Posted by: Kate | May 18, 2008

Life Shouldn’t Be Printed on Dollar Bills

I have mixed feelings about certain of Clifford Odets‘ actions and writings, but I always liked that quote.  Life shouldn’t be printed on dollar bills.  I particularly appreciate the “shouldn’t” part, because it allows for the fact that, sometimes, it is.  I rediscovered it the other day, and it reminded me of a rant of mine.

I view frugality as another lifestyle choice; a hobby, of sorts.

And like any other hobby, you get people on all ends of the spectrum – those who choose not to do it at all, those who do when it’s convenient, those who do it but inconsistently or not well, those who turn it into a full-time obsession… just like with knitting, athletics, stamp-collecting, skydiving, there are people who have a slight bent toward frugality and there are others who are outright contortionists.

A sort-of-friend of mine is, to my eye, obsessed.  She will go to three different grocery stores to maximize coupon savings and sales, even when I have to wonder about the cost of gas to get there.  Considers buying new to be a failure.  Creates a budget down to the penny, and sticks to it.  It’s beyond full-time to her, it’s something she structures her entire life around.  I’m happy for her that it seems to give her such pleasure when she finds a really good deal, but there are times when her drive to save money starts to look more like mania.

Meanwhile, she looks at me with this quizzical attitude, like, “What do you mean, you just bought all of your groceries in one trip?  Without even reading the circular first?!?”  She is so intensely involved in her hobby that she has lost perspective, and has begun to believe that there is an objectively correct way for all people to do things.  That, of course, her way is the right way to live, that anyone who doesn’t share her attitudes about money is doing it wrong.  To me, that takes it too far, and is just one small reason why she is a sort-of-friend and not a real friend.

For me, I enjoy finding new ways to save money and live “green,” like making cloth napkins and using an outdoor clothesline.  The effort it takes to get there is much smaller than the happiness I feel when it works.  I used to clip coupons, and would again if we still got the newspaper delivered.  We’re financially stable now, but we weren’t for many years and I’ve held onto a lot of those habits.  But I don’t define myself as “frugal” (or cheap!) as an ongoing lifestyle, because it’s not where I choose to focus my efforts.


  1. I am cheap, but not like your sort of friend. I only go to one store a week for groceries (although I will also visit Krogers if they have some good sales in the circular). But it’s not out of my way or anything. Pretty much like anything else in life, frugality needs to be tempered with some sense.

  2. I must admit I go to three grocery stores over the course of the week, often for the prices, but also to buy certain items that only one carries.

    On the weekends, if I go to Trader Joe’s first, and then to the fancier neighborhood store, I always see at least one other person doing the same thing – funny!

    I need to work on frugality, but also believe that time is money – as is gasoline, especially these days!

  3. My MIL will drive around from store to store to get that one special item that is on sale. I don’t think the gas or the time makes up for the few pennies that you saved. I don’t want to spend all my time in the grocery store!!

  4. i don’t have the time, the energy or desire to make it that big a priority. i buy what i need where i’m at. plus don’t most “how to be frugal” references compute an hourly wage for the task whenever they are suggesting something as money saving? so like others have said, between my time and gas, is it really worth it? not to me. but i think there could be something about the thrill of the hunt. maybe?

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