Want to be considered weird, embarrassing or just plain cheap? Be frugal among people who aren’t. Even the folks who say they love you may criticize your 10-year-old car or your thrift store habit.
And if you want to send strangers over the edge, just flash a manufacturer’s coupon in the checkout line. It’s like waving a red cape in front of a rabid bull. Indeed, the noise that some shoppers make is positively bovine: Mooaawwwww…another one of those coupon queens! Groan, sigh, mumble, JEEEZZZZ….
(Wonder if any of them have ever held up a line an extra 30 seconds while searching pockets or purses for debit cards or exact change?)
Or try this: Next time you see a penny on the sidewalk, stop and pick it up. This has garnered me more than a few stares and snide comments. But I was able to give an extra $34.54 to a food bank this way last year.
I save the plastic liners of cracker boxes; they’re great as an extra layer of protection against freezer burn. I print out letters on the clean sides of old homework assignments. I wrap gifts in the Sunday funnies, and write to-do lists on the backs of junk mail envelopes.
Aluminum foil gets washed and re-used. Each roll lasts well over a year, especially since I tend to put lunches and leftovers in plastic containers. Incidentally, some of those containers came from the “free” box at yard sales and some are margarine or cream-cheese tubs.
And yeah, I save the extra ketchup packets from the bottoms of fast-food bags. Sue me. They come in handy when you pack a meatloaf sandwich in your brown bag lunch.
Exfoliate the frugal way!
At least I don’t milk the little Heinzes. A reader from the Smart Spending message board wrote about a guy who painstakingly squeezed ketchup packets into a bottle. This same dude dated an employee at his workplace’s cafeteria, she says, “because she saved him leftovers.”
(Boy, nothing says “romance” like 12-hour-old leavings from the steam table. If I were looking for love and nutrition in a single package I’d start a little higher up on the food chain. Couldn’t he find some steakhouse cutie?)
The reader also said that her former husband went through a lot of soap because once the bar got thin he set it aside to die. She would put the bits and pieces into a mesh onion bag and lather up.
Her husband hated that. I love it. A frugalist’s bath pouf! And I bet the mesh exfoliated nicely, too.
Note: She’s still frugal. He’s long gone.
I’m tempted to write off criticisms as simple rudeness. But I wonder if there isn’t some insecurity involved.
People don’t always deal well with ideas that are foreign to them. Like, say, the idea that I can be happy with a meatloaf sandwich from home instead of an $8 Thai-food special. Maybe they construe my reusable sandwich container as some kind of criticism of their non-recyclable carryout cartons. (Wastrels! Despoilers of the planet! Choke on the fumes of your huge carbon footprints!)
Or maybe it causes a little self-doubt:
“I am living paycheck to paycheck.”
“I am in debt to maintain this lifestyle that’s supposed to make me happy.”
“Am I happy?”
“What if there are other ways to be happy?”
What that would mean, maybe, is that we’ve been sold a consumerist bill of goods – and on credit, too.
Hope you kept your receipts.