Do You Suffer From Fruguility (Frugality Guilt)?

Being frugal is an ideal that an awful lot of people follow these days and that number seems to be growing all the time. And there’s a good reason for that: things are really expensive. I mean if you’re looking to buy clothes and accessories, housing and furniture, cars and travel, we have to fight our urges to spend too much or else we may end up with guilty feelings.

Frugality is an admirable goal, but if you don't control your spending, you end up feeling guilty. It's important to strike a balance with your money.

Frugality and Its Challenges

Being frugal, that is being economical or thrifty with your money and your purchases, is a very worthy goal. There are so many thing that we actually need in our lives to not only survive, but to have some degree of comfort and satisfaction, that we must trade our money for things. We just can’t help that. Food, a place to live, etc. are requirements. But the vast majority of us go way beyond what is required and find ourselves involved with the attractive “wants” in our lives that are just so damned tempting and expensive.

It’s not just a personal weakness that makes us spend excessively, although some of us have that flaw worse than others. These folks have probably suffered serious financial difficulties because of their lack of control when it comes to overspending. I know I had a period in my life when I did that and racked up my credit card debt to the point of being totally out of control. It took years to get out from under that situation and start on the path of frugality in the 1990’s after my divorce.

But I think another huge reason we see so many people fall into the trap of overspending is the amount of advertising. We see it on TV, hear it on the radio and just plan are bombarded with it, even when walking down the street. The message is that if you want to be happy, you will buy the things that are advertised. You simply must have them to be “cool” or to show the world you have made it. It’s keeping up with the Joneses on steroids.


If you are trying to be frugal, you may face a steep challenge if the world continues to stack the cards against you like it does today. That has led me to inventing a new word that may describe you and me when we talk about our frugality, its successes, and its failures.


Fruguility (frugality guilt) is what you feel whenever you overspend your hard earned money. It’s a remorseful feeling of sadness and pain, even one of total desperation where you start out in control of your money but then wind up in trouble as if you were drunk when you pulled out your wallet! Whatever the cause of your behavior, it takes hold of you pretty quickly and almost before you get home from shopping, you’re attempting to figure out some way to return what you bought and get your money back.

That guilt begins to grow on you. It begins to cook up high anxiety and stress in your mind and pretty soon you start asking questions about your purchases amongst your friends and family members in order to find out what they think about it. It’s your way of rationalizing the expenses, but deep down inside you already know the truth!

Finding a Balance

That led me to a discovery. My spending today is geared more for a “lifetime of use of my purchases” rather than the one that I practiced in my 20’s and 30’s which resulted in a “lifetime of expenses” from my shopping habits.

Seeking a balance between overspending and having some of the things that you really want that make your life worth living is very important and is ultimately a good thing for you and your family. Being too frugal may be a surefire way to stumble through your life being unhappy. You may be less than mentally satisfied with your life and ultimately feel frustrated and even a failure. It’s best to spend your values by setting priorities and budgeting accordingly.

You’ll never be able to escape the part of everyday life that honors and glorifies the almighty dollar. Those people that have a lot of it and spend a lot of it will always look very appealing.

I’m sure you have heard the phrase that “doing anything to an extreme isn’t good.” It applies right here. Whether you’re a frugal person who won’t allow themselves any guilty pleasures whatsoever, or you are the spendthrift who can’t tell the difference between good sense and being a completely obsessed spender, the effects on your life will be very stressful.

There is a way to strike a good balance in your life on this subject. Fruguility isn’t my recommendation. I use my desire to have the nice things I want in my life in combination with my being frugal. In fact I use that approach every year when I plan my annual budget. I think “frugal” wherever it makes sense to be and also when it’s a requirement. By being frugal with some things, it opens up my budget to make possible some other purchases that I really want.

One thing I consider is that sometimes it’s better to spend my money on a real quality item and not on the “frugal” version of the same thing. If I have to replace the frugal things more often than the quality, more expensive items, have I really made a good decision? It’s something I have learned over the years that you sometimes really do get what you pay for. That can work both ways!

Finding a balance in your spending, somewhere between frugality and comfort, is the best way to avoid the guilt.

Are you frugal or fruguilty? What makes you feel the way you do about your money habits and your spending? Are you in a constant state of stress and anxiety or are you living a balanced life?


  1. This is my achilles heel. I am constantly looking for the cheapest possible version of something that is expensive – like a rug that needs to be replaced. I buy something that is garbage and end up replacing it in a year. It is a waste. This happens to me all the time. Has a lot to do with online shopping for big purchases. I learned this lesson for the last time after I needed to replace an armchair and bought the ikea armchair that everyone loves. It was cheap and it arrived quickly. But I hate it!

  2. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    I think the “adult allowance” is one of the best ways to combat going too extreme with frugality. Budget for a little indulgence, and keep your indulgences within the budget. (And, if you feel you went too far one way, try going too far the other for a limited period of time to rebalance.) They’re both ways of avoiding extremes by imposing limits.

    I do think it gets harder with big purchases like Linda’s alluding to. Take cars. Ummm, I have a nice car. I could have gotten a slightly less nice car for a lot less. I know I’ll keep it for as long as possible, but when it’s time to replace it, am I going to go for a nice car or one that I might not be as satisfied with? But setting my sights lower on the car next time might save us a significant chunk of change.

  3. Love that you brought up the advertising thing, Gary. It drives me nuts the way they tout purchases as bringing people joy, happiness and success. We work hard to point that out to the kids when we happen to catch a commercial selling that message. I don’t feel guilty about being frugal, but I have had to find a balance between being frugal and being obsessed with being frugal. 🙂

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