Pinching-pennies_16-Feb-2015

Thanks to the munificence of Spo-fans far and near and well over four feet I now have a treasure-trove of topics upon which to write reflections. Who needs The Muses, Graces, Norns, and Skanks with their exuberant fees when I have this?* One suggested I write about frugality. I suspect what she she really wants to know is whether I am frugal or cheap. 

One should start with definitions viz. what does it mean to be frugal compared to being cheap. Being cheap is about spending less; being frugal is about prioritizing spending. Thems who are cheap are fearful to spend money; they are willing to sacrifice quality/value and time for short-sighted savings. Thems who are frugal are resourceful with their immediate spending so they can later fund big picture wants. 

With that said I can never determine whether or not I am frugal or cheap. Perhaps I am a little bit of both. This is illustrated in our weekly visits to Uncle Albertsons. We don’t have a food budget but buy what we think we need or want. The purchased items are a schizophrenic collection of imperial tis-bits and store-brand sale items. Price doesn’t matter to me – sometimes. Example: I like proper no-rubbish parmesan cheese. I buy it in wedges rather than in sawdust form sold green and yellow cylinders. I’ve done the research; I’ve discovered a Wisconsin brand of parm that is ‘good enough’ compared to the Italian stuff – and it is a fraction of the price. I pay more for Kellygold Irish butter because dammit it tastes better than the rest. Then I get cheap and buy the lowest priced sugar in the store on the grounds it is all the same and the higher cost bags are just hype. After finding the least expensive canned corn down the isle I go I get the organic oregano hand-picked by organic farmers at 3AM – five times the price of McCormicks as the former sounds better.**

I forgo buying clothes (long past when I ought to) to save money for vacations. When on holiday I don’t bother being frugal or cheap. I find it silly to go to a foreign city and then eat only fast-food and cheap eats to save money.  “One doesn’t go on vacation to save money” my Father used to say. However I scan the menus for the more modest priced meals and drinks. 

Over the years I’ve become less concerned about saving money than about saving time. I am willing to shell out the bucks if it brings down waiting time.***  I am quite OK to spend several more hundreds of dollars on airplane itineraries if it means saving travel and layover time. 

I earn a good income, more than most I suppose. I don’t have to be that frugal but seven generations of New England/Midwest ancestry forbids me to live lavish lest Heaven strikes me down for my prodigal pastimes. In a way it feels good to have all three approaches going to some degree: frugal mostly, cheap sometimes, and lavish when indicated. 

 

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*No Spo-fan has sent me a bill so far, not even Travel Penguin who is known for his reasonable attorneys fees and modest billing hours. 

**Someone is not cheap but frugal; he is a wiz at purchasing economics. He can look at a row of tomatoes in various-sized tins and deduce which one is the best buy for the buck per pound.

**This is the exception where Someone is a bit cheap. We won’t spend money on a char to come clean the place but we ‘do it ourselves’ because we can and it saves money. In the end this is infrequently accomplished and done never as good as a professional (at least when I do it) and worse it consumes a lot of time.