The Cost of Being Cheap
I used to be cheap. I’d buy the knockoff shoes and clothes. I’d order from the value menu at fast food restaurants. When I needed new furniture, I was in the classifieds or off to find a yard sale. I went years without ever seeing a dentist after breaking my molar. My wife would beg me to go, but I was afraid of how much it would cost to fix even though insurance would cover some of the cost. I was afraid to spend money and that fear actually ended up costing me more money in the long run. It wasn’t until I found out what it means to be frugal that my family’s finances improved.
Those cheap shoes, clothes, and furniture didn’t last very long. I wouldn’t learn my lesson and go out and buy more cheap things that wouldn’t last. Then I’d do it again. When I finally went to the dentist, he informed me of other teeth that had problems, and that it would be expensive to fix. The dentist then said it could have been prevented if I had come earlier.
After many years of being cheap, I’d learned my lesson. I’m not a “name-brand” kind of guy, but I now believe in paying for quality and paying for health. I work retail, so I walk a lot. Those cheap shoes would always, without fail, literally end up coming apart at the seams; it would be embarrassing. I’m not paying $300 for basketball shoes- but I will spend money on something that I know will last.
What It Means To Be Frugal
When I first told my wife that I was going to start a blog called Frugal Husband, she laughed and said, “Yep, you are a cheap husband.” I, of course, took immediate offense. I mean, I used to be cheap, but I was beyond that now. She, like many other people still connect being frugal to being cheap. Sure, I still question the price of things and look for good values, but I do that to so that our money isn’t wasted. Spending money wisely is a part of what it means to be frugal, but frugality involves much more than money.
According to Merriam Webster, being frugal means being careful in the use of one’s money or resources. I believe resources include money, supplies, time, and people. To live a frugal life means to be smart about how you treat your resources. Some people may get offended that I’m calling people a resource, but I’ll explain what I mean later. I feel that by truly living a frugal life, people can not only make their lives better, they can also make the people around them lives better.
Forget About the Joneses
Of course, the first thing people think of when they think of frugal is money. While a cheap person is afraid to spend money, a frugal person is cautious when it comes to spending money. I mentioned earlier that my wife called me cheap. That’s because I always question her when she buys new clothes.
Me: “Don’t you already have a blouse like that at home?”
Her: “No, this one is a different color.”
Me: “You don’t need that, it’s the exact same thing.”
Her: “No, that one is black, this one I gray with different buttons.”
And that’s why I will never write about fashion. The point is, however, that frugal people question everything they buy to make sure it is the best choice for them. It doesn’t mean spending more money or less money. It’s about spending properly.
At my job, I’ve run across people looking to purchase one of the cheapest push mowers to start a yard business. I try to explain to them that a cheap mower won’t be able the handle all of the yards they plan on cutting. Sure enough, a week later, they are back to buy another cheap mower because they wore out the engine on the last one. There was literally one guy who came in over 6 times. He could have gotten 2 professional grade mowers for the amount he spent.
Most people think I’m just trying to upsell them when I try to get them to spend more. But, I really trying to help them save money. There have been times when I’ve told people that they shouldn’t get the more expensive model. “Sir, I don’t think you need this $1000 mower if all you have is a 1000 square foot lawn.” I do that because I know that when they get home, they will regret that they spent money on features they didn’t need. But, these people are trying to keep up with Joneses. The Joneses have a brand new robotic lawn mower (yes they make those). The Joneses also have $50,000 in credit card debt. Don’t be like the Joneses, spend according to your own needs.
Turn Lemons Into Lemon Meringue Pie
Two cheeseburgers, large fries, and a large Dr. Pepper. That’s what I would order for lunch 5 days a week. With tax, the total came to $27.75 a week. I thought that wasn’t bad- that is until my wife was laid off. We had to find a way to cut back. The cable tv went, we had to skip vacation trips, and no more eating out. That last one was harder because neither of us really liked cooking. When we did cook, we couldn’t get the portion control right and always ended up throwing food out.
We decided that we had to do better. $27.75 a week for lunch became $7 a week with sandwich meat, a loaf of bread, and Koolade singles. We learned to cook more often and bought containers for the leftovers. When my wife found a new job we kept up with the cooking. This was not only for saving money, we were actually eating healthier.
During this time period, my family also learned not to just throw things away when they were worn out- we found new uses for them. My son outgrew his racecar bed, and it became a great sandbox. Being frugally minded allows you to stretch your supplies so that you can do more with less. Today, my wife and I are always surprised by how much money we have to spend just on luxuries.
Time To Enjoy Life
A few weeks ago my wife and I had a decision to make. We were going to Orlando on a four-day trip. It’s a 17-hour drive to get to Orlando from Arkansas. We knew we would have to leave early and stop at a hotel half way. The cost including hotels would have been about $400 to drive to and from. We chose to fly round-trip for $1200.
As I mentioned earlier, frugality is being careful with your resources. Time is one of the most valuable resources of all. I really wanted to save that $800, but I knew that if we drove, we’d be too exhausted to enjoy ourselves. By flying, we were able to get to Orlando and not rush.
You can live a happier life, by being frugal with your time. I know plenty of “successful” people that are depressed because they work long hours for money they never get to enjoy. These are the people whose spouse ends up leaving them because they aren’t home enough. What’s the point of working hard for extra money when you can’t enjoy it with your loved ones? There needs to be a balance. Treat time like you treat money.
When you’re working on a task, start thinking about the time it’s going to cost. Then find the most effective and quickest way to complete that task. This is not so you can do more tasks. Use that extra time to enjoy yourself. You budget money for your groceries and bills; budget time to spend with you’re loved ones. Do something fun and stress relieving, or just talk to your spouse. Let them know you care about more than money.
Treating Others With Respect And Dignity
People who are frugal look for ways to be careful with their resources. I’ve already talked about money, supplies, and time. I also consider people a resource- but not in the “I own you” kind of way. I always look for ways to save money and time, but I will never do it at the expense of others.
As a member of management at a retail store, I have to utilize the workers under me to get things done. They are my resources. When I go to work I need to see if the store has the resources to help customers. If too many people call out, then I don’t have to resources. But, as people, they are more than resources.
I’m careful to treat my subordinates with dignity and respect. I realize that the people under me aren’t there to just serve me. They have their own struggles, hopes, and aspirations. When they call out sick, I don’t get angry or threaten their job. I say, “I hope you feel better.” I show them compassion and tell them how much I appreciate them.
You may not be a manager, but I’m sure you have utilized people as resources too. Have you ever hired someone to do your taxes, fix your car, or drive you in a cab? Have a waiter ever brought you your meal. Cheap people would look for any means possible to spend the least amount possible. Frugal people don’t mind paying people what they are worth- this is treating them with dignity.
How would you feel if you did your best work possible for someone and they wanted to cheap out on paying you? Would you want to work for them again? I bet you would feel disrespected. Frugal people don’t mind paying for quality. By paying people what they’re worth, we increase the chances that they would want to work with us again. I guarantee that being cheap will only attract low-quality people in the future.
Go Forth And Be Frugal
I hoped you’ve learned the difference between being cheap and being frugal. It has taken me to learn these lessons. I always thought I was saving money by buying low quilty cheap products. Now I know that in order to save money, I need to think long-term about the products I buy. I use the money I save to spend time with my family because that’s what it’s all about in the end. We go to school, get into debt, and find a nice paying job, not for the money – at least I didn’t. Money is just one means to get the best out of life. So, don’t be afraid to use it to improve your life and those around you.
Thank you for reading what I have to say. If you’ve found this post useful, or if you have any suggestions for improvement, I’d appreciate any feedback in the comments. You can also email me.