The other day I stopped writing and left the room to go to the euphemism. (We didn’t say “potty” in our house.) As I walked out I turned off the office light even though I’d be gone only about a minute.
At lunchtime I rummaged in the fridge for some cheese, the sausage I brought with me to Alaska and the mustard. The nearly empty bottle was upside down, so the last few drops would be attainable – just enough left for my lunch.
It’s 50 degrees, breezy and raining but I didn’t turn up the heat. I just put on another layer, my fleece Mr. Rebates pullover. (Only recently did I figure out that the logo is a little bag of money wearing glasses. Or maybe it just has googly eyes.)
Welcome to automatic frugality – stuff that’s so ingrained you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Only when someone reacts do you learn that the whole world doesn’t write grocery lists on junk-mail envelopes or pick up pennies from sidewalks.
If you’re lucky, that person doesn’t think you’re a kook. If not, then the wedding is off or you don’t get that promotion after all.
Automatic or pathetic?
These are the things we do without thinking, because:
- We were raised that way. (I can still hear my mom saying, “Close that door! Were you born in a barn?”)
- We’ve gone through tough times when every penny counted.
- We consider ourselves part of the solution. (Not part of the precipitate.)
- We are simply cheap bastards.
Frugal newbies look for Ziploc coupons. We, on the other hand, automatically fold up the bread bag for future storage of leftovers.
We hand-wash bras because we know that washers and dryers take years off our lingerie’s lifespan.
We scope out water fountains rather than soda machines in public places.
We re-use printouts, either as scrap paper or to print new stuff on the blank sides.
We don’t just set the catsup bottle in the fridge upside down to get as much out as possible. When it’s truly “empty,” we add a teeny bit of water, shake well and pour the reddish liquid into our next batch of homemade soup or chili.
And yet we wonder why the wedding is off.
What are YOUR default settings?
As I noted in a previous post, not everyone is comfortable with frugality. Their discomfort could be rooted in defensiveness or insecurity, or possibly the fear of being served crusty mustard.
Personally, I think plenty of friends, relatives and co-workers could use a good dose of frugal. I choose to model rather than preach, though.
It’s up to you how much frugality you’re willing to cop to, at least in public. Having a sense of humor helps. Wise Bread recently showcased a post called “20 signs you were raised by true money-savers.” I didn’t find the ideas too scary, although I respectfully disagree with No. 4.: Mashed-up kidney beans are not as good as pizza. They’re not even as good as ramen.
The author, Marla Walters, invited readers to add their own signs that they were raised by frugal people. Lard-and-sugar sandwiches, anyone? Asking to glean fruit that’s falling on the ground? Cutting little mold spots off the cheese?
I’d like to do the same thing here, minus the lard and sugar. (Although, come to think of it, those were once the two main ingredients of Oreo filling.) Feel free to post your own instances of automatic frugality, either those you were raised with or those that you have come to practice on your own.
- When I see a paper clip on a bank counter or even on a sidewalk, I pick it up.
- Naturally, I also pick up any coins that I see.
- Ditto beverage caps with My Coke Rewards points on them.
- When making spaghetti I freeze a couple of spoons of the sauce (in old cream-cheese containers, of course). Later on, if I find myself with an aging partial loaf of French bread or a staling kaiser roll, sauce + bread + a little grated cheese = pizza.
- At the supermarket I routinely seek out “reduced for quick sale” items. Bananas get eaten (I prefer them very ripe). Meat gets frozen. Milk gets turned into rice pudding. Squeamish people get queasy when they hear about this.
Anyone else have tips – or repressed memories – to share?