Mr PoP is now home safe and sound from his recent trip. In addition to camping in Yosemite for a few nights, Mr PoP also stayed with one of his oldest friends (OF) at his place in the Bay Area. From everything Mr PoP has said, it sounds like the trip was great, but the one thing that I keep coming back to is that at some point during the trip, Mr PoP’s friend called Mr PoP cheap. =/
OF made the insinuation while making a joke about another friend being the second cheapest person he knows, second only to Mr PoP. Though Mr PoP wasn’t really bothered by the joke, I kindof was. I was despite the fact that OF is (without question) one of the nicest people we have ever known in our lives. So I am confident that OF didn’t mean any harm by it. But the words stuck with me and I’ve been chewing them over in my head ever since Mr PoP related the story (which Mr PoP probably regrets doing so now…).
My thoughts end up chasing each other around my head when it comes to defining us financially…
We’re not cheap, we’re frugal!
In my mind, the difference between being cheap and being frugal comes down to looking at price over value. The cheap person will pick the less expensive item (the chefmate in this old story) every time, while the frugal person is going to figure out how much value can be derived from items at various pricepoints and will seek to maximize value per dollar rather than just seeking the smallest dollar amount in the short term. It’s my job to maximize value, so we’re frugal… Not cheap!
Well, we’re kindof frugal. But we have some serious luxury purchases.
Are we really frugal, though? By comparison to a lot of our friends (especially those that fall in the same income-tax bracket), we are definitely less spendy. But we’re hardly Frugalwoods or MMM extreme when it comes to our frugality. Everyone in our household either has gotten or will get a truly opulent (and definitely spendy) treat this year. We just got Mr PoP a $950 pair of glasses. I’m almost counting down the days to my upcoming purchase of a Scooba robotic mop (MSRP ~$700) so I never have to mop our (installation in progress!!) new tile. Even Kitty PoP had his own truly luxurious purchase within the last year where we spent over $300 on a Litter Robot for him. (For the record, he and I are both still loving the Litter Robot.)
But we still manage to save a significant portion of our income – last year we sent ~60% of our gross income to savings, with the remainder split pretty evenly between our personal spending and taxes (FICA and income).
Aww, hell. Who am I kidding? We’re spendier than the US averages.
Our typical yearly spending is right around the median household income. Which doesn’t sound that bad. But given that this number includes taxes and savings rates for households, it’s likely that we’re spending more than the median household in the US. Not only that, but the average household size* is ~2.5 people, making our 2 person household even spendier on a per-person basis. And I don’t think it’d be fair to equate Kitty PoP’s expenses with those of an extra half-person. So maybe we’re not really as frugal as we like to think…
And yet, we seem to buy less stuff than most. So maybe we are frugal?
“Shopping” for a hobby just isn’t something we do. As a result, we really do end up buying much less “stuff” than pretty much everyone we know (including those who earn both more and less than we do). I like to think that the smaller volume of purchases makes up for their higher costs, landing us closer to “more” than “less” on the frugal spectrum.
Whatever. I don’t care about comparing to others as long as we’re happy.
Really though, the amount of time I have spent thinking about measuring our relative spend-thriftiness and frugality recently has been a waste of time and energy. Instead of worrying about what others our doing or others’ perceptions of what we are doing, I need to remember two things.
1. Our spending is aligning with our values. It’s not perfect, and Mr PoP and I have different values that need to be accomodated**, but for the most part, our spending hits those values pretty well.
2. The combination of our income and spending is allowing us to reach our financial goals on a timeline that we’re happy with.
From here, we’re happy and content… but I still would rather not be cheap. =)
* My apologies for mixing medians and averages. I hate to do it, but I couldn’t find the median household size anywhere!
** For example, in Mr PoP’s eyes, gourmet donuts are darned-near priceless, while you couldn’t pay me to eat a donut. Resolving and finding compromise in value conflicts like these has been instrumental in our marriage!
How would you describe your spending habits? Or is the categorization and comparison to others’ not something you think about?