I’ve always been cheap. I don’t know where I got it from; my parents are generous, and they’re both spenders. Growing up, I always wanted to save my money. I never wanted much other than books and paper to write on, so it was easy for me to keep my money.
As I got older and started working, I bought things for myself occasionally: CDs and video games. My mom always bought me clothes because, left to my own devices, I’ll wear things until they fall apart.
I stayed cheap, and I didn’t see anything wrong with it.
My attitude started to change after I heard this quote:
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
Something bothered me about that quote the first time I heard it, and it stuck in my head for a long time. I eventually started to realize that I had an attitude that was “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
I noticed that the tank tops I bought from Wal-Mart for $3 would shrink and become misshapen after one wash, but the tank tops I bought from Old Navy for $9 would last me for years, pretty much until I got stains on them that I couldn’t get out. I noticed that cheap kitchen tools would stain or break, but the higher quality ones would look good and function well for a lot longer.
I realized that it was silly to keep buying low quality stuff over and over, to need to replace it constantly when it would wear out. Not only is that not good practice from a financial standpoint, but it’s bad from an environmental standpoint too.
These days, when I buy something, I ask myself:
1. Do I need this? If I haven’t been missing having whatever it is, it’s not a need; it’s a want.
2. Will this bring me joy? Sometimes I don’t need things, but they make me happy enough to justify buying it. For example, I don’t need a new CD, but I do love hearing Taylor Swift tell me to “Shake it off” or the haunting energy of Imagine Dragons.
3. Will it last? I try not to buy things that are going to break or have a minimally useful life.
In the end, it’s not about stuff anyway. The things that are really valuable aren’t things and don’t have a price tag attached. My favorite souvenirs from travel are pictures, and music and video games are best shared with friends.
I’m still cheap. But at least these days, I’m smarter about it. That’s a valuable lesson.