A lot of people think frugality is all about saving money, and saving money on things you already buy or want to buy is a smart idea. But, are you spending too much of your time trying to save a couple of dollars? Your time is just as precious.

Being frugal is making the best use of both your time and money.

Are you sweating the small stuff?

Unless your budget is extremely tight, it’s often not worth it to sweat the small savings if you have to give up your time to do it.

People can spend hours clipping coupons for not much return. You have more important things to do than spending every evening scouring the web for deals and price comparisons. You may not be making the best use of your time if you:

• Drive from store to store to save a couple of dollars?

• Go to a service station 20 kilometres out of your way because the price of gas is 2 cents less?

• Spend hours in line on Black Friday or Boxing Day for discounted merchandise you don’t really need?

We all want to save money, but that time could be spent with your family, on your hobbies, or even starting up a side business, creating a better life in general.

Are you wasting time to save money?

Focus on the big picture

A small percentage of your purchases represent a large portion of your yearly spending – rent or mortgage payments, car loans, large electronics and appliances, and vacations. These are the things that are worth taking your time to compare and analyze before you buy.

• Housing – whether you rent or buy, where you choose to live will make a huge difference in how much you’ll pay. A $400,000 mortgage at 3.85% will cost you $2,072 per month and $71,596 in interest over a 5-year term. You will pay almost $200 a month less and save yourself almost $10,000 in interest if you reduced your mortgage to $350,000.

• Transportation – this is often your second biggest expense when you factor in loan payments, insurance, maintenance and gas. High end and oversize vehicles will increase your costs in all these areas.

• Vacations are a great area to save money. Taking a few hours to compare flights, check hotel deals and even checking out savings sites like Groupon could save you hundreds of dollars on your trip, especially if you book during the shoulder season. But, be reasonable. Is saving $50 worth enduring two layovers that tack an extra four hours onto your flight instead of flying direct? Not to me.

• Make a quick call to your insurance and service providers (phone, cell, Internet, TV) each year to make sure you are getting the best rates.

• Look for new, better paying, job opportunities. Ask for a raise. Negotiating a single $5,000 raise early in your career could be worth more than $1 million over your working life.

Final thoughts

You may have heard the saying, “penny wise, pound foolish.” This means going out of your way to save $1 on laundry detergent (wasting your time scrimping on the pennies) while mindlessly paying top dollar on your costlier expenses. When you’re trying to manage your budget, you want to focus on the categories with the biggest payoff. What money saving tactics will net you the largest overall savings?

Your time is also valuable, so treat it that way. Take the time to save on large ticket items, and don’t feel guilty about paying a little more for the small stuff, especially if it gives you more time to enjoy your life.

“Waste your money and you’re only out of money, but waste your time and you’ve lost part of your life.” Michael Leboeuf

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9 Comments

  1. Mary on November 16, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Hi Marie,

    Well I just wasted an hour plus of my valuable time trying to redeem air miles. This is the following comment I posted on Facebook:
    ” Your system is a MESS! I tried to book merchandise online and keep getting system error messages. I tried to use the chat line with no luck. I tried to phone ( 2 hour wait). I tried to leave a call back number but the system had”technical difficulties” and crashed. I have tried several times with no luck. Legally if we are unable to use our airmiles points by Dec. because of the site/company communication problems they should not expire due to their ineptness.”
    I will most likely just give up but I have about 4000 points lost.

  2. Denis on November 17, 2016 at 7:40 am

    I drive 30 minutes to save 10 cents on gas, have supper with my daughter and then save on groceries (cheaper in Ont than Quebec) but you make a good point. I started having the sales dictate my menu and other purchases (that I DO use) since decades ago and I estimate saving thousands a year.

    • Denis on November 17, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      I save also by price matching at Walmart for example so no longer need to run around.

  3. KC on November 17, 2016 at 9:11 am

    Great point! My grandfather used to drive all over the city to various grocery stores to save money which was nulled out by the increase in gas purchase.

    I do make a point to look at sales and buy more of the items that I normally get.

  4. Astreja on November 23, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I find it exceedingly rare that I desperately need something *now* and can usually wait it out for a few days. If I know that a certain store has what I need but it’s halfway across the city, I schedule that trip for the next time I’m heading in that direction rather than jumping in the car and rushing over there.

    The power of “later!” is grossly underrated, and eminently useful.

  5. The Vigilante on November 23, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I appreciate this post, and it’s good advice. But I have to disagree on one tiny little value judgment:

    “Is saving $50 worth enduring two layovers that tack an extra four hours onto your flight instead of flying direct? Not to me.”

    It is to me! But then again, that’s because it’s easy for me to travel (it’s only me and Mrs. Vigilante at the moment, so no children to entertain while we wait) and modern technology is amazing (I can sit in the airport or on the plane and type comments like this on my Surface Pro with no inconvenience at all), so basically the extra hours are pretty much inconsequential to me. But the extra time I’ll have to actually work to make up that $50 loss and all the lost earnings on investing it? That’s a HUGE deal to me, particularly since I don’t even earn enough yet to max out all my pre-tax investments! To each his own…

  6. Leigh on November 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    This is why we bunch our Costco trips! We go about once a quarter and buy a ton of stuff off our list. Going more often wouldn’t be worth the cost savings since it is so far out of our way.

  7. Melanie of Mindfully Spent on November 23, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    I enjoyed this read! We are working both day-to-day spending changes as well as the big stuff (refinance, student loan payment schedule, etc), but I couldn’t agree more about the value of time. Money isn’t the only finite resource that we are balancing in this lifetime. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Ten Factorial Rocks on November 24, 2016 at 5:04 am

    Absolutely. This is what I call sensible frugality. One common example is here: http://tenfactorialrocks.com/sensibly-frugal/

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