Frugality

There’s nothing like an end of the summer deal on clothes to get your blood flowing. That’s my wife talking, not me. When she wants to, she can be a serious shopper. And an end-of-summer-sale just brings out the wild side in her.

The other day she says to me, “You won’t believe what I got today?”

We have played this guessing game for years. She taunts me with a question. Her eyes are bright and wide with expectation. I have no clue where this is going. There is no context to the question that I can draw upon. So, she knows I have no clue. Yet she asks me to join in the game.

I have learned not to think too hard at this game. Years ago I would have labored over what might be a decent guess. I wanted to outsmart her. It took me a long time to realize that any answer would work. It doesn’t even have to be in the ballpark. She really doesn’t care if my answer makes no sense at all.

“You got me a new guitar.” It was worth a shot.

I will explain why this works the way it does. And BTW, I stole this. When God made man and woman, he made them almost exact opposites. Two different ways of processing information. Two different sets of emotions. Two totally different ways of looking at the world around them. Take shopping for example. He hates it. She loves it.

Anyway. God said to His angels, “Come over here for a minute. You gotta see this.” The angels gather round. “Look down there. Man and woman. I made them completely different from each other. And here’s the kicker. I’m going to make them live together for the rest of their lives.”

“How’d you make the woman?” the angels wanted to know.

“I took a rib from his side. Unfortunately, it’s the rib I had intended for him to use for reading her mind.”

My wife folds her arms. “No silly. I bought a $30 blouse for $7. It was great.”

Women are serious about shopping like men are serious about hunting. He gets a copy of the Georgia Outdoor News, aka GON. She gets catalogues from across the globe. He familiarizes himself with the starting dates for each season and marks his calendar. She knows by sensory perception when each and every sale will take place. He buys ammo and doesn’t care what he has to pay. She waits until it’s been marked down 5 times, buys it, and then complains that the price dropped again the next week.

My Mama was the Queen of shoppers. Her favorite place to shop was Rich’s in downtown Atlanta. I’m pretty sure that some of the floor managers knew her by name. If she sensed a sale was coming up, it was not unheard of for her to take a dress off the rack, hide it somewhere else in the store, and then come back after the sale started to get it. She was shrewd like that.

I remember for a fact that one time she bought a winter coat on sale. She was very proud of her frugality and savviness on this deal. Two weeks later she saw that the same coat dropped in price again. She took hers back to Rich’s asked for a refund for the difference.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Chappell. We just can’t do that. You bought your coat two weeks ago before the price dropped.”

They were not going to get that past her. She returned the coat and asked for a refund, which she got.

“You know,” she said, “I’ve changed my mind. I think I’ll buy the coat. I hear it’s on sale.” And they sold it to her at the new sale price.

Look, I’m not making fun of the frugal women in my life. I have an immense appreciation for what that means to our family budget. I am grateful for the fact that I am married to a woman that gets excited over a deal on a $30 shirt. Excuse me, blouse. We have vacationed on the money she has saved us over the years. I would much rather have her this way than the other alternative.

When we were younger, her Dad would give her money for her birthday and she would always tuck it away some place. He was an Accountant and was always pretty tight with the money while she was growing up. A little bit of that wore off on her. Okay, a lot of it. She’d rather keep it than spend it.

When we were fairly young, we wanted to go to the movies, but money was a little tight. It was one of those times that we decided to eat before we went because we didn’t want to spend any money at the concession stand. Just the tickets. We could afford that.

When we got past the ticket counter, she says to me, “Let’s share a Coke and some buttered popcorn.”

“I didn’t think we were gonna splurge.”

“Don’t worry. I got this.” And she digs down in her pocketbook, pulls out her wallet, digs back with two fingers under a fold in the side of the wallet and pulls out a Twenty. It was folded up about the size of a match book and firmly creased.

“I’ve been saving some of my birthday money.” Big surprise, but that is the way she has always been with her money. She would spend it on us way before she would spend anything on herself. I love that about her.

Being frugal is not the same as being stingy. Stingy is driven by selfishness. Stingy wants to spend on self and not on anybody else. People who are stingy with money want to keep money for themselves just to have the money. Even if it means depriving others of what they need. Scrooge comes to mind.

Frugal recognizes that money is not the answer to every need in life. Frugal is willing to wait. Frugal may hold money back, but it joyfully shares it with others when the right opportunity comes along. Frugal finds it’s joy in spending well, not in being wasteful.

My wife was really happy with the deal on the blouse. I was happy for her. She hardly ever spends anything on herself. But she came to me tonight with a frustrated look.

“You know that blouse I bought?”

I wondered if this was a trick question. Had she spilled something on it? Did it have a missing button that she hadn’t noticed? I was reaching. I’ve got a missing rib, ya know.

“Yeeesss?”

“I saw today where that blouse is on sale for $4.” I could tell that she was bamfoozeled.

“Well, you know what Mama would do?”

I could tell she was thinking about it.

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