PF bloggers are often accused of being cheap, no-fun-niks whose only goal in life, it seems, is to squeeze the last bit out of every penny. Yet, when I read their blogs, I don’t see a people who are kicking all the fun out of their lives in order to save more money. I see people whose values are just prioritized differently than those of the average American. Values: to me, that’s the key difference between being frugal and being cheap. Does what you buy reflect your values? Another question that pops up often in PF blogs is: “How can you justify buying that (insert some perceived-to-be-extravagant item here)? No frugal person would ever buy that!” But the truth is:

  1. It is absolutely within the definition of “frugal” to buy things that are wants rather than needs when:
    the item in question is affordable to you (ie, it fits comfortably into your budget without resorting to credit or was saved up for)
  2. The item in question is in line with your values (ie, it helps you get more value out of life!)

Here’s a secret about me: I don’t buy a lot of stuff. The essentials, sure, but not much beyond that. I just don’t want a lot. I find it very easy to go to a mall with friends and come back without having bought anything, because shopping is not something that provides me with fulfillment. So I understand how, to the average observer, I can come off as being really cheap. To help combat this misconception, today, instead of sharing with you how I saved over 60% on the regular price of my groceries yesterday or something like that, I’m going to share some of the “luxuries” that I buy. These are things I splurge on. However, I’m not going into credit card debt over them. I’ve built them into my monthly budget and they help me get more out of life.

  1. Local and/or organic produce, especially fruit. I love my Michigan cherries! I’m a regular at my city’s farmers’ market and often attend events that promote local foods within my community. This not only boosts my local economy, but the food tastes more delicious and has a higher nutritional value than the stuff in the grocery store that’s been shipped in from California. It’s good for the environment and, in some cases, might even be beneficial to your budget! My most recent local purchase was a peck and a half of apples from a small orchard owned by the brother of one of my co-workers. They cost me $7.50. I wasn’t sure how this stacked up against buying apples from Meijer, so I weighed them when I got home. The bag was 18 lbs! That’s less than 42 cents a pound. You’d be hard-pressed to find a deal that good at a grocery store!
  2. Microbrewery beer. Yeah, I’m a beer snob, it’s kind of a hobby for me. I’d rather drink half of a really excellent beer (split with a friend!) than two or three mediocre ones. Plus, there are a lot of great microbreweries located right in my city (Bell’s being one of the more well-known ones) and state, so again, this fits in with my value of buying local. (Another point to consider: Beer from microbreweries sometimes has a much higher ABV content than mass-produced beer and has more calories accordingly. So it’s a bit more bang, so to speak, for your buck than you might originally think. As a rather extreme example, take Dogfish Head World Wide Stout. Yes, it’s so expensive that it’s only sold by the individual bottle, but it has 18% ABV. To put that in context, that’s about four times the ABV of a Bud Lite! Seriously, dude. Just exactly how many of them were you planning on drinking? o_O)
  3. Comic collections put out by my favorite web cartoonists. These are the only books I look to buy as close to the source as possible (ie, not second-hand). I love to read comics and I’m lucky because these days, some of the best stuff out there is available on the internet for free! Some very talented writers and cartoonists publish their material on the web, knowing that if they’re persistent, this is a great way to get their name out there. When one of my favorites strikes it big enough to get a book published, I buy it. The content of these books varies – sometimes it’s 90% material I could find on their website, sometimes it’s 100% new material. But as someone who’s working on starting my own webcomic, these are people I want to support! Some of my favorites include Rich Burlew and Megan Rose Gedris. The next addition to my collection I’m looking to buy is The Fart Party, by Julia Wertz.

I expect that this list will grow and change as I get older, pay off my debts, and have more discretionary income. I already know that when I move into a place with bigger kitchen cabinets, “quality kitchenware” is going on this list. I’m on a quest to learn how to cook, but right now, if I had to survive only on food I prepared myself from scratch, I’m pretty sure I’d starve to death. The spirit is willing, but the skills are weak.

Categories: Budgeting