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What to do when a frugal activity backfires

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.

bowl of yogurt and granola.

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.

boiled-over milk.

You can lift the entire potful of milk up by lifting only the lid! The suction is serious.

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.

milk in a stockpot.

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.

yogurt draining in a measuring cup.

My usual yogurt-draining setup with proper yogurt that actually drains.

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.

spilled smoothie.

And to add insult to injury, somehow the weird yogurt even made my smoothie a little odd.


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.

bowl of yogurt and granola.

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.

yogurt topped with berries.

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?

riding lawnmower.

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!”

ankle wrapped in ice packs.

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.

two cans of spray paint.

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.

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Tuesday 17th of October 2023

I put in Luxury Plank Vinyl flooring in my basement. It’s not perfect but it is nicer and cleaner than the 70s era carpet! My eyes are drawn to the flaws and I try to tell myself better than it was and cheaper than hiring someone!


Tuesday 17th of October 2023

Ok, I see you out here being a handywoman!


Tuesday 17th of October 2023

Timely post for me too!

I'm in process trying to replace 2 (um, 3) 6 foot privacy fence panel sections. Quote for just a 16 foot section was going to be over $500, and realized that we definitely should be able to do it ourselves, but just realized after making the trip for the materials, that we actually need to replace another 4x4 post so back to the store for another post/concrete and more digging and waiting for it to cure, and then hoping the fancy new nail gun we bought actually works.

One of my bigger fails in the last year or two was trying to mount some unfortunately too heavy wall lights on my apparently weak drywall. Ended up with a pretty impressive hole in the wall, had no matching paint, so had to ditch the lamps (they wouldn't work without serious reinforcing) and also had to patch and get new paint for the entire wall. Donated the lamps, and at least I was able to repair and paint everything myself so not out too much money and time, but still!


Tuesday 17th of October 2023

Oh man, the lamp situation is an annoying one because you had to do a bunch of work only to end up in the exact same place where you started!


Monday 16th of October 2023

I've bought various clothes from thredup that were supposedly in my size, but when they arrived, they didn't fit and it cost too much to return them, so I ended up donating them to a local charity that specifically provides clothing to those in need. Usually I will only shop thredup with there is a decent sale on what I'm looking for and when I can get free shipping, so although it cost me money out of pocket, hopefully those clothes went to someone else who really needed them.

Once I had dropped my son to soccer practice and was hurrying to get to the library about half a mile away to return some books on time. Well, I didn't see the speed limit sign until too late and got caught and ticketed. Ugh! Adding insult to injury, when I did finally reach the library, it had just closed 10 minutes earlier! I ended up spending much more money to take defensive driving and clear the ticket than I would with the library fine of late books. My one consolation was that my son of driving age got first-hand experience on what to do when pulled over for speeding. :/


Monday 16th of October 2023

Thanks for sharing your story. That's funny in retrospect. I'm sure it was frustrating at the time. I appreciate your advice to zoom out. Mistakes happen. I gave my daughter a pretty terrible haircut with too short bangs. But I learned how to cut her hair better and saved money over the years.

Kathy Wolfe

Monday 16th of October 2023

Were you able to destroy the nest so they won't get you again? I have a saying "no good deed goes unpunished" but we still continue to go forward. My most recent was I was trying to change to a cheaper phone service and my phone died. It just didn't have the spunk to change providers. A new phone had to be ordered...oh me!


Tuesday 17th of October 2023

I have not been able to locate the nest! It was in a very leafy area at the edge of my yard, and I am too scared to poke around a lot to find the nest.

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