Economics of being cheap
October 13, 2007
When I was growing up, my parents worked very hard to instill a sense of respect and frugality in me, which at the time seemed like a huge buzzkill.
I’d come waltzing home, having relieved some smaller boy – and because of my fat kid-idness, there were a lot of them – from his money, wanting to spend it on G.I. Joes or that chemistry set, only to be told I should save it.
It’s just frustrating, like when you are with a girl, rounding first and headed to second when she says, “I think we should pray first.”
“OK, dear little baby Jesus, please let me get to second base tonight. Amen.”
Never worked, not even once.
Growing up, I watched every morning as my dad meticulously cleaned his razor to make the blade last longer. I watched as containers were saved, and no food was ever wasted. I admit, in my teenage angst, to get even, I would sneak away to my room and throw away Q-tips – without using them.
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For all those years that I was thinking my parents were crazy, they were getting to me and I didn’t even know it.
The problem was, the lesson was too effective. So effective in fact that I can’t turn it off, to the point that I can tell you exactly what my account balances are at all times (within about three bucks). It’s creepy. I don’t need a bank register because I can do it in my head.
Let’s see, checking was at $987, then I spent $11 on Twinkies and $5 on the latest issue of Cosm … uh, Guns and Ammo, so that’s $971.
That’s just one of the effects of this little “lesson.” I also tend to maybe, just a tiny bit, over analyze purchases – all purchases. The only thing that gets a free pass is food, because, well, it’s my safety blanket. My wonderful cream-filled safety blanket.
Take for example, my coffee grinder. Ever since the tender age of 11 when I first tasted that sweet, life-giving nectar, I have wanted a coffee grinder. So I finally decided to buy one last year.
After three months of trying to convince myself that I really did need it, I reluctantly bought one.
Total cost: $21.67.
I haven’t purchased or downloaded a new CD in about 18 months. I just can’t convince myself that it’s worth the $12; it just seems extravagant.
Yet this little dysfunction does have one upside. When I was first out of college, my frugality helped me survive. There were months that I’d hold on with less than a dime in my bank account until payday because I was cheap.
Sure, my clothes got so bad that homeless people wouldn’t take them, and treating myself consisted of filling the gas tank “all the way up,” but I survived.
Yet I didn’t really think I was different until the other day. I was talking to a friend of mine about how her bills were piling up and she only had $250 left in her checking account – and that scared her.
I look at it slightly differently.
Her: “Oh, no, I only have $250 left. Time to tighten the belt.”
Me: “Oh, sweet, I’ve got $250 bucks left. Q-tips for everybody!”
I know, I know, there is something wrong with me and I should fix it.
But, well, therapy is expensive.
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• Jarid Shipley is the features editor for the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at email@example.com or 881-1217.