I was reading something someone wrote about saving money on groceries the other day. She mentioned that any amount of money saved can go instead toward other things, like clothing, and it got me thinking about the difference between saving money on a thing vs. actually putting money into a savings account. Mind you, I don't see the point in saving money simply for the sake of saving money. (That's called greed, children.) But I do believe in putting money away for "a rainy day", or for future goals. When you save money on one thing, only to turn around and spend that money on something else, are you really saving money? Or are you just buying more stuff?
I guess the answer to that really depends on what you're buying, and why. In this woman's case, she and her husband don't have a lot of money and they do have two children. Since children grow quickly, and thus out-grow quickly, I think putting a bit more money away for clothing is a very justified reason to spend that money rather than putting it in savings for her other goals. The money saved from one necessary item (food) is going to another necessary item (clothing).
Where I think people run into trouble is when they "save" money on something they don't need ("Look, honey, a new flat-screen for only $300!!") and use that "saved" money to buy more crap they don't need. What on earth is the point of that? That's not saving anything!
In the same way, I hate the checking accounts which automatically move your money from checking to savings to "help" you save money. The commercials always show someone with not a lot of money (like a teacher) who loves it because, "It makes saving so much easier!" Yeah, except when you overdraft your account and rack up major fees because of it. Thanks, Bank. It's not like this feature actually adds any money to your account, it just moves your money around. If you have enough money to save some, it's much better to sit down and figure out just how much you can put into savings every month. Most companies which auto-pay will even put money into different accounts (my U will split your paycheck into up to three different accounts if you want) so you don't have to do any extra work. Set it up and you're good to go. Do you really want your bank (even an automated banking system) to be in charge of your savings, or would you rather be the one in charge? And if you're not making enough money to save some on your own, why on earth would you want your bank to transfer money to a savings account for you? Be in charge of your own money.
I forget why I felt the need to rant about this, but I did. I guess because I see it so often. People will feel so proud of themselves for pinching a few pennies on toilet paper only to go buy the latest and greatest gadget to replace their still working but year-old model. Hello, iPhones! Was anyone else's Facebook page lit up with friends saying things along the lines of, "I can't wait to ditch my iPhone 3 and get the iPhone 4!!!" It's the same way with cars. What on earth is wrong with your 2-year-old car that you need to trade it in and get a new one? I'm very proud of "our" truck. It's old, and yes it gets terrible gas mileage, which is why we will want to replace it at some point (with a newer used car). It doesn't heat well (or really, at all, in the winter) and there are a few quirks. But the fact that it's lasted this long, and in such great condition, is really a testament to the love and care my in-laws put into it. I love that it has so many miles on it. This truck has been up, down, and all around Alaska. And that is something in which I take more pride than any new, shiny, expensive car could give me.
Being frugal isn't always about finding the lowest price. Usually it's more about finding the best deal. Sometimes this means going cheap, but other times it means buying something which will last and pay out over time. The other part of buying something which is built to last, however, is the follow through: you need to hang onto it. Don't be seduced into buying something "newer and better!" simply because it's been discounted slightly. And if you do let yourself be seduced, don't kid yourself. You're not saving anything. The only tried and true method for saving money is to stash money somewhere (in a bank, under your mattress, doesn't matter) and don't touch it. Spending money for something new, no matter how low the price, never equals saving money.