still there was nothing that could save my hair. Unfortunately, I lack photographic evidence because this experiment was a bit of a touchy topic back then…

I had my hair up for the whole weekend and even the next week, until I decided that maybe I should just admit defeat and go to a hair salon. It was a great decision because I had not realized how much I appreciated my hair looking normal.  Later on, going to the hairdressers to fix it, the hairdresser hinted that I should be very careful with my hair because of my hair quality. She said that my hair is so fine that if somebody (without naming anyone in particular) made any kind of mistake while cutting it, it would be visible for a long time.

Now I’m happy to pay someone to cut my hair. The potential savings of 140 euros a year is not worth it for me.


2. Thrift store shopping as a hobby

I used to love going to thrift stores with my friends and my sisters. I went shopping two to three times a month for a few years so you could say it was a hobby for me. I figured that I was saving plenty of money, because I didn’t really buy anything new. Two years ago I realized that actually I wasn’t saving money, because I was buying stuff I didn’t truly need. So I stopped going to thrift stores and quite quickly realized that it was not a habit that I really missed.

Some time ago I went through my wardrobe and got rid of half of my clothes. I had plenty of items in my cupboard that were not being used on a regular basis. I saved only the ones that I use on a regular basis, took photos of all the items and created different outfit ideas. Nowadays it is quite easy for me to choose what to wear. If only I could do this with grocery shopping, I suck at planning weekly menus and sticking to my list.


3. Buying a bad bike

Some years ago, I got this idea that I could ride a bike to my summer job which was eight kilometers away. I had owned a bike only once before so I didn’t really know what I was looking for, my main criteria was that it should be relatively cheap. We decided to go to a Police bike auction to see if we could find a bike there. I bought one but because I lacked experience in buying bikes, I got a very heavy one. I did use that bike occasionally for a few years but it was too heavy. It was actually so heavy that I got sick of riding it. When it broke, I had no interest in fixing it, instead I bought a new bike. It would have been cheaper for me to get a better bike to begin with instead of having to buy two within just two years. My next bike (the one I currently have) is much better but still not optimal for the kind of biking I do.

When moving to Australia, we are planning buy new bikes so that we could get by with only one car.  This time I will do more research and I’m willing to spend a bit more money to get a bike that is a joy to ride.


4. Feeling guilty about spending on things that matter

There are very few things I spend money on outside our everyday living expenses. I don’t buy new clothes very often, most of the time I don’t wear any makeup, I don’t even dye my hair and I’m not interested in buying expensive bags or jewelry. We even have a small amount of personal spending money each month (70 eur, 105 AUD all together) and most of the time that just grows in my bank account without me using it.

But there is one thing we really enjoy and that is travel. I have had to learn (and I’m still learning) how to not feel guilty about spending money on traveling. We have started putting money aside for travels on a monthly basis and that habit helps me to remind myself of our values.  This year we are planning to spend around 5000 euros (7700 AUD) on traveling and that includes our tickets to Australia as well.


5. Not considering my spouse

When we got married, Mr DN thought he was the budgeter in the relationship, but little did he know! He hadn’t followed my spending too closely before we got married even though we paid for our wedding upfront. I seemed to take saving money at a different level. There was even a point in my life when I felt bad about going to cafes, because I knew I could make the same cup of hot chocolate for cheaper. Nowadays I do go to cafes, but I go there for the experience.

Anyways, I was stashing our money away like a crazy chipmunk and didn’t realize that could cause Mr DN to think that we don’t have enough money. Luckily he told me what was happening and I have tried to change my habits since. I still think saving money is important but not quite to the same extent I was doing it before.


Final thoughts

I think saving money is great and it is a very important skill to have. But frugality is not the end goal. The goal for us is to find a lifestyle we are content with, not always craving for more but not living in excess either. There is even a Swedish term for this kind of mindset: “lagom”.

Lagom is “Just enough,” “Not too much or too little,” “Just right,” “Enough to go around,” “Fair share.” It indicates balance. Lagom doesn’t have the negative connotation of “sufficient” nor does it claim perfection.”

On top of having a balanced lifestyle, we want to create a financial cushion that helps us through different phases in life. Frugality in moderation can help us to achieve this goal.


So the question is, have you ever gone a bit overboard with frugality?


Featured image by Thomas Verbruggen

12 thoughts on “Failed attempts at frugality

  1. I love that you tried cutting your own hair. When my wife and I were dirt poor in college she started cutting my hair. Let’s just say that didn’t go well. I tried it three times, then to save our marriage, I found a low cost hairdresser :-).

  2. Hey Mrs DN, I enjoyed reading your topic. 🙂

    I think one of the key things that you have to remember is that money is just a tool to exchange things for other things. The whole point of frugality isn’t to live like a hermit, just to only spend money on what you WANT to (and then try to do that finding value (not cheap, value)). Spend on things that makes you happy, which you can also flip on its head: spend money on things to avoid things that make you unhappy.

    Having a terrible hair cut makes you unhappy, so avoid that. Jasmin has her hair cut professionally (she did go through a phase of doing it herself, which was decent, but letting the pros do it is better). However, she cuts my hair and she does it very well. We save money that way 🙂

    Washing all our clothes by hand like the 1940s would make us unhappy, and isn’t worth the effort, so we buy a clothes washer. Similar point to dishwasher (though we don’t have one in our rental).

    The thrift store is an example of the ‘WANT’ and value. Try to only go shopping if you want something, then try to find it for as best value as you can – maybe in a thrift store 🙂 Baby clothes are a great example of what you can get in a thrift store.

    Are you talking about a pedal/push bike? Either way, should be a great budget saver 🙂

    Lagom sounds like the goldilocks of wants, needs and balance. I don’t think we’ve gone overboard with our frugality, but I do cringe inside occasionally at money that we spend..even when it’s on things that we essentially need, or is good for us, such as healthy grocery shopping.

    P.S We added you to our blogroll as Aussies 🙂


    1. Hey Tristan,

      I think you summed up the whole point of frugality really well. I guess sometimes it just takes a while to figure out what you really value. How do you think you have managed to stay on course with frugality? What kind of process has it been for you in defining what you really value and are your values similar in most things?

      We use pedal bikes, Mr DN has even looked into getting an electric bike but apparently the bike is not allowed not go faster than 25km/per hour in city settings. Knowing that, for us an electric bicycle doesn’t bring much added value compared to a normal bicycle.

      Thank you for adding us to you blogroll, that made us smile! We are not on twitter yet, it might be something we could look into this summer (your winter)! We are the worst with social media, we never publish anything 😀

  3. I know what you mean about haircuts, I don’t trust myself or anyone in my family to touch my hair. I spend less than $100 a year on my hair and I think that’s fair, if not cheap. I did try to cut my brother’s hair once and it was a disaster, we had to go to the salon right away.

    I was on the same boat about feeling guilty about spending on things that matter – remember how I felt bad about spending on eating out? Yeah, that. I’m a lot better now after other bloggers commented I shouldn’t feel bad and after my boyfriend pointed out this is something we enjoy doing and a way to spend quality time together.

    “The goal for us is to find a lifestyle we are content with, not always craving for more but not living in excess either.” – I love this and it is the same goal for us. In the end, we aim to find our ‘enough’ and save for our future without sacrificing the things that truly matter to us.

    1. I guess we’ll agree to leave the haircuts to the professionals. Although, I was still trying to suggest to Mr DN that I would cut his hair. He wasn’t too keen on the idea 😀

      I do remember your eating out dilemma! I guess it’s easy to follow the common wisdom “don’t eat out” in order to save money quickly, but it doesn’t work in the long term if you truly get value from eating out. It’s great to hear that you have been able to shift your mindset in this area, changing mindset is hard!

  4. Totally agree on the hairdresser – it makes me feel good and confident. I don’t think it is a ‘fail’ if you value the outcome, understand the impact on your financial situation and budget for it. I don’t value coffee and would rather go to the hairdressers than pay for coffee.

  5. I’ve never heard of Lagom, and can’t say I’ve ever heard my wife’s Swedish cousins say it either (not that that means anything as I know hardly any Swedish!). It’s an interesting concept though, especially the lack of negative connotations, and while I probably won’t use it in everyday conversation it might find its way into my inner monologue.

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