photo by Evelynishere
My frugal living forums play host to a bragging section, where you can post your latest great deals. Sometimes the same bargains can be found in other states, so members will often take advantage of the same deals. Some of the great buys are from garage sales, dollar stores and thrift stores. From an outside perspective, it seems as if tons of people are saving money. But are they?

I used to shop at thrift stores regularly. I was addicted to the low prices. It took me a while, but I realized I was spending more than I normally would. I thought I was saving money because I was buying cheaper secondhand items. I used to use coupons, shop multiple stores to get the loss leaders and sale prices, and get up at the crack of dawn for Black Friday and garage sales. Maybe you know the drill. I was the woman driving across the city for the lowest price on milk. What was my reasoning? I watched the cost of every little thing because I never wanted to pay more than I had to.

Frugal living can become all-consuming. It can become addictive, too. I notice this with some of my readers and community members. Each person wants to be the most frugal of them all. I've also noted the guilt associated whenever they spend money on something they consider a want instead of a need. It seems strange to say this, but sometimes you can take frugality too far. This is especially true if you're living your days waiting for one sale to the next or constantly consumed with saving money. If you feel as if you're completely missing out on a deal because you didn't take advantage of it, you might want to remember that frugal living should add to your life. It shouldn't be a source of unhappiness and stress.

It was tough to understand that I didn't have to chase after every sale. I don't want to pay more than I have to, but I refuse to beat myself up over it if I don't buy post-holiday gift-wrap or if I miss the citywide garage sales. So, while it's good to know when things go on sale, it doesn't mean you have to spend at all of them. You're not a failure if you go food shopping and buy apples out of season. There's no trophy for the world's thriftiest person. If you're hitting all the sales, chances are you're overspending.

A good deal is buying something you were planning to buy anyway and getting it for less than you normally would. My vice is vintage cookbooks. There came a point when it finally dawned on me that buying one for a dollar wasn't really a good deal if I never planned to actually use it. One could argue the happy factor of buying it. But there's happiness and then there's habitual spending. Only you can pinpoint the difference. I learned I was addicted to seeking and getting deals. It felt great, and it was hard not to buy at super-low prices, but it wasn't bringing me closer to my goals. I didn't dwell on my mistakes. I recognized I had a weakness and set boundaries in order to reach my goals.

If you discover that you're addicted to deals, you can try a few ways to combat the urge to splurge.

CHALLENGE YOURSELF: Set a goal of not shopping sales for a week at a time (no-spend days). This will help you wean yourself from constantly looking for deals. Find other fun things to do instead. At the very least, set limitations. You're not saving money if you're spending it!

BABY STEPS: Frugal living is a journey and a shift in mindset. It's not an all-or-nothing lifestyle. Start with tracking your money. So you know where it's going. Accountability is the first step. Start keeping lists of what you need. This will help reduce impulse buying. Keep in mind that frugality isn't about always getting the lowest prices. It's about making positive choices to reach your goals based on priorities, being less wasteful and more resourceful, and curbing costly habits. Even buying things on sale can be wasteful.

SUPPORT: Seek help from family and friends. In some cases, seek professional help. Sometimes it's not an income or buying problem. Sometimes there's something deeper at the core.