- Personal Finance
Cheapskate: Why Am I So Cheap?
A humorous discussion of the line between being cheap and being frugal... Am I a cheapskate?
Cheapskate or Frugal?
I think that "cheap" and "frugal" mean the same thing to most people. Both are words that describe someone who doesn't spend much money. I have been called both, and I think both are accurate at times.
A couple weeks ago, I bought a really high quality pair of shoes- on clearance- for only $9. This was a great deal on some suede shoes that I can wear to work.
There were two problems with the clearance shoes:
1) The shoes weigh about 10 pounds each. The box described the shoe as "lightweight" and I laughed out loud when I read this on the shoe box in the store. I feel like I would sink to the bottom if I fell in a lake wearing these...
2) The shoes are a little big. The only size options left were size 9- way too small- and size 12- a bit too big. I went with the size 12 and packed some tissue paper in the toes. Without the tissue paper, the shoes tend to fall off...
Here is my defense of buying shoes with these issues: they were $9! That is the only defense I need, but here are some additional reasons I am happy with my $9 shoes.
1) My old brown work shoes were falling apart and hurt my feet so much that it was difficult to walk. I considered repairing them, but they were cheap to begin with and would have taken a lot of work. I literally threw them away right at the store when I bought the new $9 shoes.
2) Heavy shoes can be a good thing. I get twice the exercise from walking around than most people since I am essentially wearing weights on my feet all day long.
3) It is not unheard of to use tissue paper to wear shoes that are a little large. I remember reading about this somewhere- perhaps in a story about the Great Depression.
Why Do People Call Me a Cheapskate?
I feel like I spend plenty of money. Just the other day, my car was squealing and smoking. A true cheapskate may have ignored such problems, but I promptly took my to the car to the shop. My car is a 12 year old Honda Civic coupe with manual transmission. I had a coupon for the shop in my glove box.
The squealing and smoking was due to some belts that I had replaced a few months ago, so they were under warranty. I got them replaced with free parts and free labor. Since I had a good coupon, and since I learned that my car would keep going, I went ahead and got an oil change and rotated my tires.
So, I would argue that I am not a cheapskate. I could have avoided the trip to the shop by ignoring the problems with my car, but instead I took the car to the shop and risked a big bill. After learning that the repairs would be free, I could have avoided any expenses, but instead I asked for an oil change and tire rotation.
This is where frugal comes in. Frugal isn't really about avoiding spending money, but rather about getting good value for your money. I change the oil and maintain my car regularly- and I think this saves money in the long run. I save a lot of money driving a fuel efficient car that has no car payments. I am willing to spend some money to keep it going.
Cheapskate or Frugalskate?
I think "frugalskate" would be a better term to describe me than "cheapskate". I do enjoy nice things and am occasionally willing to pay to get something of value that I use a lot. I can think of several expensive items I have purchased, used for years, and then sold for nearly their original price.
I once bought a 1986 Minnie Winnie motor home for $5,600, used it for years, and then sold it for $5,600. I bought a rototiller brand new from the factory for $650. It was delivered to my house in a crate- the neighbors probably wondered why I bought such an expensive piece of equipment. I used it for about 10 years and then sold it on craigslist for $300. It turned out that owning a rototiller was much more convenient- and less expensive- than renting one each year.
Sometimes, I admit I push the limits of frugal into cheapskate territory. Once I went 3 or 4 years without owning a pair of jeans. My one pair of jeans wore out, and I declared that jeans were too expensive to buy. I wore nylon exercise pants that you can get for about $8 or worn out dress pants instead of jeans. My wife would call me a cheapskate (and other things) when she would try to get me to buy a pair of jeans and I would refuse. Eventually, I found some sturdy Wrangler jeans for $8 on clearance at K-mart. I loaded up and bought 4 pairs of Wranglers and even a pair of Levis for $13. See- I am not a cheapskate!
Once the zipper on my good winter coat failed. It was a Nautica brand coat with goose down. It was very warm and looked sharp enough to wear to work. I was sad when the zipper failed. I might have replaced the zipper, but the coat was starting to show some wear. Unfortunately it was November- possibly the worst time to buy a coat here in the northern hemisphere. Coat prices are at their highest. I decided to wear lots of layers and buy one in July on clearance. I did have an old coat to wear on weekends and while shoveling snow, but it was too worn out to wear to work.
Well, July came and went and I forgot to go coat shopping. So I went another winter without a coat. The next July, my wife came home with a nice, warm winter coat. It was on clearance and I was happy to have it!
"Watch" Out for Cheapskates
My fancy $200 watch that I bought when I graduated after college to wear on job interviews failed. It wasn't the battery, and would have cost a lot to repair. I would sometimes wear the watch even though it didn't keep time, but stopped wearing it since I couldn't tell people what time it was when they asked me!
I talked for at least 5 years about getting the watch repaired someday, or possibly wearing my broken watch "as-is" and adjusting the time frequently enough when I could check a clock that I could still tell generally what time it was. One day, my wife came home from buying groceries at Walmart and tossed me a small box.
"Here," she said.
"What's this?" I asked.
"It was $15," she explained.
It was a Timex watch, on clearance. It was waterproof and had a stopwatch with a lap counter. And it had the correct time!
If I were a cheapskate, I would have returned the watch and recovered 15 perfectly good dollars from the Walmart corporation. However, since I am a "frugalskate" I kept the watch. Plus, I didn't want to make my wife mad...
Are you more of a Cheapskate or a Frugalskate?
Dr. Penny Pincher is Not a Cheapskate...
Although the line between cheapskate and frugal can often become blurred, I try to stay on the frugal side of the line. Clearance sales and coupons help me stay on the frugal side of the line...
I do appreciate the value of high quality items, and I am willing to spend money to get something of value. The lowest priced option is not always the best option. Buying nothing is not always the best option. When I say "save money every day", I mean this in the sense of being frugal rather than being cheap. Spend your money carefully and get the most value you can for your money.
Check out my eBook Penny Pincher Journal: How to Save Money Every Day for money saving tips and advice! If you're too cheap to buy a book, you can find a free book on this site as well!
© 2014 Dr Penny Pincher