When Frugality Goes Too Far: The Day I Gave Dad Poisonous Mushrooms
Dramatic? Perhaps. But I did it, in an earnest desire to be frugal and self-sufficient. I think this happens to a lot of people who are fresh out of college, like I was at the time. They’re adjusting to the “real world” and are trying to dial down their finances. Most of us spend way too much money in our twenties, and can’t even begin to understand frugality. On the other end of the spectrum are the people who spend too little. For a time, I was the latter.
Overall, I handled my finances quite well upon graduating. However, every once in a while, I spent too little. One such time was when I went foraging for mushrooms on my family’s farm. Getting food straight from nature is the most frugal thing to do, right? I mean, it is free!
So I went to the river and foraged for the almighty morel mushroom. These are pretty coveted items where I live. Every now and then, people will stop by the farm and ask if they can hunt for them. Morels taste like your average mushroom, but flavored with hazelnut and nutmeg. They’re quite good.
I hadn’t hunted mushrooms alone before – I hadn’t been morel hunting at all in years. But I took to the river anyway.
About an hour later, I returned to the house with an armful of morels. I found a recipe online and then breaded and fried them. I was pretty proud of my free snack. But since it’s my dad’s land, I thought it would be nice to let him try the first one.
He came inside the house and grabbed one. You could hardly tell they were mushrooms, since they had been breaded and fried. But there were some raw ones I hadn’t prepared yet.
He looked at them and said, “Those aren’t morels. Those are poisonous.”
Apparently there’s a type of poisonous mushroom called “false morels.” Oops. That was definitely a case of frugality going too far.
A more severe frugality-gone-too-far situation happened to one of my mom’s friends in high school. His dad bought him a new car, but decided to save a buck and order it without headrests. Apparently in the 1960s, car headrests were optional. My mom’s friend got in a crash a few months later and died.
The paramedics said that if there had been headrests, they would have absorbed the impact and he would have avoided a fatal injury.
Frugality can go too far in a lot of ways. Some people spend many hours a week doing repetitive tasks for the sake of frugality. They’ll clip tons of coupons. They’ll cook every meal from scratch. And some people even try their hands at sewing their own clothing. It’s crazy to do all this unless you enjoy it. You can easily find a job that’ll pay far more than doing such mundane tasks with your time.
Again, you hoard items just because you got a good deal on them. What’s the point of buying something you don’t need just because you got a good deal? Doesn’t the clutter of all those “cheap,” but seldom-used items bother you?
Other overly frugal tendencies include not throwing things away because “I may need those someday.” That’s how you become a hoarder. My policy is that if it begins collecting dust from disuse, then I put it on eBay.
But by far the most dangerous way of being too frugal is if you’d rather save money than earn money. Saving money on goods and services is finite. But income is infinite. I know it’s easier for most people to save money than to earn it, but it shouldn’t be your focus. After all, if a person works fast food their entire life and saves much of his or her income, they still won’t become wealthy.