Having begun my career as a Thriftie very recently, I had been feeling a little defensive about the teasing, dubious reactions I had been getting from certain of my friends regarding my coupon-clipping, and ad-reading, and general preoccupation with frugality. However, a few nights ago I had something of an epiphany, and I'm pretty sure I won’t be insecure about the worth of my money-habits ever again. The "aha!" was threefold, and went something like this:
1) Being a Thriftie is an interesting, even challenging, hobby. Much like baseball cards or stamp-collecting, I put an investment of time into gathering and organizing pieces of paper that have significance to me. Some pieces of paper are more exciting than others, and some are very common, and I derive a sense of reward from having an excellent collection. I then use those pieces of paper in a game of saving money, pitting my wits against national corporations who are accustomed to being the Big Dawg in Town with docile consumers buying overpriced goods with nary a murmur. Not only can I “run with the Big Dawg”, but I can beat him, and regularly. The details and rules of this competition change drastically from week to week, making my hobby a particularly fast-paced and intriguing one.
2) It has impressive financial returns, often "paying" me (in money saved) as much or more as I would make in the same amount of time at my job. To confirm this, I go to exhibit A: the receipts (mostly from Publix and CVS, but a few from Kroger, Target, or Rite Aid) I have saved over the past four or five weeks since beginning in earnest to function as a Thriftie. The results are as follow: over the course of that month I spent $170.40 in food, cleaning products, papergoods, etc. According to the amount calculated at the bottom of each receipt from those transactions, I saved $194.77. If we figure that I probably spent 2-3 hrs a week on this hobby (including actual shopping), than for each hour of time invested, I net a return (in money unspent) between $16.23 and $24.34. My efficiency has certainly increased over the last month, so I'm excited to see what the numbers are like next month now that I’ve figured out what works best for me. Now that I've pinpointed my grocery expenses, I'll also be able to whittle down my food budget... Many of the more established Thrifties have gotten really great at this, including this couple in Brooklyn who have a $30 a week grocery budget for the two of them...
3) It's intelligent. It's just silly to spend $8 on contact solution when you could get it for free by using a coupon and CVS extracare bucks... or to pay 4.99 for a regularly priced bottle of St. Ives lotion when you could pay 1.49 by combining a coupon with a sale... or to pay full price for an online purchase when you could have gotten free shipping and 20% off by using retailmenot.com to find a coupon code. Being a Thriftie is a combination of common-sense street-smarts and the concrete application of study skills from our school days. In all of my classes in college, I would first figure out exactly the requirements for a good grade, then organize the steps towards getting there either in my mind or on paper, and finally try to pick up a few shortcuts or tricks to make the process simpler. That's all this is really -- a little research, a little organization, and voila! more money in my wallet, and less in the pocket of The Man. It’s actually kinda subversive when you think about it like that...
In summary: Being a Thriftie is a rewarding hobby that, unlike most hobbies, actually makes me money. It's really just the smart thing to do, unless of course you have vested interest in keeping corporate executives stocked with champagne and caviar... And I read somewhere that only about 13% of the coupons printed are actually ever used, so if you're worried about single-handedly bringing down our teetering national economy, don't be! Your own economy should concern you more anyhow. If you're still not convinced, check out some of the financial success stories here. Notice a trend? It might be the words "coupons" and "sales" scattered liberally throughout. And finally, check out this Clark Howard note for stats on how millionaires are nearly always Thrifties... Renounce your doubt, o gentle reader! For savings and fun, join the ranks of the Thrifties today – you’ll be in good company! :)
edit: One of my favorite Thriftie bloggers, Frugal Dr. Mom, posted in this same vein just recently. This is my favorite part of her post: "My sister recently said to me, once you learn how to do this, it's like being in a club of people who know and the other shoppers are clueless to their detriment. Another person online said that if you don't get strange looks when you shop, then you are doing it wrong. For 5k, I am happy to suffer the strange looks and be a member of the club!" Thanks for the inspiration Dr. Mom, and congrats on the debt repayment! For those just getting started "playing the game," be sure to check out her site for some great tips.
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