10 Unhealthy Ways To Save Money

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Saving money is what Mr. FAF and I do on a daily basis.

We believe in the value of frugality and try our best to embrace this concept in our lives.

Some of our frugal habits are simple such as turning off the lights when they’re not in use.

Some are downright weird (i.e. using toilet paper as napkins). And some just didn’t work out so well.

Today, I will discuss the ten things Mr. FAF and I have done to save money but are not particularly good for my long-term health.

1. Eating cheap and processed food 

When I was in grad school and had to live on a meager stipend, I tried to cut costs in every way possible.

I lived with two other roommates at an apartment complex that provides a free shuttle to campus so that I could lower the rent and didn’t have to buy a car.

I rarely bought new clothes. And when I did, I would scour Ross and Marshall’s for deeply discounted items.

One thing I cut drastically was my food expenses.

At one point, I would buy six bagels for roughly $2.5/bag and a pre-cut bar of bologna for less than $1.

Every day, I would have a bagel, two slices of bologna, a slice of tomato, and a banana or yogurt for lunch.

My lunch would be less than $1.5.

At one point, I realized that eating processed food for months wasn’t healthy. I made the mistake of looking at the low cost of the cold meat and ignore the long-term negative effects it can cause to my health.

I later realized that there are better inexpensive yet healthier lunch options such as white rice, boiled eggs, and black beans.

2. Not investing in sportswear

I haven’t owned a pair of sport shoes for more than 7 years. I used to wear sneakers a lot in college. However, at point one, I somehow decided that it wasn’t girly enough for me and started wearing boots and ballerina flats instead.

Sometimes my friends or Mr. FAF would suggest we work out together or go to the gym. I would then think about how I need to spend at least $30 on a pair of running shoes to work out once in a blue moon. I then politely decline their gesture citing the fact that I didn’t have the necessary sport gear.

I think it’s also an excuse for me not to work out. I take public transit to work and do almost an hour of walking from home to the metro, from the metro to work and back every day.

However, if I were more proactive in staying healthy, I would have invested in a pair of sneakers from Payless a long time ago. Sportswear can be as simple as an old T-shirt and a comfortable caprice. This is a mistake I am fully aware of but have yet to fix.

Related: How I Talked Hubby Out Of A $400 Gym Membership

3. Living in a house that is not up to code

Before moving to DC, Mr. FAF used to live in a house that didn’t meet the building code. His room was a garage turned bedroom and was relatively cheap ($250 including everything).

By living in that tiny room, Mr. FAF saved about $1,200 a year. The walls were built with thin materials that weren’t fire-proof.

I was really worried about a possible fire that could reach his room since it was so close to the kitchen. I insisted Mr. FAF move to another place for his safety, but Mr. FAF refused. He wanted to save money for our family.

Fortunately, nothing happened at the house although the police found about the illegal bedrooms when the landlord reported an armed burglary at the house.

I realized that when we are short on cash and want to find cheaper solutions to the problems in our lives (i.e. housing), we tend to compromise our safety and well-being to avoid financial difficulties in the future.

We have been there and done that. At the end of the day, we have to be fully aware of the possible consequences of our decisions and try our best to prepare for the worst.

Related: 3 Weird Things We Do To Save Money

4. Fighting with your spouse about money

Hubby and I used to fight about money a lot.

I am guilty of this money saving habit. When Mr. FAF and I first got married, we were two poor graduate students and stayed that way for another 2-3 years.

The frugal mindset was ingrained in me throughout my poor childhood in Vietnam and my journey in America. I paid attention to every cent in my budget and refused to spend money on something I thought wasn’t an absolute necessity.

Mr. FAF, though frugal, had his fair share of unnecessary purchases such as eating out all the time. After we got married and joined our finances, his money became mine and vice versa.

I started to watch his expenses closely and got upset whenever he bought something I thought wasn’t worth the money. This clash in spending habits lead to us fighting and losing sleep at night.

Due to the sleep deprivation, we were exhausted during the day, which took a toll on our productivity and mental and physical health.

Related: The Costs Of Marital Conflict

5. Staying up late to learn more about saving money

I used to be obsessed with money saving videos on Youtube. I would type in key words such as “how to save money,” “frugal living,” and “frugal life” and watched videos after videos about how to save money.

Oftentimes I would stay up late to watch vlogs and just couldn’t stop to go to bed on time. Needless to say, I was exhausted the next day.

When I seemed to have exhausted all the frugal living videos on Youtube, I would turn to personal finance blogs or any money saving resources I could find on the internet and devour them.

Although I learned valuable money lessons from such materials, sometimes I felt tired spending so much time and energy trying to find ways to save money.

Related: The Glorious Life Of A Personal Finance Blogger

6. Eating old food

I have a very sensitive digestive system due to the Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Mr. FAF, my MIL, and I would eat the same thing, and I would be the only one with stomach cramps and multiple trips to the bathroom.

I am fully aware that old food can take a toll on my body. Yet, in an attempt to save money, I would ignore my health and try to finish old food. My hope is that I would be able to save a couple of cents or dollars without suffering any health consequences.

Most of the times, however, I end up with stomach cramps and regret that decision. An example is expired milk. I have drank whole milk that has expired for a day or two and felt ok.

However, it’s not the case with expired soy milk. One time, I forgot a quarter of a gallon of organic soy milk in the fridge. By the time I found out about it, it had developed an unusual taste.

Since it wasn’t too bad, I drank a cup of the expired soy milk and had to pay an expensive price two minutes later.

Related: When Frugality Goes Wrong

7. Not buying medicine

There have been times when I got a cold and just didn’t want to spend a couple of dollars on medicine. Whenever I visit my family in Vietnam, I would try to stock up on cold, flu, and cough medicine since it’s a fraction of the costs of medicine in the US.

However, every medicine as an expiration date. Sometimes I would take some cold meds that expired a couple months before. Most of the time, they worked.

But I have also realized the danger of taking expired medication (except for Benydryl since I read online that expired medicine is less effective but still safe). I now buy over the counter generic-brand medicine from the grocery store. My health is important, and my financial decisions should reflect that fact.

8. Not going to an event to save money

I like hanging out with friends and meeting new people, especially when there’s food involved. However, when we go to a potluck or picnic, we still need to bring a dish to contribute to the event.

When I was a poor grad student, sometimes I just opted not to go to a social event because I wanted to save money. It wasn’t particularly good for my mental health. Sometimes I would feel so lonely and isolated.

Yet, the thought of dropping $10 on a train ride in DC and another $10 or more on food to have fun at a potluck or party didn’t really appeal to me. I wanted to save that $20 for a rainy day instead. I ended up just staying at home and not being able to make a lot of new friends.

9. Not buying necessary clothes

I used to live in a city in the South, so the winter wasn’t so brutal. However, when I moved to DC, the winter clothes that I had were no longer adequate. I tried to layer up my outfits for more warmth.

However, there were two things that I absolutely needed but didn’t want to spend money on: a wool beanie and a pair of gloves. I could have easily spent $10 for both, but I tried to reason that I could use the hat from my jacket and put my hands in the pockets instead of spending money on those extra clothing items.

After getting a cold and not being able to get out of bed for 2 days straight, however, I changed my mind. I went to Ross to get a pair of really warm gloves and a hat for less than $5. I still get a cold in the winter, but at least I don’t have to endure the cold that badly anymore.

10. Always thinking about saving money

Sometimes I feel like I’m obsessed with saving money.

We all know being obsessed with something, be it food, exercising, or money, is not particularly healthy for our minds.

When we constantly keep thinking about how to pinch pennies and let money dominate almost every decision of our life, we seem to have fallen victim to the power of frugality in a not so positive way.

I grew up poor, so I know the amount of stress, frustration, and unhappiness a financial predicament can cause to a family.

Sometimes we just have no choice but to think about what we will eat the next day or whether we will have enough money to keep the lights on at our house.

However, what I’ve realized about myself is that even when I’m not in a dire financial situation, I still let frugality get in the way of my marriage, social life, and my health.

After all, we are and want to be the master of our thoughts. I no longer want to be so obsessed about saving money. Frugality should be a virtue that we choose to embrace, not something that has the power to dominate our lives.


Frugality has helped my parents and myself get through some of the most difficult episodes of our lives. I firmly believe that without frugality, I wouldn’t be able to get this far in life.

I want to be independent and don’t wan to rely on my family for financial support. Saving money aggressively for a rainy day has enabled me to do just that.

However, there have been instances where I let my frugality go too far and do manage to both my mental and physical health.

In writing up this post, I hope to reassess my money saving habits and decide on a course of actions that will save me money and improve my health and happiness for years to come.

Frugality needs short-term actions, but it should be consistent and sustainable in the long-term to maximize our happiness.


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8 thoughts on “10 Unhealthy Ways To Save Money”

  • Oh oh #3 is the scariest thing to me! Some people don’t care and it boggles my mind. Most people don’t even retrofit their house. I would spend good money having any old house bolted down for a peace of mind but apparently I talked to those contractors and people mostly just don’t.

    • One of the Chinese landlords Mr. FAF knows in his city rent out their 5 bedroom to 14 people!!! They renovated many parts of the house and turned them into bedrooms that aren’t up to code. And they make crazy good money!

  • At least you learned something while watching those financial vlogs. I watched shootout and kung fu movie clips until 1 am last night and didn’t learn anything. It happens. Old food is usually okay for me. My stomach is pretty tough.

    • LOL!!! I was just thinking about letting our baby girl learn martial arts yesterday night while listening to N’ Sync’s “I will never stop.” I think those kung fu movie clips can motivate you to work out harder. At least that’s how I feel when I watch random clips of Victoria’s Secret shows. :”>

  • This is a great reminder of the “penny wise, pound foolish” lesson, and some of these are difficult habits to break b/c things like eating unhealthy but cheap things give immediate benefits (cost savings) but may not manifest except in the longer run (bad health). Being thrifty by nature, I had to automate my good habits — e.g., prepay for exercise classes that I know work for my bad alignment, order my green juice for delivery. Some of these seem more expensive on a dollar basis but are cheaper holistically when you look at energy, self-care, and overall health.

    • I agree with the “penny-wise, pound foolish” assessment. We have recently realized that all the money we spend on fitness is worth it, because it will add years to our lives. I’m definitely not frugal enough to forgo entertainment because I didn’t have the money! 🙂 but I have forgone entertaining, ie, having people over to my house, because that gets expensive! I have definitely also done the illegal roommate thing when we had a roommate living in essentially a tiny closet in our apartment in Chile. But they wanted to do it and it actually wasn’t a safety issue, just a comfort issue.

  • These are great examples of times when you shouldn’t compromise your well-being in favor of saving an extra buck. I’m guilty of some of these as well, so I can’t cast blame, lest I be judged as well. In graduate school, I lived in a house with terrible insulation and during the winters, my bedroom would routinely get into the 50s. I ended up losing money because I would have to run space heaters just to keep my fingers warm enough to type my thesis my final semester. Lesson learned: sometimes it’s smarter to pay a little extra to have some of the bare necessities, like decent housing. I tried to maximize my research assistantship salary and the two scholarships I had carry over from undergrad but minimizing my housing expenses. In hindsight, I’d do it again, but not for the money-saving aspect, but because one of my roommates ended up becoming a life-long friend.

    Regardless, these are great items to bring to people’s attention. On some of these items you are right to say by saving in the short-term you end up losing in the long-term. Every decision has a trade-off and it’s best to be mindful of this.

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