What Being Frugal Should and Shouldn't Cost

We have a million and one ways to trick ourselves into saving and spending more responsibly. Sometimes it takes a little liquid courage, while other methods simply involve a little research before shopping. One frugal lifestyle blogger has offered up a new way to judge personal finance tricks.

Trent Hamm, writing for The Simple Dollar, looks at how money warps or doesn't warp our behavior. "There are times when paying attention to a few cents can end up making a big difference, and there are times when paying attention to a few cents is a complete waste of your focus," he writes. "The challenge is being able to instantly tell which is which."

His advice ultimately boils down to a phrase popular on the Captain Awkward advice blog: Sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money. For instance, if Hamm can save money or time on routine chores that he repeats daily or weekly, it may be worth his while to invest in a new strategy. However, if a tactic requires him to, say, give up personal information or make infrequent exceptions, he doesn't bite.

Likehacker's Alicia Adamczyk puts it another way: "In reality, buying small or inexpensive things isn't always that big of a deal. Sometimes they really enrich our lives, other times they don't." Extreme couponing is one prime example of this; you may have better luck simply staying mindful as you shop and interrogating how a purchase makes you feel. It's tempting to start from scratch, but sometimes you only need little fixes in your life first.