Friday, May 22, 2009

What Exactly Is A Cheapskate

I have been called a cheapskate on several occasions and it is a badge I wear with pride. What exactly is a cheapskate? Well the traditional connotation of the word was derogatory, but in today’s world that has quickly changed to someone who manages their money well and thinks long and hard before spending a nickel on an item he or she thinks is worth only four cents. I have been this way for many years; in fact when I was younger and living at home I spent so little money that my un-cashed pay checks would pile up on my dresser. My dad would inevitably come in and say when are you going to cash those things?

These days I don’t have any pay checks lying around but I still hold onto my money with a clenched fist. Let me get this straight for you; I don’t mind buying stuff, to the contrary I buy lots of stuff but I buy quality and only after doing research. I have been burned in the past and will be again in the future; no one is perfect. The key is to get it right most of the time and come out the winner in the knock down drag out fight we called consumerism.

The key to making a purchase of any type is research. My favorite resource is Consumer Reports. I do have a subscription to their online service, not the magazine. They give you objective advice and I take their opinion very seriously when buying stuff.

One example where Consumer Reports came into play; when my wife and I moved to South Carolina we needed a vacuum cleaner. I have been through several vacuums in my bachelor days and they are were horrible. I read Consumer Reports and did some research on the Internet. They highly recommended Sears Progressive Canister Vacs, now I normally avoid Sears for everything except maybe the occasionally hand tool but Consumer Reports gave the vacuum high marks. The Internet chatter was also very positive concerning the product so we went ahead and purchased it. The vacuum has performed admirably and we haven’t had a single issue. I later came to find out my In-Laws have a Kenmore Progressive from the 1980’s that has only been repaired once and works like a champ!

The key here is I did some due diligence before plopping down my hard earned cash. I go through this same routine anytime I make a purchase and you should too.

My wife and I cook at home a lot; we just don’t like to spend a lot of money on eating out. This doesn’t mean we never eat out but when we do, it makes it that much more special. My wife and I NEVER eat lunch out, we always brown bag our lunch to work. Home prepared sandwiches cost almost nothing compared to eating a fast food meal everyday for lunch. One way to immediately release your inner cheapskate is to stop eating out as much. Your bank account will thank you.

Pay your bills on time! A cheapskate hates nothing more than paying unnecessary fees to a lender or debt holder because we forgot to mail a payment or mailed it at the last minute. There are cases where money is tight and you may need to make a choice but do yourself a favor and call the debtor and see if you can work something out. Paying $50 late fees just makes a bad situation worse. There is no excuse for paying bounced check fees either. Learn how to balance your check book!!! I blame America’s schools for this, we teach kids almost nothing to get them ready for the “real world”, basic finances should be taught in every high school across the country.

One additional note a cheapskate NEVER pays ATM fees unless it is an absolute emergency. Use ATM’s from your bank and your bank only. If your bank doesn’t have a nationwide network of ATM’s, find another bank. Do not pay $4 to take $20 out of an ATM machine. You would be amazed how many people do this, heck you may be one of them.

A cheapskate also does maintenance on their vehicles when it is required. Oil changes, tire rotations, etc need to be done on schedule, because we hate cars that cost us money and cars that aren’t maintained properly cost the most!

Taking care of one’s health is also very high on a cheapskate’s priority list. Poorly maintained teeth lead to root canals and bridges and they cost LOTS of money. Toothpaste is cheap and your twice yearly checkup is free under most insurances plans. They are also very reasonable if you don’t have insurance as most dentists will work with you. Don’t take care your teeth now and pay mega bucks later. The same goes for your health. Get your yearly checkup, eat right and exercise (walking is free!).

Cheapskates know when it is cost effective to spend money; they know when it is worth paying more for quality. You can buy 100 cheap items for $2 a piece or one for $100 that will last forever; a cheapskate recognizes when this is a winning strategy. Buy quality once, the saying goes.

Heck, if this is what I cheapskate is, I am proud to be one. I wear the moniker with pride and will continue to lead a responsible, informed financial life! Get into the habit of being a cheapskate, you just may like it!

...that is all.

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  1. The best thing I ever did was to get rid of my checking account, and have only an account where I personally have to access it (with photo ID) at the counter or drive-thru. No ATM card either, so no opportunity for anyone (but the bank) to gain access.

    Otherwise, its CASH, or if having to mail, MONEY ORDER. No credit cards - never had one, never will and I'm 46 years old. You don't need a credit card, and paying out of your pocket really makes you think when buying a 'frivolous' item. Way more difficult than signing a number and name on paper (check) or a credit card receipt.

    The research advice is good - gives you time to find the best, and getting the skinny on what is worth it. The 'cooling off' time gives you the opportunity to consider the purchase in the 1st place - might find something else that needs spending on worse.

    Good post Flea.

  2. I'm also proud to be a cheapskate, nothing wrong with managing your money. I was taught from an early and to save and don't blow your money. I have lots of nice things but none were purchased on credit. Keeping up with the maintentnce on your car is another great point Flea. Keep up the good work!

    Kentucky Preppers Network

  3. These are all very good points, my friend. Especially in this present economy...

    Thanks for the information!

  4. I would add once you have decided but before purchasing to do a quick search plus repair to see if there are any issues that have not made it to consumer reports. We knew we were going to need a new washer & a very sturdy one to do laundry for about 10 people. I took recommendations from a large family group, consumer reports, energy star and chose one that was highly rated everywhere. Bad luck as the company has undergone China syndrome and everyone who praised the machine had owned theirs for a few years & the same with comsuer reports. It has been a pain - did not know about Sears and their poor repair service. A quick search discoverd many sites dedicated to diy repair as the machines are pitiful. Lesson Learned. Recommends, research and a repair search on any other big purchases.

  5. Stephanie,

    Good point, my vacuum is out of warranty but we are fortunate enough to have a place that repairs them (if needed) not to far away from us.

    Always take into account repair costs and reputation of the seller and their customer service!

  6. I dont mind being called a cheapskate. I am always on the look-out for bargains and sale, and coupons!