The Pitfalls of Being Too Frugal: The Impact On Your Productivity

May 12, 2021

This week's Failsume mistake of Being Too Cheap is associated with the song "Bag Lady" by Erykah Badu, which encourages women to value ourselves higher than anything else. How are you valuing yourself in your Purposeful Hustle? 

(A Failsume is a list of all my failures and mistakes throughout my career.  The purpose of sharing this information is for you to learn what to avoid when faced with the same situations.)   


This week's failure is about my tendency to be cheap.

I mean really cheap. I'm the type of person who spends extra time looking at paper clips to decide which per-unit price is cheaper. I don't know where it comes from, but, suffice it to say, I'm frugal (I guess that's a nice way to say it).

I just want to make sure when money needs to be spent, it's spent in a wise way.

Sometimes spending money this way can be harmful to me because instead of opting to do something that might be easier and more efficient, I will often decide I can just do it myself.

working until 2 a.m.

One time, I had to put together a 200-page document with color-coded dividers and folders for a presentation - and I needed 15 sets of them! Some pages were in color and some in black and white, and they had to be collated. The binders were big, and I remember going to the print shop and having them print everything for me because I didn't have the printing capacity. 

"You know what, I can just take this home, and I will three-hole punch all of these papers, and then I will put them into the binders and organize them and do all of that."  --> That's what I thought to myself. 

The night before the documents were due, I was in my house at two o'clock in the morning putting together binders. My very, very sweet husband who had been helping me came into the room and asked me a couple of important questions that have really stuck with me. They were a major growth growing point for me. He said:

"Deanna what is your hourly rate?"

"What do you mean?" I replied. I'm an entrepreneur, and even when I was working in a company as a salaried person, an hourly rate wasn't on my mind. 

And so he asked me to spend the time to do the math so I could figure out what I make on an annual basis and then divide that out on an hourly basis to determine the rate. It was interesting because it was the first time I had thought about my time and how it equated to a financial perspective.

The second thing he asked was this:

"How many hours is it taking you to put this presentation together?"

And his follow-up questions were:

"How long have you been working on it?"

"How much longer do you think you're going to work on it?" 

These questions helped me understand how much the project cost. The moment of realization for me was that it would have been significantly cheaper and faster for the printing company to complete the project.

The third question probably hurt the most, but it was also the most important of all. He asked me:

"Is this the highest value that you can be bringing to your purpose, to your mission, to the organization, to what you're trying to move forward?"

Short answer: it wasn't.

I not only had to give those big binders to the committee, but I also was presenting the next day. Did it make sense for me to be up at two o'clock in the morning trying to find page 85 and trying to make sure that all the numbers were in an organized fashion? No, I should have been resting, letting my mind get ready for the big presentation. 

This was not a beautiful moment for me, and, in my attempt to not waste money, I was wasting money, time, and resources - and, quite honestly, talent.

Now I use this concept of an hourly rate in my decision-making. 

When I'm in a position where I have to make a decision about whether I'm going to do something myself or whether I might bring in expertise, I use the hourly rate as a quick way to understand cost-effectiveness. 


It actually might be costing you so much more in energy, time, and efficiency.

Is it draining you physically and spiritually? It could be much cheaper by getting it done someplace else. I highly encourage you to get it off of your plate and put it where it's supposed to be. 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


Deanna Singh failsume v2


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