Did you truly save money driving 15 miles to save 20 cents on a bottle of soda? Was that $4 bargain shirt that lasted a few months really a bargain?
In a recent Harris Poll, 62 percent of respondents said they are likely in the next six months to cut back on eating out, and 59 percent said they will reduce entertainment spending -- up from 59 percent and 55 percent, respectively, last year. More Americans also said they are switching to generic brands and brown-bagging their lunches, according to the poll. But some other penny-pinching tactics can end up costing you money instead.
"You think you're being frugal, trying to save money on certain things," says Danny Kofke, author of "A Simple Book of Financial Wisdom." "But sometimes in the long run, you end up spending more because you went cheap."
For example, "People may obsess over small dollars on large transactions," says certified public accountant Clare Levison, author of "Frugal Isn't Cheap." "I've seen $200,000 plus houses where people are arguing over less than $1,000 worth of issues, such as repairs or carpeting."
Want to avoid these types of penny-wise, pound-foolish moves? Read what these frugal-living experts say are six of the worst money-saving attempts.
1. Pursuing grocery store "deals"
Trying to save money on food can backfire when you're driving all over town to shop and stockpiling so-called discount food you don't need, Kofke and Levison say.
"One week a store will have Coke on sale and another store will have a different deal you want," Kofke says. "People will go to three different grocery stores 10 miles apart when gas is so expensive."
Instead of driving all over town, Kofke says, learn the stores' sales cycles. If you skip the drive to buy Coke on sale this week, you can stock up in six weeks when it goes on sale again, he says.
Also keep in mind that free or discounted food you don't need is no bargain, Levison says. "People end up with rooms full of stuff that their family couldn't possibly use and sometimes doesn't even like. It's wasteful if you're not going to use it."
2. Buying poor-quality clothing
When Kofke was starting out being frugal, his goal to save money on clothes occasionally backfired. "After a year and a half, the cheap shirts I had bought would fade, wear out and wouldn't look as good anymore," he says. "We'd have to throw them away."
Instead of focusing only on price, look for quality brand-name clothes at off-price retailers, Kofke says. "They last longer than shirts you can buy for a dollar or two," he says.
3. Saving too much on a used car
Kofke gives similar advice for buying cars. He recommends his readers save money by buying used cars. But he also advises spending a couple thousand dollars more and getting a better used car as opposed to buying ultra cheap and then getting "nickled and dimed to death" on repairs.
4. Committing to a gym for too long
This time, you're really going to exercise -- so you sign a long-term contract for a gym membership. You go for a few months and then you're back on the couch.
"Signing a long-term commitment for a gym membership can be a bad move," Levison says. "You might save $5 or $10 a month by signing up for a year. Then you don't use it -- so it really wasn't a better deal. It might be a better idea to pay more monthly until you're sure you're going use it. At the end of three months if you decide you're going to quit going to the gym, you can just stop. You haven't committed yourself to a year's worth of payments."
5. Opting for too-cheap daycare
You may be tempted to save a couple of hundred dollars a month on daycare costs by signing up with the cheapest provider, but if the care is low quality and leaves you in the lurch, you may lose those savings and more, Levison says.
"You don't have to sign your child up for a prep school-style kindergarten," Levison says. "But lot of times there isn't a huge financial difference between quality care and bad care. "
There's a huge difference, however, in other ways, she says. "If your child care isn't reliable, you may have to take vacation days and miss important meetings," Levison says. "You may become an unreliable employee and as a result of that lose your job or be passed over for promotions."
6. Haggling excessively on a home sale
You have a willing buyer for your house -- with a catch. The buyer is demanding expensive repairs or other costly changes that you don't want to pay for. But are you really saving money if you skip a $500 repair but have to make three more $1,200 mortgage payments while you find another buyer?
"People get stuck on, 'I am absolutely not going to negotiate on this,'" Levison says. "They are seeing the immediate financial outlay rather than the long term cost. That means they end up making their mortgage payment another few months until they get a deal in place."