Learning that Being Frugal Can End up Costing you Money: Plus Broke Professionals Personal Finances: Weekly Review

by Broke Professional on February 5, 2011 · 15 comments

Broke Professionals Finances: Weekly ReviewFollow along as we try to dig ourselves out of $180,000.00 in Student Loan Debt.  It won’t be easy and it may take years, but with any luck, someday we will get back to a $0.00 net worth.  In this series, we focus on a brief financial issue currently confronting us, and then move on to show our latest finances.  Also, every month we will also highlight our blog stats, if anyone is interested.

When Being Frugal Can Cost You Money

As a natural moderate, I believe (like most people) that too much of anything, even something positive (or perceived to be positive) may actually end up being a bad thing.

As our readers know, Mrs. Broke Professional and I pride ourselves on our new-found frugality. We are a long way from where we need to be, but we have taken a lot of steps towards putting the proper systems in place to start paying down our still-daunting six figure student loan debt.

Even though we believe in living a fiscally responsible/frugal lifestyle, even we are sometimes disturbed when frugality goes too far.

Frugal to the Extreme

For instance, most people will agree that obtaining your condiment/napkin supply via ripping off the local fast food restaurant is usurious, at best.

Another example of frugality gone too far that we have witnessed recently in our own lives involves our apartment’s laundry room. We are lucky to have the rare fortune of living in an apartment complex that has inexpensive laundry facilities (as compared to the local laundry mats).

Unfortunately this has led to a “conspiracy” in our “apartment community”–many non-residence locals have begun frequenting our laundry facility to save money.  This angers a large portion of my apartment neighbors.

Admittedly, at first blush the local’s actions do not seem like high crimes against humanity or anything (except to our elderly neighbor Bill (name changed), but when you’re waiting for hours to try and make sure you have some clean boxers for the upcoming work week, you yourself may think otherwise.

Learning That Being Frugal in an Inefficient Manner Can Lead to Further Expenses

We have also learned that cutting corners on your finances can sometimes end up cost you more money in the long run.

Sometimes pipes need to be replaced rather than plugged.

Sometimes buying the better brand will lead to a higher energy efficiency, or a product that will last years longer than its less expensive counterpart.

We were reminded of these truths this week, while going to the dentist of all places.

The Limits of Frugality Learned the Hard Way: In the Dentist’s Chair

The last time my wife and I went to the dentist it was mentioned that one of us (I won’t say who so as to avoid getting in trouble….alright, it was definitely Mrs. Broke Professional) (Ed. Note: You suck) was told that they had a really bad cavity, and that it would have to be filled soon or it might lead to the need for a route canal.

At the time only one of us was working because the other was already in school. We did not have great dental insurance. It was decided that it would be best to wait it out and get the cavity filled once we were both working and could afford the bill.

Long story short, we finally got back to the dentist this week, and Mrs. Broke Professional now definitely needs a root canal.  I am not sure how much our insurance will cover, but I am sure it will not be 100%, and I am even more sure that getting a root canal will be a relatively expensive procedure.   (Not to mention that it will definitely be a crappy experience for Mrs. Broke Professional :-( ).

By Mrs. Broke Professional trying to avoid the cost of paying for a cavity (out of pocket) we now have potentially much greater financial exposure for the root canal(s).


As we learned this week, just like with everything else, it pays to be moderate in your frugality. If you are stepping on other people’s toes or cutting corners to save money, the only thing you may earn in the long run is a bad reputation or further financial difficulty.

With that said….on to our weekly finance update:  (let us know if weekly is too much and we will switch to monthly)

Broke Professionals Weekly Finance Update

Starting Financial Situation: Upon graduation of Graduate/Professional School

Debts: $180,000.00 (All Student Loans)

Assets: $15,000.00 (wedding gifts plus savings)

Total: ($165,000.00)

Financial Situation as of Today, 2/5/11


Now One Week Ago Difference

Federal Student Loans Owed (Mr. Broke Professional): ($57,389)                 ($57,389)                                  $0

Private Student Loans Owed (Mr. Broke Professional): ($60,556)                  ($60,750)                                 +$194

Federal Student Loans Owed (Mrs. Broke Professional): ($48,500)                  ($47,500)                              +$1,000

Total: ($165,639)             Difference:  +$1,194


Now One Week Ago Difference

Savings:                               $38,524                                    $38,490                                         $34

Retirement :                        $8,450                                      $8,000                                           $450

Total: $46,490                Difference: +484

Current Net Worth: ($119,149)

Difference (from last week): +$1,670

Difference from Rock Bottom Point: +$45,851

Assessment – Still a Long Way To Go To Get Back to Broke :-(

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nicole February 5, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I think this is the frugal vs. cheap dichotomy.

Buying expensive shoes is frugal, not cheap. Stealing condiments is cheap, not frugal.

Being frugal sometimes means buying the more expensive option. Being cheap never does. Frugality is keeping your spending in line with your values and making good decisions that pay off in the long run. Cheap is penny wise and pound foolish.


2 Mr. Broke Professional February 5, 2011 at 4:58 pm

That is a really good way of putting it!

I officially make this an addendum to our post!

I wonder if anyone has ever been arrested for “stealing condiments.” I doubt it, because if it was going to happen to anyone it would have been my grandfather, may rest in peace.


3 Darwin's Money February 6, 2011 at 11:31 pm

These frugal vs cheap situations can be maddening (when it’s not us!). We know someone who took laundry to our house while watching our dog to use our energy instead of theirs for a load – ridiculous! And speaking of loads….this same person claims they only do poo at work and not at home because it wastes toilet paper and a flush. seriously? this might save a couple bucks a month. I’m much rather do that at home…


4 Mr. Broke Professional February 6, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Hahaha. That is seriously disgusting! I wonder how much money they will save when they lose their job after being labeled as the “Resident Office Crapper.” Really gross. The laundry thing is particularly disturbing in this new era of bed bug infestations. Just plain gross. Going at work is something I try to do only if there is a very serious need for it. (And I practically live at my office during the work week).


5 JuliaFilth February 7, 2011 at 3:12 am

I’m not inclined to go dumpster diving, but I have no problem with used items. When it comes to disposal, I usually donate smaller items and try to sell higher priced items via Craigslist. Another frugal tip: I’ve known people who drive around with a trailer the night before the garbage men come and look for large items on the curbside (furniture, appliances, and other large items are commonly tossed out with the trash). If it is with the trash it is fair game. They keep some of the items, sell others, and donate or scrap the rest. It probably won’t make you wealthy, but it can add some cash flow.


6 Mr. Broke Professional February 7, 2011 at 6:12 am

I think dumpster diving might be the perfect middle ground of where frugality and cheapness meet, lol.


7 Evan February 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm

How are the loan balances going up? Are you not paying full interest on them yet? I thought you were both out of school


8 Mr. Broke Professional February 7, 2011 at 7:24 pm

They shouldn’t be, must be a math error? Where do you mean? They are definitely going down (ever so slowly).


9 Evan February 7, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Oh I am sorry…I got the columns confused.


10 Mr. Broke Professional February 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm

alright, that is really good, I was starting to freak out. lol.


11 Canadian Doomer February 13, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I think there’s a misunderstanding sometimes about what “frugality” is.

Frugality is NOT being stingy or miserly, or taking advantage of others. It is NOT endangering the lives of you, your family or others or purposely living in discomfort or squalor or engaging in unsafe practices.

If you, a young lawyer, bought a $100 suit, and you appear every day in front of other lawyers, clients, prospective clients, and judges, well, that would be miserly. If you bought a $1000 well-tailored suit of classic design and took very good care of it, that would be frugal.

If my husband, on the other hand, bought a $100 suit, and he wears it to the rare important meeting, wedding, etc., it would be as valuable to us as the $1000 suit to the lawyer. If he bought a $1000 suit …. well, I’d be up for murder.

It’s not a matter of being moderate in your frugality, I think. Mr. Doom and I are in the category of “radically frugal”, as far as I can tell. We don’t steal napkins or ketchup from fast food restaurants because we’re not thieves – we rarely enter fast food restaurants, use cloth napkins and make our own ketchup. (I’m confused at your use of usurious, by the way.)

Figuring out the best long-term value for your money – AND your time – is frugal. A cavity now is always going to be cheaper than a root canal later, but sometimes the pipe just needs fixing instead of replacing. Curbside upholstered furniture is definitely never worth the bedbug infestation you might get.

Dumpster diving does not mean you actually go into dumpsters. We have a 3 speed bicycle, a really nice high chair, an old-fashioned wooden desk, and a couple of cool shelves that we’ve acquired from “dumpster diving”.

In short, frugality is not refusing to spend money for any reason. Frugality is wisely and carefully choosing how to spend your money so that you receive the absolute best value for every penny.


12 Mr. Broke Professional February 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm

What the Millionaire Next Door points out is that many people who are in professions such as the law will never be rich, because they feel they have to have the “right car” or live in the “right neighborhood,” because they have to spend money on suits, etc. Most millionaire’s are hardworking small business owners/other people who are frugal with their money.

Usurious was used in its common meaning.

I agree that frugality is “wisely and carefully choosing how to spend your money so that you receive the absolute best value for every penny.” Perfect definition.


13 Canadian Doomer February 14, 2011 at 7:07 am

Unfortunately, I have no idea the cost difference between a “cheap suit”, a “good suit” and an “extravagant suit”. LOL My point was only that frugality can look different to different people. The Frugal Zealot, in her books, talked about “the Wow factor” – pointing out that something cheap you use once might be more expensive in the long run than something expensive that you use frequently and care for. I picked a suit because every male lawyer I’ve ever known wears nice suits every day, but my husband might wear his half a dozen times a year.


14 If I Were a Rich Girl May 19, 2011 at 11:46 am

To be extremely frugal at the dentist you must take great care of your teeth. Preventative measure like flossing and brushing regulary is very cheap. When live happens (cavity) you pay for so it doesn’t get worse. Don’t for get to get your cleanning twice a year.

Good luck in tackling the debt.


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