When Does a Frugal Person Become a Cheapskate?

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Check out a great post from our friends at The Billfold:

Money and I have a fairly frigid relationship. I earn it, I save it, I use it to pay my bills—but outside of the methodical motions of routine monetary exchange, I have no idea what to do with it.

I see my yuppie compatriots planning out their paychecks around Frye boots and ski trips to Utah and iPhone 4S upgrades, while I hold my money in a death grasp with a look of paralyzed consternation on my face. This is the tragic plight of a middle-class urbanite who was born and bred by cheapskate, suburban parents.

It wasn’t until college that I started to realize other people weren’t like me. I remember the moment with perfect clarity. I edited a literary magazine and was not-dating a guy who was in charge of the uber-hipster alternative weekly. This led to lots of not-really-intellectual conversations and, of course, late-night runs from the publications office to the 24-hour grocery store to procure snacks.

It was on one of these excursions to the cracker aisle that the aforementioned hipster boy reached out and grabbed a box of Ritz crackers to put in our basket. That’s right: Ritz crackers. Not “Zips” or “Crisp’itz” or “Golden Rounds,” but the real-deal, name-brand, most-expensive red box of Nabisco Ritz crackers. I was dumbfounded. Who buys name brand crackers? Heck, who buys name brand anything? I made him put them back.

It took me days to get over the initial shock of what had happened and fully explore the question of whether I really wanted to not-be with someone who was willing to throw their parents’ money away on top-shelf snack foods. At the end of my self-involved meditation, I decided that I owed it to myself to be the liberal and open-minded humanist I knew I was. I at least needed to offer my fellow man the opportunity to tell his side of the story. And so I asked him: Why would you buy name-brand crackers? And he answered: They taste better.

I was not prepared for this answer. First, it seemed to make no logical sense at all to my deeply infected spendthrift brain: All “Ritz” crackers look the same, companies must go through great pains to make them taste the same, and honestly, the crackers aren’t that great to begin with. Who cares what it’s called—when it comes down to it, you’re still eating a Ritz cracker no matter what company owns the cracker-making machine. Second, I wasn’t really sure I’d ever had a real Ritz cracker before, and if so, it was over at a friend’s house where everything tasted better and was more exciting just by virtue of being away from my parents. I realized that I had no objective, or really even subjective, way to tell whether his claim was accurate.

Continue reading this story on The Billfold.

 

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  • Michael Hiser

    A person is only a cheapskate if it affects the people you love negatively. There’s nothing wrong with being frugal. In fact, many great people in American history were notorious frugalists — http://blog.promotionalcodes.com/article/The-Content-of-Your-Spending-Character/53

  • CrankyFranky

    I have a reputation for not wanting to spend money – at a building committee meeting where I said ‘we might as well spend the $4000′ the strata manager stared at me in mock horror and said ‘do you feel alright !?!?

    meanwhile – after 50 years of frugality I have plenty enough to retire – while all my friends who are not so frugal – scoff at the idea of the possibility for themselves …