How to Save Money » Frugal Living

The Frugal Life – Frugal Fails

We know that MapleMoney readers are a savvy bunch – quite possibly the best deal-finders in all of Canada. You can whip out those coupon binders faster than someone can say Scanning Code Of Practice. You have coupon policies memorized by store, possibly in several languages. You dream of savings and calculate subtle nuances of WUB2 in your thrifty sleep.

You live for Checkout 51, Optimum Points and Ebates. In fact, one day you may figure out how to buy a house with a coupon. And mail-in rebate. And create an overage so you get the hot tub for free.

However, while we often celebrate frugal victories and bargain brags here, this is not that post. Oh no, my friends, this is confession time.

Roll up your sleeves and send in your frugal fails! And, to get the ball rolling, I will send you mine. It’s only fair. I hope writing about it will ease the sting. It happened not too long ago.


You may recognize me as the Frugal Family Fun writer — encouraging families to maximize their fun, while minimizing their spending. Recently, I had an awesome family night with my kids using balloons. I spent $1.25 on the balloon pack, and a few dollars on Tim Hortons Timbits to decorate. Everything else I had on hand.

Balloon competitions, science experiments, and edible balloon desserts — we had it all.

As a grand finale, I suggested borrowing the movie “Up” from the library, as it is the perfect family balloon film. I proudly found the last copy of “Up” in the Local Library System and had it sent to the library right by my house, saving both time and money.

Up Movie

I scooped up the baby and headed in to pick it up. I wrestled the baby into his car seat, buckled up (safety first!) and drove home, only to realize that I did not have the DVD. Suspecting the DVD was on top of the van when I pulled away, I flew back to the library.

The case awaited me just a few feet from where I had parked. But it was empty. A few more feet away I found the actual DVD. But it had been “puddled” and run over ever-so-slightly.

Broken DVD

Blast. Not-so-frugal family fun night DVD charge = $30.

And my kids didn’t even get to see the movie. Lucky for me, they were more concerned about cheering me up, than missing the film: priceless.

As a writer, I hear that rejection letters are good — they show that I am actually producing material. Likewise, wear your Frugal Fail badge proudly, as it shows you regularly strive to pinch those pennies. With much success, comes the occasional [ahem] learning opportunity.

And tomorrow is a new day.

So if you see me paying my lost DVD charge at the library, give a wave, and pass me a tissue. Probably from a box you got free with coupons.

What “frugal fail” will you share? Big or little, we’d love to hear from you. Send your submission here.


  1. Mo

    I’ve had to pay for a library movie too, we have the case, just no disc! It’s lost in our house somewhere, but that didn’t stop me from having to pay $18 for a really old Fireman Sam dvd that no child ever takes from the library anymore. Considering how many movies we get from the library each week for free, it’s a small price to pay.

    • Karen

      Oh boy! Fireman Sam should never cost that much. Of course, you will find it now that you have paid your fine cuz that’s the way it goes, right? You can hold your head high knowing that my library system charges a flat rate of $30, so tell yourself you saved $12 (instead of spending $18)….it’s all about our self-talk.

  2. sally

    My frugal fail: thinking, “I’ll just buy one to try and then go back TOMORROW to get more if I like it.” It’s a mistake to wait for tomorrow. When I went back, the rest was gone. On a trip to Georgia, we saw Psaltzcraft glass bowls in a clearance centre for $1.00, regular $29.99, and picked up two. We had such great comments on these that we should have taken as many as our car could hold. We still have them today and kick ourself when we wish we could have gotten more. Lesson learned.

    Now if I see an amazing deal like, regular $6.99, sale $0.94, I will buy as much as I need. I will return them to the store if they are not a great product — works if it is not a final sale item.
    *end confession*

    • Karen

      Very true – I do this all the time as well. It’s hard to decide if I will regret not buying more, or if I will regret buying too many. Can you tell I battle indecision?

  3. Sarah

    Love it! Boy, I have certainly had my share of fails!! Most recently – I tried “improving” a DIY recipe, only to have formed a vinegar and baking soda volcano on my stove (and then cabinets, floors, etc). Waste of ingredients and what a MESS! Frugal Flop!

    • Karen

      Volcanoes are definitely one of those things that you want only in the right place at the right time.
      My friend once splattered chocolate pudding on every square inch of her kitchen, right down to the spice rack.
      That’s a sure sign we are just meant to go back to bed.

  4. Rosemary

    My frugal fail? I had 2$ coupons on yogurt that was on sale for 1.99! So exciting since we literally live on yogurt around here. I took my 23 yes 23 coups to the store bought 23 no fat yogurts. Popped them in the freezer. When we finished the yogurt we had on the go already took two out defrosted them and soon found out 0% doesn’t freeze!!!!!
    I am now using them for cakes and cookies and the alternative to dairy and yesterday my youngest used some in my Mom’s day pancakes….sigh.

    • Karen

      I would not have known that about 0% yogurt not freezing. Maybe we should write a post on “101 uses for yogurt” so it won’t be a fail after all. 🙂

  5. natasha

    lol your too funny, i am looking right now to buy a house,, i have a coupon for a free home inspection worth 350.00 lol see i am frugal hahahahah

    • Karen

      That is awesome that you have a coupon for the inspection! Here I just thought I was being cheeky! 🙂

  6. Cora-Lee

    Just last night was my fail actually. I was at a checkout, coupons in one hand and flyers in the other. I was a matching couponing mom ready to get my savings on. I matched and couponed almost every item in my family of 6 cart. My daughter and I were so proud of ourselves. Then I hear that extra scan beep and a void and a beep beep. The cashier looks at the receipt and she is satisfied. Since she is, I am. Then on the last item I hear another beep, void, beep beep. More voids and a few more beeps. I asked to look at the receipt. We had already saved so much money. The cashier was so flustered. I threw so much at her and she had done a good job. I felt bad so I said it was all ok. After we left and I checked my receipt, with all the beeps and voids, I was over charged just over $10. All that saving and matching only to be double charged a few items. I should have not done as many items at once and I knew I didn’t recognize the cashier. She was new. Better luck to us next time.

    • Karen

      It can be a flustery check-out moment at the best of times. Especially with new cashiers and glaring customers behind us in the line. I have gone back to the store and had overages reversed. They should believe you, especially if you can show many VOIDS etc. on the receipt. Good luck!

  7. Tania

    My fail is that that bad, but I was disappointed when it happened. I went to Walmart this weekend and purchased a box of family size Cherrios on sale for $3.97 and wanted to use a $0.75 coupon that I had. Once at the cash, I placed the coupon on the top of the box, thinking the cashier had seen me put it there. Once he scanned the box I told him that my coupon should be right on the box but it had disappeared God knows where… I looked everywhere around the cash and couldn’t find it… the cashier didn’t seem to care and I had to buy my Cheerios without a coupon…

    • Josie

      Always make sure you tell the cashier about the coupons and NEVER place coupons or money on the belt!!!!!!!!!!

      Your coupon most likely went into the abyss of the belt. Sometimes it can be recovered but sometimes it cannot be recovered! 🙁

  8. tracey

    i got a 1/2 off haircut for both kids at melonheads from a group buying site–headed down for their cuts–great experience- got back to the car to see a parking ticket!! grrrrr!!! after paying parking ticket- haircuts cost me regular retail cost!

    • Karen

      Oh dear – that is tragic! My hubby did something similar recently – he bought a few items from Salvation Army and had a parking ticket awaiting him when he got back to the car.
      We should start a support group. 🙂

  9. Michelle

    Take home highlight-your-own-hair kits….they make it look so easy at the salon, don’t they? Thankfully my friend took one for the team, bravely went first, and paid a hefty salon bill the next day to fix the disaster. It pains me to pay lots of money for things I wish I could do myself. But sometimes, you just have to let the experts do their thing!! 🙂

    • Karen

      You are so right, Michelle. I convinced my sister to let me highlight her hair at home and her lovely blondeness turned a fairly obnoxious orange. The more I blow dried, the worse it got. Big time panic call to the pros!

  10. Lisa Anne

    What a bummer Cassie. My coupon fail was placing a high value coupon on the belt of the check out and the cashier picking up the last item to scan it and the belt on auto and my coupon disappearing under the belt. The cashier tried to look for it but could not see it. My coupon and my savings lost, I did not purchase the item. I left my contact information with customer service but I did not receive a call and when I inquired about the maintenance I was told it would have been discarded. I felt so depleted after this mishap because I thought I was on top using a high value coupon and saving so much money. Sometimes you cannot win for loosing. I have not ever put my coons on the belt since them!!!

  11. theresa

    Once I had a FPC, i cannot remember what product it was for but I remember that I was excited to get it for free. lol Somehow managed to lose the FPC at the cash. Couldnt find it everywhere, ended up paying full price for the product. Another time, Canadian Tire had dawn dish soap on sale for $1, had a coupon from p&g buy 2 save $1, for some reason one picked up one bottle of dawn and only realized when I was at the cashier checking out. Didnt have time to go back so I only bought 1 bottle for $1 instead of 2 for $1

  12. Justine

    I’m really bad at not paying attention at the checkout! There have been numerous incidents at zehrs (you’d think I’d learn my lesson) where they haven’t taken the 50% off….and another time I was charged $10 for vegan cheese that was on clearance for .94 or something cheap! Another time I paid $7 for a box of mini wheats at sobeys bc I didn’t realize I had given the cashier my FPC!

    • Eva

      Loblaws stores used to have a policy that if you catch a price error then you get the product for free. I have received several things for free while shopping at the Real Canadian Superstore but you have to catch it. Maybe that will be an incentive to keep an eye on the items being rung through. 🙂

      • Karen

        You are right – it is a good motivator to watch the prices being rung through. Many stores honour this policy called Scanning Code of Practice. If the item is under $10, you get it for free and if it is more than $10, you get $10 off.

  13. Renata

    I was very pregnant, last summer, and it was hot… I searched through town to find the pet store who would have the cat food I could have for free with my mail in rebate. Walked my long way there, bought the food, and walked back. The rather small bag was 20$ (I usually spend about 7-8$ for my cat’s food). I fill in the form and cut out the CUP from the bag, only to realize that it is the wrong brand! 20$!!!! Aaaargh!

    • Karen

      Oh do I ever feel your pain…especially since you were pregnant. Double AARGH!!!!

  14. Janice Connolly

    Not a coupon but a frugal fail. My husband went to get a “free” piece of gyproc from a buddy at a construction site. We only needed a small piece for a repair. While he was leaving he backed up into a concrete post ripping the mirror off my van and damaging the door. End price $300 deductable to repair the van for the “free” gyproc.

    • Karen

      What a sick feeling! Kind of like the feeling I have now that Boston just scored their fourth goal….yikes.

  15. Margaret

    I don’t know whether this is my failure or SDM’s. SDM was having spend $50 get a $10 gc. I spent $65 which as a good couponer I took down to $52.00. Mission accomplished I thought. However I decided to use my $30.00 in points to bring the total down to $22(with the $10 card it would bring it down to $12,00) before she applied the points the cashier informs me if you use your points you won’t qualify for the $10 card. WHAT!!! I used the points and walked away with paying the $22 and no card.

    • Olivia

      Unfortunately for us,their policy is any bonus giveaways are after points redeemptions. If you bought everything on that bill on sale, you were ahead anyway, IMO. Great job with the coupons!

      • Margaret

        Thanks Olivia….In this economy every penny counts…..

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