The economics of being cheap
October 16, 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 kididness, 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.”
Never worked, not even once.
Growing up, I watched every morning as my dad maliciously 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.
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 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 its 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 pay day 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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