I returned home recently from a week away to discover my husband had purchased some new items for the household: a windmill mole eradicator, which broke the first time it spun around and now awaits repair; a humidity monitor, which also tells the real-feel temperature in the house; and new pots and pans (“They were only $20!”). My husband loves to spend money. Luckily, he rarely buys expensive items—just little odds and ends that strike his fancy.
I, on the other hand, love not spending money. On my recent trip to a friend’s wedding in the Caribbean, my companions were all about shopping: jewelry, tropical dresses, and souvenirs to bring home. Me? I love looking at the colorful array of tempting baubles, but when I see the prices, it’s easy to talk myself out of buying anything. Thankfully, I’m not responsible for getting the economy back on its feet because I am definitely not a spender. Accumulating a lot of stuff has never been high on my list of priorities. In fact, I prefer getting rid of things. They can weigh you down.
Research shows that in most relationships, one partner likes to spend money and the other one likes to save it. I fall in the latter category, though I must admit saving money has been a challenge in recent years. Paying the mortgage, for most of us, tops the priority list these days followed by other necessities, like electricity, groceries, cable, and cell phones. Sometimes I long for the old days when mortgages were under a $1000 and you could feed a family of five easily for $10 a day.
I grew up with extremely thrifty parents, who instilled in me the belief that good things are worth waiting for. I remember when I was 12 and wanted a 10-speed bike. My dad showed me how to keep an allowance book, in which I kept track of my simple expenditures, slowly saving up enough money to buy the bike with my own money. What a feeling of accomplishment it was the day I rode my shiny bike down the street, knowing I had scrimped and saved to make what seemed then a monumental purchase.
Today’s kids are all about instant gratification, and technology makes instant gratification so easy. My middle son, Jasper, found a terrific online deal for a pair of board shorts. He needed some, so I agreed to get them. When it came to the shipping, I chose ground, which was almost $2 cheaper. Of course, Jasper wanted them sent priority, but accepted my decision with only a little grumbling. Two dollars doesn’t seem like much these days, but according to me, every dollar adds up, and how you spend them matters.
Sometimes thrifty folks like me find it challenging to embrace the buy local movement, especially when you can save money by buying from big-box stores. With summer in full swing, connecting with local merchants at farmers’ markets is a great way to invest in the local community. I love strolling through a market, chatting with the growers. You get a sense for the passion these people have for their vocations: growing healthy food to bring pleasure and vitality to the community.
And even though I’m a thrifty consumer, spending money on food is easier for me—because it’s not about the food. It’s about the experience the food brings. It’s about the smiles around the dinner table, the “Thanks for a nice dinner!” compliments from my sons as they leave the table, the pleasurable feeling you get after a nice meal.
Take some time this summer to go the farmers’ market or stop at a produce stand and enjoy the sensual experience of shopping for and then cooking your family or friends a nice healthy meal. Their smiles are worth far more than bright baubles or windmill mole eradicators—at least in my book.
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