6 Ways Being Cheap Can Cost You Money

Back in August, I spent $160 on a hotel that was significantly cheaper than the ones surrounding it. I was hoping that I found a deal. Of course, it backfired on me. In that post, I mentioned the reasons for why we left the hotel just minutes after we checked in (including there being blood splatters in the…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: December 12, 2020

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Back in August, I spent $160 on a hotel that was significantly cheaper than the ones surrounding it. I was hoping that I found a deal. Of course, it backfired on me.

In that post, I mentioned the reasons for why we left the hotel just minutes after we checked in (including there being blood splatters in the hotel room) yet they still would not give us a refund. We have since disputed the charge on our credit card, but I’m still not sure how it’s going to turn out.

Many people each and every single day make the mistake of trying to save money, yet end up wasting money in the end.

I’m guilty of doing this. Many times I go the cheap route because I hope it will work out in my favor in the end. Well, I have been wrong on many occasions!

Below are six ways being cheap can cost you money:

1. Buying cheap clothing.

This is a bad habit I just cannot seem to kick. I am guilty of shopping at stores like Forever 21 and buying extremely cheap clothing that won’t last past one year.

Instead, I need to focus on buying clothing that will last longer. It will save me money in that I won’t have to buy the same clothing items over and over again, and I can also save time because I won’t have to go shopping as often.

2. Skipping insurance.

Whether we’re talking about health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, home insurance, or something else, usually it’s a good idea to get insurance. Unless you can self-insure yourself (which most people cannot), then buying insurance can save you money and a lot of stress in the long run.

If something large comes up, then it can ruin your finances and bury you in debt if you do not have the correct form of insurance.

3. Shopping on “deal” websites.

I used to hop on Groupon every single morning. Yep, EVERY single morning.

It was a horrible habit.

I always wanted to see if I could find any deals, and I would hop on any good deal that I could fine. Sad to say, this was a huge waste of money. I ended up buying Groupons just to buy them because of the amount of money I was “saving.” Instead, I was wasting money on things I didn’t even need.

4. Driving a far distance to save pennies on gas.

There are many gas apps and websites out there right now. With how expensive gas costs, that makes sense. However, for the most part, gas usually does not vary by much from gas station to gas station. Yes, it can make sense if you are going to be near the gas station with the best value, however…

I personally know someone who will drive miles and miles to save a few pennies on each gallon on gas, and in the end if this person would actually calculate their savings, they would probably realize that they are wasting time and money by driving to the farther gas stations.

5. Thinking DIY will always save you money.

DIY will not always save you money. This is something many people do not realize. If you do not have the patience or skills to do a DIY project, you may find that you are wasting both time and money.

Related article: DIY Wedding Ideas – Worth It Or A Waste Of Money?

6. Neglecting routine maintenance.

Whether it be for your house, your car, or your health, there might be something that you may be forgetting or neglecting to do. These could include:

  • Fixing a clogged drain before it gets out of hand.
  • Repairing a leaky pipe.
  • Replacing tires on your car.
  • Getting oil changes when they need to be done.
  • Going to the dentist every six months.
  • And much, much more.

With your maintenance, you always want to make sure you do it and that you do not do it cheaply. Yes, you can do things “frugally,” just make sure they are done high quality. You do not want to skip maintenance and have to pay more money later because a major problem could have been prevented, or do a shoddy maintenance job and find out the whole thing needs to be completely redone.

An example would be skipping going to the dentist for years so that you can “save” money. Then, after you finally go, you find out you could have saved money and some of your teeth by visiting the dentist regularly for cleanings.

How has being cheap cost you money?

What was your last money mistake?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Simon Cave

    Good points! Saving isn’t always the best solution. You mentioned driving a far distance to save pennies on gas: you are right the price from gas station to gas station doesn’t vary that much and it’s usually a waste of time to drive 20 miles just to get cheaper prices. Time is more important than money. You can have unlimited amount of money but the time isn’t unlimited. It’s a scarce resource, we should always keep that in mind!

    1. Thanks Simon! I agree. Driving for cheaper gas is just something I’ve never done. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

  2. I have been guilty of number 1 so many times, with clothes and especially handbags. I’m getting better though 🙂

  3. Poor Student

    I don’t think buying cheap clothes will always make you end costing more money in the long run. I like to buy cheap clothes for things that I don’t wear that often, because that way, I’m actually saving money. That being said, I usually opt for higher quality products for things that I wear daily so they last longer.

    1. Yes, you are correct. For trendy items that you know you won’t wear often, going cheap can save you money since you don’t really need it to last long anyways.

  4. Yeah it’s definitely a hard habit to kick, and that probably stems from having a scarcity mindset towards money growing up. But when you get into this online thing where there is no limit on potential earnings, it’s important to switch to an abundance mindset about money, because without an abundance mindset the big $ usually don’t come!

  5. Cheap clothing….it’s the worst. I think when we get our first job we buy as much cheap clothing as possible so we have professional wear each day. But in the end it’s so much better to buy a few quality pieces and build your wardrobe over time.

    1. Thankfully I don’t really need professional clothing anymore! 🙂 I definitely bought a lot of cheap things back then though.

  6. I agree with everything you said. I used to be really guilty of #1. Have you tried shopping at Thred Up? It’s second hand clothing but it’s all high quality and in near perfect condition. I’ve been buying the majority of my clothes from them and love it. On the other hand my second favorite pair of jeans came from K-Mart and I’ve been wearing them for two years. I guess sometimes you get lucky with cheap clothes 🙂

    1. I’ve never heard of Thred Up! Interesting! I don’t spend nearly as much on clothing as I used to, so it’s not as big of a problem anymore.

      I actually have a pair of $9 jeans from Forever 21 that have lasted quite some time. I usually go back once a year to buy a new pair of the exact same jeans, and it’s definitely something that I’ve been lucky with as well. They are my favorite!

  7. Totally agree on the importance of routine/preventative maintenance. Taking care of things (including self & hound) will almost always stave off future, more expensive fixes. Your point about buying quality is key too–we buy just about everything used, but of high quality. It’s cheaper than new stuff and, it really does last longer!

    1. Yes, buying used high quality items is a great way to save money. Good job!

  8. These are good examples. Routine maintenance is a big one. If you neglect your home or car, it will cost you in the long run.
    I paid for a $99 room at the Fantasuites for our anniversary once and we walked out and left within 15 minutes. I felt like I was going to get murdered!

    1. Haha bad hotels are the worst. We thought we were going to get murdered as well!

  9. These are all such valid points!! I definitely buy cheap clothing probably way more often than I should (though, if I’m being real, I don’t buy any clothing all that much haha). You are correct though – the quality stuff lasts SO much longer. I have a few good pairs of jeans that I’ve had for 5+ years and they’re still in great condition! Thanks for the tips – great read!!

  10. Robin

    I keep telling my friends to get off groupon because it just makes them blow money. I think some people are practically addicted to it. I haven’t even used the last groupon I bought a year and a half ago. What a waste.

    1. Yeah, I’m sure I have a few Groupons that need to be used. What a waste of money.

  11. Going on a Carnival cruise since it’s usually the cheapest cruise line out there and then going adrift…or sinking. (Note: This hasn’t happened to us yet.)

    1. Do you often go on Carnival cruises? Or is this just an example? 🙂

      1. We’ve gone on a few cruises, but have yet to try Carnival. Their prices are tempting, but we don’t want being cheap to end up costing us a nice vacation! 🙂 Have you had any pos/neg experiences with them or other cruiselines?

        1. I’ve only gone on Royal Caribbean. We went on the newest and biggest cruiseship in the world (Allure of the Seas), so I’m sure I don’t really know how cruising is haha!

  12. I’m guilty of neglecting routine maintenance and buying cheap clothing. It’s funny because habits really do stick. It’s not until you realize what going on and commit to making a change that they go away.

    1. Yes! It can be very hard to change this. I’ve been getting better though.

  13. Amy

    Yep, I’ve been guilty of lots of these. In fact, I just bought a fleece jacket at Old Navy, and my husband commented, “Nice. Just don’t wash it, or it’ll fall apart.” 🙂

    Speaking of my husband, he’s a cautionary tale in putting off dental visits. (He didn’t do it to save money, though, since our insurance pays for cleanings.) He didn’t go for 9.5 years, and had 10 cavities and needed a root canal, when he finally went. He could’ve had twice yearly cleanings for free (not including the cost of our dental insurance, of course), but instead it cost us $1,000 to deal with all the cavities and the root canal.

    1. Oh no! That really stinks. $1,000 for all of that seems fairly cheap for all of that work though. What kind of dental insurance do you have?

      1. Amy

        Our insurance paid for the standard, metal fillings, but our dentist only uses the white kind. (Not sure of the material.) So we had to pay the $65 difference for each one. Also, we learned that the insurance company (Guardian) pays out a maximum of $1500 per person on the policy, each plan year. So he’s actually holding off on the four remaining fillings until January.

        This experience gave me a whole new appreciation of how much my parents must’ve spent on my teeth, since I had braces THREE times!

        1. I’m jealous! We don’t have dental insurance and I recently had tooth trauma (I bumped my tooth on something), and my root canal and crown cost me $2,000!

  14. kammi

    I’m fortunate enough to work in an industry where I get free swag all the time, so I don’t have to shop for clothes at all unless I want to (or for evening wear, etc). I burn through so many shoes a year because I walk a LOT, and buy shoes two pairs at a time with none of that mesh-cheapo stuff. That being said, I have cheap-ed out on food and it’s NEVER been worth it. I’m a picky eater, and it seems like the less a person pays for food, the less the people preparing it seem to care (which is bad for me). I don’t mind dropping a tonne of money on food if it is well prepared and good for me. In the grocery store, I will see cheaper versions of a product, and then turn to the back and see it is loaded with all kinds of horrible ingredients that make me gag. So yeah..I’ll take the more expensive one with just regular ingredients. Eventually I’ll probably just end up growing most of my own food as I get older and more allergic to everything in this country (as more and more synthetic food is mass produced). That being said, the idea of vertical farming is really interesting to me, if they ever get that going on a massive, ubiquitous scale.

    1. I want to get into growing a lot of my own food as well. We plan on starting that soon and I hope I do not kill everything.

  15. I used to buy cheap clothes and wristwatch because I really love collecting wrist watch. 🙂 But after a few times of wearing it, the clothes really look awful that I couldn’t afford to wear it anymore! So for me, I only choose a good quality of clothes and other things than cheaper prices.

    1. Good job Clarisse! 🙂

  16. Amanda

    Does anyone have a particular brand or two they think of has being “high value” clothing? I’m guilty of shopping for cheap clothing. On the flip side, I don’t know which companies are worth the extra money.


    1. This is where I often get stuck as well. I really love Jcrew, and I always try to shop there with coupons and whenever they have sales.

      These articles may help you as well:

      1. Amanda

        Awesome – thank you so much!!

        1. Welcome Amanda 🙂

  17. I tend to buy cheap clothes and sometimes they don’t last long. Though some of my more expensive clothes don’t last all that long either. I have to find quality clothes but not sure what brand that would be. I’ve had a problem with Groupon too…the main one being that I sometimes don’t use it and it expires which sucks.

    1. I think a lot of it has to do with properly caring for an item as well. That’s something I fail at too!

  18. Expensive shoes are something I usually don’t do. I often get crazy about every little scuff or rain drop. I need to learn how to take better care of my shoes so that the little things do not drive me nuts.

  19. #5 make me think of the DIY pinterest fails. Sometimes you are just better off spending a little extra money. Routine maintenance certainly should not be overlooked on homes and cars as it will only cost you more in the long run and kill the resale value if not addressed.

    1. Yes, Pinterest fails are a big example of why DIY may not save you money!

  20. Yup – I’m guilty of buying cheap clothes. We don’t have a lot of options here, so I’m a bit stuck, but at the same time, I don’t need to buy clothes from WalMart – but I do! (And they start falling apart after wearing them once…)

    There’s been a few times where I bought generic brand groceries and just ended up throwing them out because they were so bad. Not a huge waste of money, but still a waste!

    1. Seems like a lot of us have a problem with cheap clothing! Thanks for stopping by Amanda 🙂

  21. I’ve done it too!! Buying off brand to save but finding out it’s not as good as the brand name. I’m willing to try off brand once and then after that if I find that it’s not as good it’s worth it to spend money on the more expensive one. I just tried out Gain dishwashing liquid because it’s cheaper then Dawn. Never again! I am going back to Dawn. The bubbles with gain are flat! I have also bought cheap clothes only to have them fade or distort in the wash.

    1. We’ve bought cheaper dishwashing soap before and it almost never works out. In fact, we have a whole container left over from the last time we made that mistake.

  22. I think skipping routine maintenance can really come back to haunt you. I don’t even think it’s always simply from being cheap, but from running out of time to do all the maintenance you should. This is a big issue for homeowners in particular because there is such a long list of things you “should” do each year or season.

    1. Yes, I’m guilty of this as well. We have maintenance we need to do to our home. It’s a long list though and it’s stressful just looking at it!

  23. Erin @ Journey to Saving

    I can relate to the first and last ones. However, I’ve found that my clothes last a pretty long while! I’ve had some for 3-4 years now, so I’m not completely sold on spending a lot (I’d rather just support clothes that are made here). I did neglect to go to the doctor and dentist for a while. It’s easy to do when you feel “just fine,” but there’s a lot of things going on that don’t exhibit symptoms. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

    1. Yes, it’s always best to be safe than sorry. Even if you think everything is fine, there might be something that only doctors can see.

  24. Kaitlyn Ivy

    Wow, some really great tips that I haven’t even thought of. Keep up the great work on this blog, I LOVE IT!

  25. Michelle L

    Interesting ideas… I have always thought frugalness is a virtue.

  26. Stephanie

    I’ve never understood #4! I mean, if there’s a cheaper gas station on your way to work or the store, fine. But to go out of your way for it? Makes no sense.
    I’m much better about the clothes. I don’t buy super fancy things by any means, but ya know… Ann Taylor over Forever 21. During my first declutter of my closet, I realized all the cheap Forever 21 clothes were in the giveaway pile!

    1. Yeah, I’ll never get it either. Maybe I’m too inpatient but driving out of my way sounds like too much work and too much in gas!

  27. I think there’s a big difference between cheap clothing and inexpensive clothing. You shouldn’t really buy the worst quality clothing, but that doesn’t mean that you should pay a lot for decent quality. Also, there’s a lot of expensive stuff that it’s crappy quality. Kate bought a $70 shirt because she wanted to look nice for an interview and the shirt only lasted like 2 months.

    1. Yes, there is a difference. I should probably do a post about this eventually. Maybe one day when I am better at it 🙂

  28. I definitely have been guilty of b using cheaper clothes and handbags – actively trying to get better at that though 🙂 I do sometimes get frustrated at how expensive office/work clothing can be, but I spend most of my day in it so it has to be good quality 🙂

    1. Luckily I don’t really need office/work clothing. I do need more yoga clothes though! 🙂

  29. Deal sites are so addictive, especially for someone who thrives on a good deal (guilty, gah). I was such a sucker for the restaurant promos but buying the Groupons made me dine out more than I usually would!

    1. Yeah, I had the same problem. I was spending more money than what I usually would!

  30. I have been guilty of a few of those. Neglecting routine maintenance has messed me up a few times. I’ve had serious car issues because I didn’t take the time to get things checked. You live and you learn.

    1. Yes, you learn! 🙂

  31. Myles Money

    Confession time: I have a “friend” who bought some wine at the supermarket but was too cheap to buy a strong plastic bag to put the bottles in, and opted for the cheaper, thinner bag instead: it was 5c cheaper. Needless to say, on the way to the car the bag broke and all but one of the bottles smashed. 🙁

    1. Oh no! That really stinks 🙁

  32. anna pry

    i do buy my clothes cheap, usually at thrift stores but with 3 kids, clothes tend to get ruined quickly anyway. I have been guilty of spending/wasting money on ‘deals’ that we didn’t really need.

    1. If they are going to get ruined, then I see nothing wrong with buying cheap clothing. I’d do the same thing too.

  33. Cheap shoes! Every single time I’ve bought cheap shoes I’ve regretted it.

    They’re usually uncomfortable, tear my feet to shreds and ultimately become clutter at the bottom of my wardrobe.

    Now, I spend a *lot* more for a pair of shoes and I wear them all day, every day. My feet are happier and I actually spend less overall.

    Buying cheap is usually a false economy.

    1. Good job on learning from your mistake 🙂

  34. This post is so accurate! I am guilty of buying cheap clothes for sure! What a waste.
    I’m also amazed at people who will drive miles to save, probably, about $2 – which they waste by driving so far. This bothers me more than I usually care to admit!

    1. Haha yes it bothers me too!

  35. I’m an SLP in a school and I like to buy cheap but professional-looking clothes for days I work with preschoolers. Other than that I’m with you on quality over cheapness 😉

    1. I definitely think that makes sense!

  36. Dana

    Agree with your post. Groupon makes me want a massage everytime I’m on it and I spend way more money than I should

  37. When I turned 26 I lost my insurance through my father. At the time I was working parttime and would have paid an arm and a leg for dental insurance (I purchased my own health insurance). I started my current job last fall and once again had dental insurance. However, I kept putting off going to the dentist. Big mistake. I ended up with 5 cavities and having to pay over $500 out-of-pocket even though I had dental insurance. I brush and floss everyday, but sometimes even that isn’t good enough. Never again!

    1. Ugh that stinks Katelyn!

  38. Liz

    Another huge problem with Groupon is that businesses that offer Groupon deals very often desperately need the business — meaning there are reasons the business isn’t doing well on its own. I have often gotten Groupons and then gotten very poor service and it ended up being a waste of my money. I have heard of commercial real estate agents keeping an eye on the local Groupon/LivingSocial market to see what businesses might be in danger of going under!

    1. Wow that’s crazy! I never really thought about that.

  39. Junietta Roth

    These are all such great tips for helping a family save money in important ways (rather than ways that can end up hurting your budget instead.) Thanks for sharing!

  40. Michelle,

    I agree with the clothes buying.

    As an entrepreneur myself, I rather buy less but with good quality.

    This way things last longer and shopping just takes too much time out of the business.

    My answer is just good outlet shopping adventures.


  41. Michelle,

    I agree with the clothes buying.

    As an entrepreneur myself, I rather buy less but with good quality.

    This way things last longer and shopping just takes too much time out of the business.

    My answer is just good outlet shopping adventures.


  42. Young Millennial

    I am guilty of thinking DIY-ing will save me money. I tried to fix my car years ago as a broke student before Youtube was a thing. Ended up breaking something that made the car a giant paperweight. Had to get a mechanic to come out and fix the thing. The thing I broke (whatever it was) ended up costing more than the $80 I could have paid someone to fix my original problem.

    That said, I do a lot of things myself, but only things I understand, have knowledge in and/or there are enough clear instructional videos and information online.

    1. Oh no! That really stinks.

  43. Veronica Lee

    Spot-on points especially groupons. I was tempted to dine out even more and it blew my budget.

  44. I can relate to most of these! My biggest issue is cheap clothes, too. I’ve made strides recently, but I still have the internal debate about buying one classic item for $60 verses four or five pieces for a little more. Maintenance is one I actually keep up with — my car and my teeth are in great condition because of it! Awesome post, Michelle.

  45. Jaafar

    This was a very informative read. I’m also guilty of renting cheap rooms and on some occasions it has backfired on me and my family. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you Jaafar! 🙂

  46. I agree with you on most of these. But, on cheap clothing I only halfway agree. There is a time and a place for cheap clothing. Buying more expensive and higher “classic” pieces makes sense because you will use them year in and year out. But buying expensive “trendy” pieces does NOT make sense. I would argue that you should buy cheap clothing if it’s something very trendy. The odds are that the trend will be gone before the item is worn out, even if it was a cheaper/lower quality piece. Just my 2 cents! 🙂

    1. I agree with you. I should have mentioned that in the post but there’s only so long you can make a post before I bore people 😛 . Trendy clothing is usually better off being bought cheap 🙂

  47. Did you end up saving money by not being insured though even though you still had to pay the $1,000? My health insurance is $323 a month, and I can’t even use it until I spend $12,700 out of pocket each year!

  48. Jackie Jernigan

    I find that trying to save on laundry detergent and dish soap can cost you more in the end because you have to use twice as much. Buying certain food brands that are cheaper can be a problem too. If you don’t like the taste you end up not eating it and throwing it out, money in the trash.

    1. I agree about the laundry detergent and dish soap! We’ve made that mistake and it doesn’t work.

  49. Yes, it doesn’t really make sense to me either.

  50. I read somewhere before to buy trendy clothes for cheap and pay more for staples. Makes sense!

    1. I agree. Trendy clothing can definitely be bought cheap and you can save money that way.

  51. Lisa

    These are all true! Many times, you actually get what you pay for. I try to steer away from buying things just because they’re cheap. Instead, I look at how much value it will add over what period of time.

  52. Caleb

    This is a very interesting perspective. It makes perfect sense after reading this that being cheap in some areas will actually cost you more. I guess spending a little more on some things is more of an investment.