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The Simple Dollar

Moderation is key: 5 frugal things you don't have to do.

While Hamm has a built up a reputation for offering readers advice on living the frugal life, he says it's important to remember that frugality is not the only virtue you can try to stand by. 

By Guest blogger / July 3, 2013

A man walks past a shop with discount signs in Lisbon, Portugal last month. Frugal living doesn't have to mean going out of your way to save a few pennies in every situation. Hamm advises practicing frugality in moderation.

Jose Manuel Ribeiro/Reuters/File

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I’m pretty well known online for being very frugal about some things. A few people even like to toss jokes my way about my “extreme” frugality, as I’ve gone so far as to calculate the cost of a sheet of toilet paper.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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It’s simple: I want to know the value of what I’m getting for every penny that I spend. If I can do a five second calculation once and it shows me that I can save ten cents every time I buy Brand Z toilet paper instead of Brand Y, I look at it as a success because I can use that calculation again and again.

I don’t mind washing freezer bags. I’ll happily try homemade solutions for almost every kind of cleaner. I love finding ways to reuse leftovers and buy in bulk.

Still, there are some lines that I don’t like to cross, whether it’s due to personal beliefs or health concerns or introversion. There are just some frugal tactics I can’t bring myself to take on.

Here are five of them.

I don’t save condiment packages from restaurants. One of my friends always asks for extra condiment packets at restaurants and always grabs a fistful whenever they’re available. He then takes them home and, when he’s doing something like watching television, he opens them and puts them into the respective bottles.

While this could save a few bucks during an hour’s worth of television watching, I don’t do this out of sanitary concern. Food cross-contamination issues sincerely worry me and when you do this, you’re doing lots of potential cross-contamination. It’s not worth it if you cause your condiment to go bad at a much faster rate. Yes, I know that most of the foods you’d be doing this with have a low rate of spoilage, but I also know I’ve seen some frightening ketchup in the past.

I don’t use public restrooms unless I have to. Quite a few people I know make it a point to do their bathroom business out and about. One person I know (his name starts with K and he’s a reader of The Simple Dollar) hasn’t taken a shower at home in a year because he just does it at the gym each day, as he figures it’s an extra perk of membership. An old coworker of mine use to go to the bathroom like clockwork just before leaving for the day, theoretically to save on toilet paper, water, and soap at home.

Again, while this can certainly save a bit of money on water, soap, and paper products, I tend to avoid public restrooms for sanitary reasons. I don’t know how they were cleaned and I don’t know about the health of the people who previously used them. While I do use them in a pinch, I’d prefer to spend the nickel and use my home bathroom.

I don’t constantly negotiate. I have a friend who will negotiate any price at any time. She’ll negotiate at every yard sale or farmers market. She’ll also negotiate at any store where there’s an item on special discount. I’ve witnessed all manner of haggling and cajoling from this person.

While I’ve haggled quite a few times, I’ll generally walk away from things rather than become disruptive. For me, it’s not worth buying an item if I have to make a nuisance of myself in public. I’ve witnessed hagglers hold up lines of people and create a noisy nuisance that frustrated me far too many times and it’s not something I like to foist on others.

I don’t buy the low end version of something I know I’ll use. I am quite willing to spend more on an item that I know is going to receive regular use around my home.

If I know something is going to be used a lot, I’m more interested in purchasing a reliable version of that product than I am buying the absolute least expensive version. I will buy the “cheap” one if I’m not sure how much I’ll use an item, but when I’m replacing something and I know I’ll use it, I will always look for the best “bang for the buck” version of the item with a strong eye toward reliability. That often means a pricier version than I might have otherwise purchased.

I don’t reuse aluminum foil. If a piece of aluminum foil isn’t wrinkled or absolutely ruined, I know at least one person who will flatten it out and save it for use the next time. I’ve seen pieces of aluminum foil covering dishes wind up on the grill and vice versa. I’ve even seen pieces move from dish to dish.

As with the condiment packages, my primary reason for not reusing aluminum foil is due to food cross-contamination issues. I have used aluminum foil as a grill covering immediately after taking it off of whatever food item it was covering, but that doesn’t create a cross-contamination issue and you are thoroughly cooking the aluminum foil anyway.

Frugality is a virtue, but it’s not the only virtue.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on www.thesimpledollar.com.

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