Being thrifty versus being cheap

As a college student – back in the day when Britney and JT dated and wore those horrific matching denim outfits – I went through a phase where I was cheap. I ate ramen noodles, cereal, and pasta on a regular basis and bought cheap versions of most things. Now I make more money; therefore I spend more money.  I don’t consider myself frugal because I really don’t live simply enough…among other things, I have a smart phone and I go to Crossfit, both of which cost some money. However, I would consider myself on the thrifty side because to me wasting money is painful.

value price concept on balance scale

Because I do earn more than I did when I was 22, I could probably buy larger quantities of food or clothes or shoes than I actually do now, but I’ve come to realize that cheaper is usually not better.

In some cases it’s obvious…like groceries. Have you ever noticed that the cheapest food items are typically processed, sugary, or fatty foods while the most expensive foods are the healthiest? Yep, that’s why I gave up being cheap at the grocery store. Because I don’t have the metabolism or the constant movement of being in sports almost year-round, eating healthy regularly is a must these days. I might spend a little bit more on food, but I also try to make sure that the healthier foods I buy go further. For instance, I’ll buy spinach for salads or smoothies. If I know I’m not going to get around to eating it all before it goes bad, I’ll blend the spinach with water and freeze it for future use. And you can freeze a lot of different foods to avoid wasting them. If you’re not sure how or if you should, just Google it. (Which is what I say to any and everyone when I don’t know an answer to a question.)

The next area is the mall – more specifically clothes, shoes, and jackets. I used to shop at the cheaper stores because I felt like I got more bang for my buck. But then the seam on my rear jeans pocket or bottom of my shirt would start unraveling after 2 months. When that happens to me and it’s visible, clothes are basically garbage because I don’t sew anything besides buttons. Like I said, I’m thrifty not frugal…or crafty.

What I do now is avoid cheap/generic brands and I try to buy reasonably priced and mid- to high-end brands. It might be painful (which it is) for me to spend $75 on a pair of jeans, but when I do they last for years and years. I actually have several pairs of jeans I bought at that price 2-4 years ago (and some even longer) that are still in great shape – and luckily still in style. In fact, I found a pair of bell bottom flare jeans in the back of my closet the other day and now that they’re back in style, I’m totally bringing them back into rotation. (I’m also impressed with myself and slightly shocked that they still fit!)

I practice the same rule with other clothing items and shoes as well because I find that if I buy better quality items, they last longer. And while you might have a higher initial investment in your purchases for those slightly higher-end items, you’re actually going to find that you save money by not having to buy replacements as often.

It’s all about value.

Oh and one bonus tip: if it’s not what you’re looking for/need, don’t buy it just because it’s on sale.

These are just a couple examples of how spending a little more money up front can be worthwhile in the long run. Think about your house and your car, too. Slightly higher-end carpet or appliances or tires usually last longer.

I do pick my battles: when I feel like it’s healthier or more valuable for me in the long run, I’ll pay a little more up-front and try to be thrifty/find sales while doing so. But, I am cheap sometimes. In fact, when I shop for a white elephant gift or gifts in larger quantities, I look for the best or cheapest bargain. Sorry, friends and family. 🙂

Read 5 Expenses that are Worth the Money for more info about expenses you shouldn’t cheap out on. And if you are on the frugal side or are looking to become more frugal, check out this post: Three Tips from a Lover of Frugality.

If you want help creating a plan of action to take control back of your finances and conquer your debt, get started online right now or call LSS at 888.577.2227 for your free and confidential session.

Elaina JAuthor Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.

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