Today, I was reading an article in Yahoo! News about tightwads, and one of their examples was a woman who is so frugal that when her blow dryer broke, she was using a fan to dry her hair until her friends bought her a new hair dryer. She also uses every drop of lotion, and uses uneaten portions of her kids bagels to make pizza toppings. Other fellow cheapskates did crrrazy things like make their own fabric softener and detergent.
Hmmm. Does that sound like anyone I know? Or like a lot of people I know? Or in some ways, like me?
I guess I never thought of it as severe tightwaddery, but I just don't think it's so weird that someone would use a fan as a blow dryer. It sounds like the kind of insane thing I would do. For example, I don't have a full length mirror in my room, and I am too lazy to go out and buy one. So instead, I use the bathroom mirror, and occasionally, I check out my reflection in the window. Is that insane? Am I insane?
I do shop now. This past weekend I bought a pair of sneakers because I didn't own a pair, and life was getting a little annoying without sneakers. And I also bought a gorgeous skirt from an arts and crafts market. But I did without sneakers for an obscenely long time before I finally caved.
And I don't make my own fabric softener, but I also don't use fabric softener. Nor do I use dryer sheets. Nor paper towels. Nor sponges.
Sure it saves money, and I'm happy to save money, but I never really thought of it as "cheap." Instead I've more thought of it as saving money for the things that I actually enjoy buying. Like the occasional gorgeous skirt designed by a small, local artist. Or used books. Or theatre tickets. Or chocolate. Mmmmm ... chocolate.
I don't know what these so-called cheap people are saving for, but maybe they would just prefer to put their money in their kids' college funds instead of buying a hair dryer. Or maybe they would prefer to save for a vacation instead of buying fabric softener. Is that being cheap? Or is that simply having different values and preferences?
The truth is, I don't think I can in any way be classified as cheap. Even when I was a non-consumer, except for the month when Megan and I were doing our Pseudo-Freegan challenge, and I was eating bagels leftover in the work kitchen for a week on end, I don't know that I could be classified as cheap. Because I've always been willing to spend money on what matters to me: education, travel, books, music, theatre, food. Yeah, I don't spend money on fabric softener. But ... my clothes are plenty soft.
Here's the thing. In the end, you can't take it with you. So you are probably going to spend that money at one point or another. The question is just what do you prefer to spend your money on. So why make it a value judgement. Why call someone cheap just because they prefer not to spend money on detergent?
2 weeks ago