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Discount Diva: Being frugal just feels good

Making your own Christmas presents. Darning socks. Getting the very last drop of shampoo out of the bottle.

It doesn’t matter if you’re Richie Rich or Bobby Broke: If you’re a frugal person, doing frugal things just makes you feel good.

If you’re a worrier like me, someone who gets down about current events or anxious about the future, frugality can be especially soothing.

A little act of frugality may save less than a penny, but it can pay off in the feeling that you’re conserving resources, fending off misfortune, protecting yourself against future want.

When I first started writing this column almost 10 years ago, I got hate mail from a guy who was annoyed about my tips that encouraged things like drying wet clothes on a line and unplugging appliances when they’re not being used.

He thought I should only share tips that save people significant amounts of money, like how to be your own financial advisor or how to beat the stock market. Tips like reusing your old toothbrush to clean faucet fixtures, saved mere pennies and were simply worthless, he said.

I see where he was coming from: Why save a penny when you can save a dollar? It’s important to talk about things that save big chunks of money, too, like getting a good interest rate on your student loan or downsizing your house.

But I still feel that even the smallest frugal action can make a big difference in our lives.

Here’s why:

• It creates a mindset that will shape everything you do.

You know it’s important to invest your money. But unless you have a mindset that motivates your spirit, doing the right thing will always be a struggle.

• You won’t want to undo all your hard work. If you’ve spent precious time making your own laundry detergent or cooking and freezing two months worth of meals, you’re not likely to blow all that savings on one big splurge you’re going to regret later.

• When you’re saving, you’re not spending. When stores have sales, they like to say, “The more you spend, the more you save!” But that’s not true: The more you spend, the more you spend.

Even if you get 70 percent off a $20 shirt, you’re still spending $6 you otherwise wouldn’t have. If you need a shirt, that’s a great deal. But if you already have a closet full, it’s an unnecessary expense.

However, when you salvage clothing you already have – perhaps by fixing a zipper on a pair of pants – you’re saving the money you would otherwise spend to replace that pair of pants.

• It really does pay off. All those pennies add up after a while.

• Frugality is great, except when it’s a sign that something’s wrong. When your thrift turns into a preoccupation, it could be a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, which affects one in 100 people.

That could be the case when someone “adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others,” or views money as “something to be hoarded for future catastrophes.” according to the American Psychiatric Association. People with OCPD might do things like skip meals to save money, even though they can afford to eat.

A mental health professional can make a diagnosis. Treatment options may include cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling or medication.

Got consumer tips or questions? Email:, tweet @DiscountDivaSam or message

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