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After you fit in little luxuries, frugal is what’s left

Submitted by on Tuesday, 23 February 2010 One Comment

I consider myself to be a fairly thrifty person. Not as tight as my grandfather who recycled coffee grounds – for brewing, not gardening – but I’m hardly a spendthrift in most areas.

For example, when Dad suggested trading in my 6-year-old car when he gets back from deployment, my immediate reaction was, “Why on Earth would I want to do that?” It’s low mileage, it runs well and, best of all, it’s paid for.

Still, when Lisa over at My Thoughts, Ideas and Ramblings wrote a post this week asking readers for ways to save money, I had little to offer. Like Lisa, I don’t do coupons. Also like Lisa, I live in a high-cost housing area, so there’s not much to be saved on that front either. Yes, the military pays a housing allowance but in other parts of the country that allowance goes a lot farther than it does in California.

And how can I claim I’m frugal considering the chunk of change we drop every year on NASCAR and baseball?

It took me a day or so to wrap my brain around it, but I finally came up with a theory closely related to a dieting plan that lets me eat cheesecake once in a while as long as I eat salad more often: Frugal should not mean deprivation. There are areas in life where I’m going to spend money because doing so makesĀ  me happier.

Coffee: I buy bags of beans that cost more for a pound – about a 10-day supply for me – than my parents spend for a can of coffee that lasts a month. On the other hand, that pound still costs less than I was spending for my cup-a-day at work.

Chocolate: If I’m in proximity to a See’s candy store, you better believe I’m leaving with a box. It will last several weeks, though, because I savor the richness one tiny piece at a time. I could buy several bags of cheaper chocolate for the same price, but it wouldn’t be the same euphoric experience.

Shoes for the big people: Dad replaced the clown shoes when he was here for his recent leave, after a first sergeant finally convinced him of what I’d been preaching for years. Be good to your feet, and they will be good for you. As happy coincidence had it, we were able to find a deal at a nearby outlet mall that gave Dad and me both new shoes for $89 total. Mine will last a couple of years; I don’t run five miles a day.

I reverse this philosophy when it comes to the guys, which is why they have sneakers instead of indoor soccer shoes. I’m not about to pay $50 for a pair with a five-week life span.

Sports: We’re getting a price break right now because Dad’s deployed, but I still would have paid full price to register the guys for baseball and karate. Active kids are healthy kids. Busy kids don’t have as much time to think about missing Dad.

Internet: I recently upgraded to fiber optics, which cost us an extra $30 a month. It’s worth it. It’s our communications, my livelihood and our entertainment.

So where does frugality come in amid all this extravagance?

We don’t dine out often, and we rarely go to movies. I buy few processed foods, and lunch is leftovers. The only “brand” clothes the guys wear are Toughskins, and that’s because the reinforced knees last Big Guy a few weeks longer than normal jeans survive.

For me, being frugal isn’t about squeezing every penny. It’s about making choices. We can’tĀ  have everything, but we find a way to have what’s most important to us.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Lisa said:

    I agree with you! We give up some things so we can splurge where we want too.