Almost everyone I meet these days likes to correct me when I proudly declare, “I’m the cheapest person you’ll ever meet.” They blink or smile weakly and say timidly, “You mean you’re frugal?” No, I am cheap. It has a lot to do with my past experiences with finances, but suffice it to say that I’m proud to be where I am today financially because of the way I save. After reading almost every single Refinery 29 Money Diaries entry that ever existed, I feel like I have a few secrets up my sleeve that might make you feel the need to come out and proud and declare yourself cheap too.
1. Never say yes.
Before you judge, let me clarify. How many times have you been asked if you wanted something extra and said “Yes,” only to find out later that said “extra” was also an extra cost once you looked at the receipt? Think too about all the times you were asked the same sort of “add-on” question and were too stunned to say anything but a wavering “Sure”? Know this, dear spendy-friend: A whole lot of marketing research has gone into this exact sales tactic. You are meant to be asked these questions, caught off-guard, and stripped of your money faster than Lisa Vanderpump if she were to be invited to a surprise ASPCA charity ball. The cheap solution? Never say yes – at first. Give yourself at least a moment or two to gather your thoughts, process the information, and decide whether you really need or want the add-on. You’d be surprised how much money you can save! Bonus tip: If you need an extra minute but hate the silence, ask a follow-up question like, “What is included?” or “How does that work?” or “Are there any other options?”
2. Samples are always on sale.
So. Much. Free. No matter where you go, there are always so many samples to be sampled! Out in the world exist chips at the grocery store, cookies at the mall, a full cup of coffee at some high-end coffee-machine sales locations, and so much more! However, as with the add-on extras, these samples are designed to create a desire for you to ultimately purchase the item being sold. What would happen if you were to enjoy the sample, then walk away? I’m not advocating for a free-for-all-grab-all-you-can-take here, but would it make you less of a fabulous, polite, and grateful human being to indulge? Could you reframe that interaction as just part of your amazing 5-star lifestyle? Once again, you can always take the time to consider whether you really need or want the $75 perfume from the cosmetics counter, but also begin to think about whether a sample is also sufficient. Enjoy the samples and consider them an unexpected treat!
3. Consider your feelings.
When you are shopping, whether that be for groceries, clothes, or the latest Alexa-powered High-School-Musical-themed Insta-Pot from Amazon, ask yourself, “Is this a need, want, or a feeling that needs to be satisfied?” By asking yourself this simple question, you may be able to save a significant amount of money and redistribute it towards your actual 5-star lifestyle financial goals. If the aforementioned Insta-Pot is needed to cook your dinners because you have no access to a stove or a microwave for the foreseeable future, go on with your bad self. If the Alexa component of the appliance will make your busy lifestyle easier, then consider weighing time vs. money in your final financial decision. Finally, if the High School Musical theme song which plays every time your food is prepared reminds you of the good ol’ days when you weren’t slaving away for The Man, consider your feelings and look for a cheaper, freer alternative to address your nutritional issues.
4. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Greta Thunberg notwithstanding, reducing the amount of waste you produce usually means you are consuming less. Consuming less means spending less. Spending less means saving money. Reusing what you already have also usually means consuming less. See above. Finally, recycle because the money in your bank account until payday is a finite resource and so is much of our planet.
5. Find the free.
Something magical happens when you call yourself cheap. It’s as if the world of cheap opens its golden-yellow spray-painted plastic doors and welcomes you in with a smile. Except, sometimes those doors aren’t plastic. Occasionally those doors are almost 100 years old and lead into a museum of art on Thursday evenings from 4-9. Sometimes those doors are opened to a 7-day premium gym membership trial. Other times those doors lead to nonprofit community events with lots of really cute dogs. When you begin to find the free, something else magical happens. You find that your resources (physical and emotional) aren’t as tied up to monetary goods as they once were. That kitchen appliance you so desperately needed before becomes secondary to the challenge of experiencing just how amazing your city can be. You begin to invite friends and family to join you at a weekly exercise group or a volunteer event. When you find the free, you become transformed from someone who is bound by the dwindling numbers in your bank account to someone who hunts for an adventure, nevermore afraid to publicly declare themselves cheap.