6 common frugal tactics that are actually bad ideas

By Karen Haywood Queen

For SavingsAccounts.com

Published: Thursday, Nov. 7 2013 11:30 a.m. MST

In this Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 file photo, a shopper pushes a trolley through the clearance section of a store in Chicago. While deal-hunting can have effective results, not all frugal habits are created equal.

Sitthixay Ditthavong, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Editor's note: This article ran originally on SavingsAccounts.com. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Did you truly save money driving 15 miles to save 20 cents on a bottle of soda? Was that $4 bargain shirt that lasted a few months really a bargain?

In a recent Harris Poll, 62 percent of respondents said they are likely in the next six months to cut back on eating out, and 59 percent said they will reduce entertainment spending -- up from 59 percent and 55 percent, respectively, last year. More Americans also said they are switching to generic brands and brown-bagging their lunches, according to the poll. But some other penny-pinching tactics can end up costing you money instead.

"You think you're being frugal, trying to save money on certain things," says Danny Kofke, author of "A Simple Book of Financial Wisdom." "But sometimes in the long run, you end up spending more because you went cheap."

For example, "People may obsess over small dollars on large transactions," says certified public accountant Clare Levison, author of "Frugal Isn't Cheap." "I've seen $200,000 plus houses where people are arguing over less than $1,000 worth of issues, such as repairs or carpeting."

Want to avoid these types of penny-wise, pound-foolish moves? Read what these frugal-living experts say are six of the worst money-saving attempts.

1. Pursuing grocery store "deals"

Trying to save money on food can backfire when you're driving all over town to shop and stockpiling so-called discount food you don't need, Kofke and Levison say.

"One week a store will have Coke on sale and another store will have a different deal you want," Kofke says. "People will go to three different grocery stores 10 miles apart when gas is so expensive."

Instead of driving all over town, Kofke says, learn the stores' sales cycles. If you skip the drive to buy Coke on sale this week, you can stock up in six weeks when it goes on sale again, he says.

Also keep in mind that free or discounted food you don't need is no bargain, Levison says. "People end up with rooms full of stuff that their family couldn't possibly use and sometimes doesn't even like. It's wasteful if you're not going to use it."

2. Buying poor-quality clothing

When Kofke was starting out being frugal, his goal to save money on clothes occasionally backfired. "After a year and a half, the cheap shirts I had bought would fade, wear out and wouldn't look as good anymore," he says. "We'd have to throw them away."

Instead of focusing only on price, look for quality brand-name clothes at off-price retailers, Kofke says. "They last longer than shirts you can buy for a dollar or two," he says.

3. Saving too much on a used car

Kofke gives similar advice for buying cars. He recommends his readers save money by buying used cars. But he also advises spending a couple thousand dollars more and getting a better used car as opposed to buying ultra cheap and then getting "nickled and dimed to death" on repairs.

4. Committing to a gym for too long

This time, you're really going to exercise -- so you sign a long-term contract for a gym membership. You go for a few months and then you're back on the couch.