Being frugal is a useful quality and a lifesaving skill. However, like all things, it can be taken too far. Many families begin practicing frugality for very good reasons, but then end up overcautious and hypervigilant with the family budget.

The downsides of being frugal when we have kids may be that our kids become anxious, unhappy, and critical. This can lead all kinds of resentment and misunderstandings.

This article looks at the drawbacks of the practice of frugality for families, the reasons behind excessive economizing, and how to best embrace frugality as a successful solution to situations of economic stress.

What are the signs of being over frugal?

Signs that you may be taking the thriftiness too far include a combination of signals:

  • A general air of dissatisfaction and a questioning of choices.
  • Children not inviting friends’ home or being embarrassed about inviting friend’s home.
  • Stealing or hoarding.
  • An inability to communicate needs in case the needs are considered to be excessive, unnecessary, or selfish.
  • Showing excessive caution with every decision.

When does frugality become penny pinching?

Frugality becomes penny pinching or stinginess when others perceive that you are meeting your goals at their expense. Unfortunately, a reputation for either of these habits is difficult to lose.

It is usually not frugality itself that is the problem. The problems occur when family members don’t understand the reasons for it and are not involved in the decisions behind it.

Frugality affects the entire family profoundly. It makes sense to allow all members access to the decision making and, very importantly, give everyone opportunities to express frustration and discomfort at the outcome.

Signs to look out for that may mean we are not being frugal enough.

If you are unable to pay your bills, or more simply, unable to pay for your lifestyle, then you are not being frugal enough.

This is a situation that happens to everyone at some point during their family lives. And it can cause a great deal of stress. When situations deteriorate beyond a family’s control, it is best to seek some kind of support.

What’s the best way to be frugal?

The best way to be thrifty is to do it together. Depending on the age of the children, share the issues and the difficulties. Children are incredibly resourceful and loyal.

Set rewards. It is only fair that a season of want ends with some kind of compensation.

Never set frugality as a goal for its own sake. Frugality is a strategy to achieve something else. Frugality must also include generosity if it is going to be effective.

Is it okay to be frugal at Christmas time?

Christmas (and birthdays) are often perceived as not a good time for frugality, just as they are not the time for an excessive splurge that will plunge you back into an economic crisis in the new year.

Learn balance. Don’t spend money to impress neighbors, friends, or family. Spend funds on a few quality gifts rather than endless small items that may not be valued.

Always demonstrate charity when you can afford it. Include your children in these Christmas charitable donations.

Be lavish with food, but don’t buy so much it will end up wasted and consider making decorations and gifts.

Is taking out a loan to help with the cost of Christmas a good idea?

Taking out a Christmas loan can be a great idea for some families. A loan at Christmas time can be a great way to reward everyone for having committed to a frugal year.

A Christmas loan will always work if it is considered thoughtfully first and then planned for the long term. This means also committing to a repayment plan. This is a great way to lessen the post-Christmas stress of unpaid bills.