As I ripped up a piece of paper at work the other day, I smiled at my co-worker and said, “frugal shredder.”
He pointed out that it was really a cheap shredder and did not do as good a job as an actual shredder. A frugal shredder would do the same job, but for less over time. Darn engineers – always right.
It did get me thinking though – there is a difference between being frugal and being cheap. In my mind, frugal means that you want to get the most for your money and therefore spend it carefully. On the other hand, cheap implies that you will just spend as little as possible, no matter what.
Sometimes the budget is so tight that cheap is necessary.
When you can swing it, frugal is better in the long run.
Here is one example – I somehow manage to plow through the vacuums. Maybe I am a super-duper-vacuumer? I’m not sure, but it seemed like every 12-18 months, we were facing a broken beyond repair vacuum situation and were spending over $125 a pop to get a new one. In 2003, I was wooed by the promise of no bags and no loss of suction by Mr. Dyson. We bought the first Dyson Animal and LOVED it. It served us faithfully for over 9 years to the tune of $400 – in fact, it still does a good enough job in the basement most of the time. It would have cost me more like $750 to vacuum for those 9 years if I had continued with my 18 month cycle. So, over 9 years I saved $350 and about 5 trips to the store. Works for me.
Sometimes being frugal is not about how much you spend, but whether you buy at all. Example 2 – I don’t really love to shop, but I do get a bit giddy when I find myself in Target (or any store) with a nice clearance selection to shop. Can I get something lovely for cheap? Oh, it is so fun. Unfortunately for my fun side, my frugal side has caught up with me. I have put waaaaay too many cute clearance finds in the Goodwill box over the past years. It finally dawned on me that buying it just because it is cheap actually costs more than NOT buying it because I don’t need it and can live without it in the long run. In this case, spending less up front is the more frugal option.
It can be tricky – frugal vs cheap. And sometimes I find myself trying to use being “frugal”as an excuse to get what I want. Ever think something like this? “Well, this one is more, but the quality is so much better.” And you know that it is probably not that big of a difference – you just want the nicer thing? Or want to buy something for yourself when renting it or borrowing it or doing without it would do? I have been there, too.
So, as usual, nothing is simple! But, these are some thing to consider when you are thinking of making a purchase – big or small.