Tax season always turns my attention back to spending habits—mine and others. I am not exactly a Ms. Moneybags, nor a penniless pauper. I am somewhere in between. I lust after BOGO sales and celebrate when gas prices drop below $3.00. But I can also shock my debit card with a hefty swipe after a “big occasion” dinner out with family and friends.
New Year’s resolutions included a personal promise to monitor my daily spending and figure out why there was always more month than money. I am still working on that, but I determined that spending is just in my genes. My mother was a born shopper, and it’s been a challenge for me to fight the high that comes with recreational shopping. Bad day? New shoes! Failed diet? Dinner out with a side trip to Cheese Cake Factory. I’ve replaced the buying-urge with cyber-window shopping and dinners out with gourmet frozen dinners. But I know from the friends I have cultivated over the years, that I have a long way to go before I can be called thrifty—but never cheap.
Thrifty is saving your brown paper or plastic shopping bags for re-use. Cheap is using the bags as car floor-mats. Thrifty is buying coffee at McDonald’s instead of Starbucks. Cheap is adding water to the dregs of the McDonald’s cup purchased three days ago. Thrifty is leasing a vacation condo with kitchen facilities. Cheap is packing a dozen cans of tuna in your carry-on for a seven-day vacay. Thrifty is buying a lovely bouquet of roses at the local grocery for your love. Cheap is shopping from the 50 percent off bin of wilted plants and posies. And on it goes…
One of the most unusual incidents of thrifty bordering on, you know what, was a birthday picnic years ago staged by my mother-in-law who instilled the virtue of saving in both her sons, one of whom was my husband. Unfortunately, my father-in-law passed away unexpectedly three months prior to the summer picnic. When I asked where she kept the paper plates, mother-in-law (may she RIP) directed me to the cupboard where all I could find was a stack of plain white plates embossed with “Johnson and Sons Funeral Home,” remainders of the après-funeral casserole-a-thon. “You can put them out,” she told me, “I’ve got dozens.” So what do you think? Thrifty or just plain cheap?