I am very, very cheap.
This is neither a confession nor should it be a surprise to anyone who’s read The Non-Consumer Advocate for more than a week or two. It’s simply a fact, a fact I’m proud of. I keep myself stocked with ponytail holders by picking them up off the ground, I bring home the abandoned leftovers from my mother’s guest cottages and I do all my own beauty care. I color my own hair, beg free haircuts from my sister and use the waxing kit from the drugstore for my, umm . . . Mario and Luigi needs.
But I would like to think that within my cheapness lies a certain generosity.
Yes, I nab the cheapest option for school volunteer opportunities, (“clean up” rather than “bring cupcakes”) but I am still doing my due diligence as a parent volunteer. We’re currently housing a former Japanese exchange student without accepting payment and we’ve sponsored a Zambian girl through Childfund over the past eight years. I’m not as generous as some, but I figure that I’m more generous than others.
But I will always try and figure out free or cheap solutions to life’s daily expenditures.
I just finished listening to the audiobook of Maeve Binchy’s Chestnut Street. (Wonderful, I highly recommend it!) This collection of short stories features a character who’s so frugal as to be considered “mean.” (British term for someone who is both cheap and ungenerous.) At first I was excited to have this character, but as the stories were set as morals, this guy was far from being a source of inspiration. He marries a woman because she’s financially solvent and then forces her to work after hours, and generally delights in his cheapness at the expense of all others in his life. (I wish I could include a quote or two, but since it was an audiobook, the words are next to impossible to capture.)
Needless to say, there was no generosity within his cheapness.
I asked Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group members this question:
“Do you ever catch yourself being too cheap? What do you do that others consider to be crossing the line of acceptable frugality?”
Here are just a few from the many answers.
“My cheapo confession is that we sometimes fish coke codes out of the trash or off the side of the road. Have gotten $100+ worth of gift cards and we don’t drink soda.”
“Most things I do the “average” family thinks of as “too cheap.” No credit cards, no tv, no wifi (though that is changing very soon due to a college student) no computer at home (ditto), no go-away vacations, no fake nails, no spa/salon visits, no “essential” mani/pedi/waxing (ok, I wax my eyebrows–but at home!), almost no eating out etc for maybe birthdays, no hording coupons (I don’t buy much of that stuff), no new decorating every time I’m bored (I did do the bathroom this year because it was all over 10 years old and from a previous house, but got everything on clearance), I could go on and on and on. When a friend applied for a mortgage they asked how much for fake nails! I was gobsmacked. This country no longer has the ability to tell a want from a need!”
“I will tell you something that crossed the line, IMO. Before we had kids, we stayed with my aunt and uncle out of state for three nights. They told me I could not shower — at all — while we were there, and they didn’t flush the toilet until it “was full.” Ewww! The whole house smelled, really. My hubby went to the bathroom, then flushed, and it overflowed. To this day, that is one of his most horrifying memories. We never stayed there again! ”
I personally can’t imagine a time when I would stop employing creative cheap/frugal solutions to everyday problems. (Even if I did win the lottery.) My cheapness allows my family to pay for things like a summer in Japan, (my son leaves on Thursday!) and frees up my time and money. If I worked full time, it would be difficult to host exchange students, and thrifting for life’s necessities would be too time consuming.
My daily cheap life gives me the wiggle room to live the life I want. If my cheapness means that I have the time and money for the important stuff, then there’s no such thing as too cheap.
Do you embrace a cheap lifestyle that allows for generosity? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.