Living a Better Life
Oh My GOD, They Called Me a CHEAPSKATE!
When recently quoting me in a nationally syndicated newspaper, a reporter (who I still think fondly of despite having had this label thrust upon me without warning), described me as a cheapskate. Or rather - a COMPLETE CHEAPSKATE!
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Since I've never considered myself a cheapskate, I just sat there at my desk, staring at those two innocent, yet somehow powerful words. Then I began to even question myself, "AM I a cheapskate?" "Is it something I said, something I did?"
When describing myself, I might use terms like helpful, dedicated, passionate, optimistic (despite having just turned 40), organized, faithful, giving, friendly (actually downright bubbly), loving, forgiving, a Christian wife and mother of 4 (completely stressed out but grateful for everything), a writer, editor, publisher, business owner, and yes, FRUGAL!
But a Complete Cheapskate?
Now don't worry, this reporter is not in any trouble. In fact, I felt his article and use of my money-saving tips were wonderful, and I'm not mad, or even hurt. I'm just in complete shock. You see, I have never been called a Cheapskate before - never in my entire life. The word is just not even in my spoken vocabulary, nor have I ever written it on this Web site or anywhere else.
I do realize that many people these days think the word Cheapskate is a positive thing, but to me, it still means someone who puts money before people. And that's not me!!! It means someone who scrapes and saves every penny and never splurges on having fun or having nice things. And that's not me either, though sometimes I wish it were!
Call me a Money Manager or Budget Conscious, a Money Saver, Penny Pincher or Savvy Shopper, even a Frugal Zealot at times (yes, I do reuse foil, and anything else that can be washed and reused!) or even a Coupon Queen (I saved $26 just last night at Food Lion), but please, don't call me a Cheapskate!
The funny thing is, I've been wanting to write about this subject for a long time... just what exactly does differentiate one money-saver from another? (And in light of my recent shock therapy from the press, I think it's time to finally put these thoughts into print!)
From what I have observed over the last twenty years of my adult life, and since the first budgeting lesson I taught to a neighborhood group of moms 12 years ago, everyone has areas where they choose (whether consciously or not) to save money, and areas where they choose NOT to save money.
However, being the impaired humans that we are, we often take whatever small amount of spending information we know about someone and then label them as either a Spendthrift, Compulsive Shopper, Bargain Hunter (oh I like that one!), Prudent, Frugal Zealot, Stingy, Tightwad, or even a Cheapskate.
As you can see, the financial saving/spending picture we form in our heads about people can vary widely from person to person. However, I believe we're all money-savers, and money-spenders, just in different ways.
As for me... I save everywhere I can in order to have as 'normal' a life as possible; for my children, my husband, and myself. This means having a roof over our heads that doesn't leak and hopefully will continue to earn equity - that's the Money Manager talking - and it means having decent clothes for our family of 6 to wear, that don't necessarily have to be new - that could be a hint of the Frugal Zealot talking - and having enough food in the house at all times so that my children never go hungry, or even see an empty refrigerator as I did when I was growing up - and that might be the Savvy Shopper, the Bargain Hunter or the Coupon Queen, take your pick. (Although I've been known to forget my coupons at home many times!)
But most importantly, I scrimp, scrape and save every day so that I can continue to stay at home with our children as long as they need me, which may be for my entire life. Though I've had my own home business for the last 5 years, I've been at home full-time with them since the first one was born, almost 15 years ago.
And as important as that is, my favorite reason for saving is so that we can have more money to GIVE!
So, after the initial shock of being called a complete cheapskate, as you can imagine, I gave it some thought. In fact, I reflected on those words, COMPLETE C-H-E-A-P-S-K-A-T-E, for three days... along with my lifelong journey as a money-saving "whatever." And guess what, as it turns out, my beloved reporter may have known me better than I knew myself.
It's true, I do watch every penny that comes in and out of our home, I save in every area that my family can deal with saving or cutting back (which is never enough to me - there is always overspending somewhere - especially with a family of 6!), I recycle everything that can be recycled, I go behind everyone and turn off lights, radios and TVs constantly, I even keep an eye on the thermostat every day (to my husbands chagrin), keeping the house comfortable but never too hot or too cold (which would be a waste of money), and essentially conserve every item that can be conserved.
I have always cost compared every expense and tried to secure the best deal... including our appliances, previously owned automobiles, clothing, family trips, food, gasoline, housing, household furnishings, insurance, medical treatments, painting and repair services (we do it ourselves when we can), utilities, vacations (or rather, mini-vacations, as we don't take week long vacations to keep the costs down) - and anything else that requires cash, check or credit!
However, I also splurge often on whatever we value the most at the time, try to give generously, celebrate every major holiday with our children, and never forget a family member's birthday. I may spend 5 minutes at the grocery store just deciding which cereal is a better price this week just to save a dollar (IT ALL ADDS UP!!), or do without those cute new shoes I'd like to have or that vacation I'd love to take, and even continue mixing up several gallons of powdered milk to save a few more dollars each week... but then I'll turn around and drop $50 to help a friend in need. That may sound crazy, but to me, it makes complete sense!
The truth is, I believe the most important thing you can do with money, is to give it away. And working hard and managing your money well, can enable you to do that.
We all have financial choices (and sacrifices) to make. We all save money in one way or the other, and we spend money in one way or the other. I pray that we will always make the right decisions, taking care of the things that matter the most... and saving on everything else!
And if that fits the description of a (modern day) Cheapskate, then I guess I am one!
(Editor's note: In the title of my column, I do mean the words "Oh My GOD" respectfully, endearingly and literally! I don't just talk to Him on Sundays, I talk to him all throughout the day, everyday. And trust me, with 4 kids, He hears from me often!)
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Copyright © 2004 by Michelle Jones
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