Intentional Spending: Frugal vs. Cheap

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I’m in a facebook group for frugal living and a question came up regarding personal care spending.  The question went something like this: 

“Do you spend a lot for your shampoo?  I believe mine is making my hair fall out. “

The responses ranged from “do not skimp on caring for yourself” to “this could be related to something other than shampoo, such as thyroid issues or vitamin deficiencies.”  But the responses were consistently and unanimously on the side of not skimping on personal care items when choosing frugality could possibly cause you harm.

Obviously there’s no way for the internet congregation to know whether cheap shampoo is actually the cause of her issues, but assuming it is, then the group definitely sided with self-care over being cheap.

It made me realize that sometimes choosing a positive lifestyle choice, be it with your finances, your fitness or anything in between, being so extreme that it’s causing more harm than good is not the way to go.  While I can’t say that this is or isn’t the case for this particular person, there are many times that people put a goal over safety or good decision-making.  And that can be dangerous. 

I love being in groups sometimes because they do often bring out interesting discussions, and this group did bring up some pretty good points.  Here are some thinkable moments that came out of the discussion:

You only get one body.  Take care of it.  This should be a no-brainer but it’s a good mantra to keep in mind for so many reasons.  I know that I take my body for granted every single day.  And I need to stop that. 

Skimp in other areas so that you can pamper yourself and your body.  I think this is a great idea.  I have never been an every-two-weeks mani/pedi girl, and I don’t go to the hair salon often at all, but I do believe that you should figure out how to set aside money to pamper your body from time to time.  Massages, hair treatments, whatever is important to you…figure out how to incorporate it into your life in a way that makes sense financially.  Sinking funds or cash envelopes are a great way to budget for these items.

I don’t go to salons, but I buy nice quality items to give myself nice at-home hair treatments and manicures.  There are great products in the store that are affordable.  Figure out those great products that work for your hair and your skin.  Look for them when they are on sale, grab a coupon, or take advantage of specials.  And honestly, this is possibly a splurge area for me.  I have a face cream that I love, but I’ve also found a good store brand knock-off, so I alternate each time I purchase face cream:  one month cheap stuff, one month good stuff.  But for me, I’d rather spend the money to do upkeep versus spend a lot of money down the road trying to correct issues that could have been avoided. 

You should see a doctor/dermatologist/nutritionist/etc.  Let’s face it.  There are a lot of people who only go to the doctor if they are truly debilitated.  Things that are labeled as small, cosmetic, or discretionary are often overlooked until it spirals into a more serious issue.  I’m not sure if this is a frugal thing or not.  For some, it could be, but for others, it may be a hassle that just doesn’t rise to the occasion of a doctor’s appointment.  These “small” symptoms can often be the piece of a larger puzzle.  Squeeze those doctor’s appointments into your schedule.  They could be crucial for catching something before it’s too late.  Quick story which I plan to blog about later…a visit to the dermatologist for something I chalked up to my own vanity ended up catching a malignant tumor for me in November of this past year.  It wasn’t causing me pain, it was just annoying and I hated looking at it.  Even the dermatologist told me it was nothing, and said I didn’t have to do anything unless I wanted to.  And when it was removed and biopsied, the result was skin cancer.  So yeah, that’s my quick lesson about getting “little” things checked out. You just never know.

Try a different product. Many people in the group provided product suggestions.  Sometimes people feel like there’s only one product that works for them.  And while there’s no real way to tell if something that works for an internet stranger will also work for you, at least it does get you into thinking about other options.  Some people have been buying the same shampoo since the 90’s.  It’s routine and it’s comfortable.  But it could also be time to venture out to something new.  Our bodies change over time, hair included, and another product could be a better option for you.  Doing a little research and trial and error could be the answer.

I agreed with all of these points, but I question how frugal someone is living if it means that something as dramatic as hair loss still makes them question whether they should spend a few extra dollars.  In the days of extreme couponing and store discount cards, there are a lot of people that make big decisions based on price—even if the price difference is insignificantly small and does not justify buying the cheap product over the more expensive option. I shop based on price comparisons quite a bit, and a lot of times I regret skimping. 

Where do you stand on the issue? I have often times opted for cheap when I should have splurged, and vice versa. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is right, but I definitely feel like you should spend money when the cheap way is causing you harm.

What’s something you’re always cheap on? What do you always splurge for?