If you’ve been living the frugal life for any length of time, you’ve no doubt had a frugal activity backfire on you.
I am no exception, so let me tell you about two of my recent examples!
1. A failure-filled yogurt-making session
I had a rather comical yogurt-making issue recently.
I was heating milk for a batch of yogurt one evening, and I forgot it was on the stove (I was studying in the living room!).
The milk boiled over rather vigorously, and I didn’t remember to remove the lid right away, so it got stuck onto the pot with the power of suction.
This has happened to me before, so I should have known to take the lid off right away!
I thought I remembered that if you cooled the pot down, the lid would come off, so I let it sit for a while. But the lid was still stuck.
Then I googled about it and realized that heating the pot is what would solve the problem.
So, I did that, but at that point, it was too late in the evening to finish the yogurt-making process.
I refrigerated the milk and began the process again the next day.
All seemed well when I put the yogurt in the cooler; I left the house for school and had Zoe put the jars in the fridge once the incubation time was done.
But when I went to check on the yogurt the next day, it was oddly sloshy. Like…slightly thickened milk, but also rather gelatinous.
So I thought, “Ok, no big deal, I’ll just drain it and make Greek yogurt.”
But man, even after an overnight stay in the strainer, the yogurt had let off only a tiny amount of liquid. It’s like all the liquid was just STUCK in the gelatinous yogurt.
So then I thought, “Hmm, maybe I could just use it in smoothies.”
I made a smoothie and proceeded to spill it when I tried to pour it into a glass.
And to add insult to injury, somehow the weird yogurt even made my smoothie a little odd.
THIS YOGURT WAS CURSED.
At that point, I decided I was done with this batch of yogurt. I dumped it down the drain, got a new gallon of milk, started fresh, and now I have a batch of proper yogurt in my fridge.
I really don’t know what exactly was wrong with the milk after just being double-heated. This seems like it should have worked just fine, but obviously, it didn’t.
If you take this story individually, it sure seems like my yogurt-making efforts are not only a waste of time, but also a waste of money.
I wasted a gallon of milk, some sugar and vanilla, some electricity, and also some time, and had nothing to show for it, except a slightly funny story.
But in the grand scheme of things, I have made yogurt probably hundreds of times by now, and given that homemade yogurt is about a quarter of the cost of store-bought, I’ve saved myself many, many, MANY hundreds of dollars.
Losing a gallon of milk is nothing in comparison to that.
2. A lawn-mowing/hornet-stinging session
Remember how I was mowing my lawn a few weeks ago, but I got stung by yellow jackets (a type of hornet) in the process?
I ended up needing to go to an urgent care place to get some steroids to help with the swelling and itching, and the visit cost me $40.
That’s pretty cheap for a visit, of course, but still, when I got the bill, I thought, “Hmm, that lawn-mowing session didn’t save me much money at all!”
But since I moved into this house, I’ve mowed my lawn a bunch of times, saving myself probably $50-$75 each time. A single $40 urgent care visit doesn’t even come close to competing with those savings.
So, what do you do when a frugal activity backfires? Zoom out.
When you have a failed effort, zoom out and look at the big picture.
Maybe it’s a situation like my yogurt; it’s a frugal activity you’ve done a million times, but this one time it was a fail.
Or maybe it’s a new frugal activity.
Like… you tried a new off-brand and it was terrible.
Or you tried mending a shirt and you ended up ruining it.
Or you tried spray painting something and it turned out sticky and blotchy.
Ok, yes, maybe that one thing was a fail, but look at your history of frugal activities. More often than not, they’ve probably been successful.
So, don’t forget about those successful times when you have a frugal flop.
The flop is just a small part of your long history of money-saving efforts. Even ten flops out of every hundred efforts will still get you a grade of 90%.
A fail is a financial loss, yes.
But still, you’re way better off than you would be if you’d never done that frugal thing a million times, or if you never tried new frugal things.
Note: Obviously this doesn’t hold true if you, say, burn your whole house down as a result of a frugal effort. But for everyday, minor mistakes, you can just zoom out, take in the big picture, and realize that one mistake is not a big deal.
How do you comfort yourself over a frugal fail? And…share your frugal fail stories, please!
We’d probably all love to hear about your mishaps because it will make us feel less alone.
P.S. Remember when I shattered my stovetop? That evening of cooking dinner was a terrible loss financially. But in comparison to the thousands of meals I’ve cooked over the years, the cost of even a new stove is a mere drop in the bucket.
P.P.S. On an opposite note, here are five ways to make yourself miserable after a frugal mistake.