When being frugal can backfire


(MoneyWatch) This past week, MoneyWatch has been running a list of . Many of these are good ideas, but as you're indulging your inner tightwad, here are some things that aren't worth the time to skimp on, or else involve being penny wise and pound foolish.

1. Gardening to save money on produce. Alas, looking at America's obesity epidemic, it appears that we spend too little of our budgets on fruits and vegetables. Garden if you find it fun. The opportunity cost of your time raises the price considerably if you don't.

2. Newspaper coupons. We've all read stories of people who "save" hundreds of dollars a week at the grocery store. But unless you were spending hundreds per week, you can't save hundreds. A better bet? Buy whatever you want in the grocery store. It takes a lot of coupons to atone for the $17 pizza you order when you realize there's nothing good in your fridge.

3. Driving out of your way to save money on gas. Just pick a favorite station that usually has low prices, and fill up there. You may lose out on a few cents, but you'll save a lot of mental energy.

4. Visiting multiple stores to save a few bucks. Wouldn't that time be better spent nurturing your career in pursuit of that next raise? Choose one store that generally has good prices, and get in and out. Or just order staples online and don't risk impulse shopping.

5. Choosing too-cheap childcare. If you're worried about your kids' safety or happiness, or if your childcare isn't reliable, you're not going to be able to concentrate at work. While losing your job could solve the problem of childcare expenses, this is probably not what you're aiming for.

6. Skipping maintenance -- for your car, your house, or you. Sure, you could let that leaky faucet go for a while. But a flooded floor will be a much more major outlay of cash than a plumber. Catching a cavity before you need a root canal is also smart -- and a great reason to spend some money.

7. Buying bottled water in bulk. I've seen this tip multiple places now, often along with a tip on making your own seltzer water. If your tastes in water are so refined, you're probably not that into frugality anyway. If you are, how about buying one bottle, and refilling it with tap water?

8. Keeping your house an uncomfortable temperature. If you hit the mall to enjoy the air conditioning in summer, you're not going to come out ahead.

9. Buying scratchy toilet paper. Or cheap chocolate, for that matter. Life is really too short. You're worth little indulgences.

10. Visiting a restaurant on "free" days. Ben & Jerry's free cone day always features such long lines that I can't believe it's worth it to most people to wait 45 minutes to avoid shelling out $3-4. Go to a competitor and savor the quick service.

What frugal practices do you find not worthwhile?