Cheap or Frugal?

Piggy BankCheap or Frugal… that is the question. When I was growing up I didn’t know what being poor was. Everyone we knew, both family and friends, all seemed to live the same way and have the same stuff. We all had the same problems too. If a clothes washer broke, you fixed it. If you needed a cup of flour you went to a neighbor to borrow one. We all worked and we all shared.

BarbieIt wasn’t until I was about 9 or 10, that the girl who lived next to us, who almost never came outside and she never-ever played with the other 20 kids in the neighborhood, came over to talk to me. It was Christmas day and I was so happy because I just received a blonde haired Barbie doll that came with a hair comb, hair brush and a curling iron: I was ecstatic. This was the first time in my memory that I could ever remember getting something that I wanted. Usually we received homemade items or stuff from the local Salvation Army. But this time I had a beautiful doll and I could curl her hair!! Anyway, this girl Kathy came over to talk to me while I was on the front porch. She was a year younger than I was and quite haughty for her age.  She wanted to know what I had received for Christmas. I was so excited to share my good news over my new doll that I just started talking about her and the two or three others gifts that I had received. When I was done talking she got a really smug look on her face, than she proceeded to tell me about all the gifts she had received for Christmas and there were loads of them. I was stunned at how many gifts she had received! Suddenly I realized why she had come outside to talk to me and it had nothing to do with being friends, she wanted to brag.

SunglassesAs I aged, I often encountered other people who also feel the need to show off what they have; fancy cars, big homes, big screen tv, Versace sunglasses, etc. Sometimes I become envious, but for the most part it all seems ridiculous to me that people spend so much on status symbols.

CalculatorThis point was driven home a few days ago when I went to have my taxes done. While I was talking to my account about putting more money into our IRA accounts to offset our income, I started feeling really bad about how little we have from a financial perspective. The accountant, a really nice fella, must have noticed because he told me that my husband and I have a lot more in savings than other people. It seems that he does a lot of taxes for some of the richest ranchers and outfitters in Montana and many of these people are making half a million or more a year and they have $0.00 in their savings account. According to them, they simply cannot find any extra money to set aside for a rainy day. At first I thought he was trying to make me feel better, but then I realized that he was serious.

Suddenly I didn’t feel ashamed of putting the $20.00 that I saved on groceries last pay period into the savings account. I was actually being praised for how I managed our finances. For 12 years we have literally had to scrimp and scrape just to make ends meet each month, but we did it. Creative finance I call it. Now that we have an empty nest we can save a little bit each month. Because of the harsh financial times that we have encountered it is quite literally like we are starting from scratch when it comes to our savings accounts, but we at least have them! Wahh Hoo!!!

Most people have had tough times at some point in their lives. Whether is is emotional, physical or financial issues, this I know for sure, baby steps make a huge difference. Just because we can’t see the finish line, does not mean it is not there. Know that it is, know that all the little steps you take toward your goals are going to add up to one huge end result. Know that things are not always what they seem to be. Someone driving a new BMW and parking it outside Princeton, NJ mansion might just have a negative net worth value, you never know.

Cheap or Frugal… Toe-MAE-Toe or Toe-Meh-Toe


16 thoughts on “Cheap or Frugal?

  1. Really true. You can’t tell who has money by how they look, act, or dress. As an investment manager I worked with people who lived way too high, and others who scratched and scraped when they didn’t need to. Better to just not worry about how others are doing.

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  2. I too am surprised by how many people live on credit, way beyond their means, just so they can have the latest phone or a nicer car. I never had much growing up, but we always had plenty of food from the cattle and garden, and lots of books and music. I am so grateful now to have had that upbringing.

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  4. I noticed years ago that I don’t own things, they own me. All I really have that matters is time, and if I have more clothes it means more time shopping, washing, changing, storing, altering, etc. Just enough is plenty. Stick to your plan!

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  5. We’ve been frugal forever and, frankly, i feel it’s the smartest way to be. I have some friends that have been living high on the hog and now hard times have hit and it’s a sad sight. When we hit hard times we continue to live well because we are prepared. That $20 adds up to thousands in the end.


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