My husband and I allocate $10 to $20 of free money to ourselves each week. We call it “walking around money”. But I rarely see anything I need, so most weeks, mine ends up tucked away to be saved for later. I want to spend my money on something I’ll really value.
But I’ve always been scared that maybe I’m actually just a little bit cheap.
Some years ago, I went out for dinner occasionally with a group of coworkers. One of them, I’ll call him Mike, never ordered anything even though he seemed to have as much money as the rest of us. He asked for a glass of water and watched us eat while he drummed his fingers on the table or played with his napkin. When someone set a fork down or paused to converse, Mike would lean in. “Are you going to eat that?” he’d ask. Usually someone would push a basket of fries or a salad across the table to him.
Mike had many fine qualities, but frankly, it could be less than fun to hang out with him.
I’ve always been vigilant about paying my share, but I’ve held onto a fear that somewhere deep down, I’m cheap. I’ve just never enjoyed spending money. Malls and box stores are some of my least favorite places. And, with the exception of books (which I never seem to have enough of), I don’t really want much more stuff. I feel like I have more than enough.
So the other night, when I heard economist Chris Farrell on the radio talking about his book The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better, I felt an almost palpable sense of relief when he said:
Frugality is not the same thing as cheapness … Frugality is the exact opposite. Frugality is an embracing of quality. It’s an embracing of experiences. It’s really trying to look at, What are we spending our money on? Why are we spending this money?
He explains that many Americans have had to become more frugal because of the sour economy. But frugality can be more fun than the mindless consuming many of us got in the habit of doing in the previous decade, because we end up spending money on what we really want. And frugality is about looking at why we’re working and what kind of difference we want to make in the world.
He also says, “Being green and being frugal, it’s the same thing, and it’s self-reinforcing.”
Yes! That’s exactly how I look at money.
You can listen to the interview with Chris Farrell on American Radioworks here.
Has the bad economy made you more frugal?