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Frugality: It's like smoking in church

Some people take saving money to extremes, but you can live on a budget without pinching pennies until your fingers bleed.

By Karen Datko Nov 11, 2010 2:07PM

This guest post comes from Lindy at Minting Nickels.


This is Part 2 in a two-part series on my tendency to act like a toddler when it comes to being frugal. You can see Part 1 here, in case you missed it, as well as the Intro here.


Shortly after starting my financial journey (the one in which I realized saving is good, and debt is bad), I came across an article in our local Arizona Republic profiling a family crowned as "Arizona's Thriftiest Family."


The article mostly discussed their scrimping ways, some of which you may be familiar with: using the envelope cash method, popping around town to get the best deals, buying in bulk, being coupon-crazy.

But this family also had some hardcore habits. The mom was known to dig through trash cans at baseball games to collect soda cans. And if they ran out of money in the gas budget during the month, they didn't drive -- no exceptions. Their monthly "personal" budget for haircuts and entertainment was an amount we could easily blow through in one night.


To me, their life sounded Draconian. I sat there with eyes wide while reading. Did I too have to live like this in order to be "responsible"?


Apparently I wasn't alone, because a few days later there was a letter to the editor with just enough snark to make me cheer a little, saying essentially what I was thinking: "Thanks, but no thanks" to this kooky life of thrift.


When I first started reading financial blogs in an effort to make myself more money-smart, I remember thinking, who are these crazy people who make their own laundry detergent and calculate their annual savings for buying gas at the station that's 2¢ cheaper. And are paper towels really so evil?


I felt very much like an outsider looking in on this strange little world.


I suppose it's similar to someone going to church for the first time. Everyone else knows when to stand and when to sit. They know the right way to shake hands during the greeting, and what to do with those little juice cups and wafers.


Not that it's the intention of congregants to make newcomers feel inept. It's just a matter of different cultures.


Then there were the teenagers who would come to church wearing Bad Religion T-shirts, and smoked in the breezeways between services, as if to say, "Hey, I'm open to this whole church thing. That's why I’m here. But I'm letting you know I'm still not one of you."


That's how I was. Smoking in the breezeways of frugal church.

I even started a blog called Minting Nickels to endorse the virtues of making money over saving it. I wanted to set myself apart from "them" (the paper towel haters).


Thankfully, I've matured a little, and realized that the hardcore thrifters really enjoy what they do, and that to some of them it’s innate. It doesn't mean I have to like doing those things, though.


I've also realized that saving isn't so bad, if I find ways to save that I enjoy. It turns out I really enjoy grating a bar of Fels Naptha while making my own laundry detergent. (I'm convinced it's the smell.) I haven't even calculated how much it saves us to do that, but I do it anyway because it makes me feel good. (Do you think I'm kooky now?)


But I'm pretty sure I'll never grow to love coupons.


More from Minting Nickels and MSN Money:

Nov 11, 2010 2:46PM
Sure it makes you feel good to make your own laundry detergent, but sometimes it comes down to convenience and your own precious time.  Do I want to spend extra time in my already busy working mom life to make laundry detergent that may save me $50 a year (more or less, I have no idea), or do I want to spend that time doing something else.  There are other things I do that save money.  Like a very handy husband who can make nice curtain rods out of wood poles that just saved us buying them at the store for $30 each (saved us about $100).  Or the $4 mint condition fall jacket I bought my oldest at Goodwill, because I refuse to pay alot of money for something she'll outgrow in 2 (or less) years.  My sister in law gawks and refuses to buy at Goodwill, but she's not the one raising 2 kids and paying a mortgage so she will never understand.   So she'll continue to buy and use paper plates and cups because she doesn't want to do the dishes (maybe she's saving money on her water bill). 
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