Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Benefit Of The Doubt

As human beings, as much as we (myself included) dislike assumptions and judgments being made about ourselves, we sometimes wrongly make judgments on other people. As an  extremely thrifty person, when I see others doing pretty unfrugal things, I do sometimes judge them and label then in my mind as "the anti-thrift".
Judging others and labeling them with such titles, even if only silently, is wrong, because you never know the whole story.
Occasionally I get a little wakeup call to put me in my place, stop judging, and give the benefit of the doubt, because sometimes, someone who on the surface might look quite unthrifty, deserves credit or being money smart in ways you'd never expect from them.

 Thrifty Where You'd Least Expect
Some of the seemingly biggest money wasters I know are, in fact, a frugal example for all (myself included). This list is a list of just some of the many thrifty things I've seen "excessive spenders" do that made me realize I have no business assuming anyone is a waster.

  • Repairing. Saving clothes that are no longer wearable and sewing up opened seams, adding patches to holes, replacing or sewing in new elastics to an extreme that even I don't do.
  • Repurposing. When clothing is damaged beyond repair, into the scrap bin it goes to be used for cleaning- even underwear and old socks! This family never buys any cleaning cloths at all (a claim that the Penniless household can't make).
  • Reusables, including cloth napkins and dishes. These people have a large family and use a dishwasher frequently, a wise move, because dish washing isn't difficult for them, so they're less tempted to use disposables.
  • Keeping things for as long as they're useful and not just tossing them because they're old. Instead of buying new toys and books for the kids and grandkids, these people just pass on things that are 10, 20 years old or more. No need to buy into the consumerism mentality and buy things when you've got perfectly good, fun and usable stuff at home.
  • No AC or rationed use. I live in a very hot country- have I ever mentioned that? (Oh yes, probably a million times by now.) Even so, two people I had once labeled non frugal don't even own AC units (and have no plans of buying either), and two others own but use it very sparingly (as in less than ten days total over the whole summer).
  • Line drying. Using the dryer can be pretty pricey, even though it is lots easier. What a shock it was to find out that many "money wasters" exclusively line dry while I had been using my dryer far too often. Its what gave me the push to line dry more all those months ago, and have not used my dryer once since I moved to my new home 5 months ago.
  • Getting best prices. This is managed by buying bulk or traveling far to get the best deals for things. Yes, these people may often buy things that I wouldn't, but when they're buying in bulk to lower prices or traveling far to get as minimum prices as possible, it makes these purchases switch from being overly priced junk to a well thought out, frugal buy.
  • Utilities conservation. Yes, these people may not go to an extreme like I do, but even somewhat trying to be conscious of water and electricity usage is to be commended.
  • No car/one car. Many claim that this is impossible and a chore to live like this, but somehow, some "unfrugal" people with large families manage to live without any or only 1 car. This certainly saves a lot of money on car payments, repairs, gas, etc.
  • Doing without. This may seem like something small, but it takes a lot of self control to simply do without something you wanted if the prices are currently too high or if it is currently out of your budget. Too many people just whip out their credit card and pay it "later" if the price is too high but they just "want it", or they buy it no matter the price, because they don't even bother looking at prices before purchasing. Making do without is a very commendable thing to do.
Another point I wanted to make is that when someone appears to be unthrifty, you don't know the whole story. There is a concept such as "relative frugality", and what is frugal for one person may not be frugal for someone else. 
  • If mom purchases only expensive brands of diapers instead of the cheaper brands, perhaps the kid is sensitive to the chemicals used in cheaper brands and breaks out in a rash in anything but the name brand, and cloth diapering isn't an option because there is no laundry facilities in their home. Perhaps this mom actually shops around, buys in bulk, or purchases "seconds" to get the lowest prices for the necessary expensive brand.
  • Expensive grocery purchases can be the frugal choice if the alternative is eating out. When people are transitioning from eating takeaway to eating home cooked meals, even buying ready made frozen dinners are cheaper and are relatively frugal for that situation.
  • Organic food may seem like a waste of money to some, but for some it is necessary, as the pesticides in non organic foods cause them health issues. (I know a family that breaks out in rashes when eating non organic foods.)
  • Someone might be purchasing an expensive handbag, but has saved up for it for a while because that is her one vice. So long as she is paying for it in cash and can afford it, this doesn't contradict frugality. Frugality is so you can afford the things that are important to you, and if designer handbags are important to this person, then she should go for it!
I hope you now realize as I've recently done, that sometimes people you assume are the complete opposite of frugality, can in fact teach people how to be money smart.

Have you ever mistakenly assumed someone was completely non frugal? Have you ever been proven wrong? What frugal things have you seen "non frugal" people do?

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