Before I went to graduate school, I never thought much about buying groceries and other everyday items. During high school, my parents took care of that for the most part, and in college, we had the dining hall and dorms to basically provide our needs (hardly for free, but I didn’t notice it). However, when I arrived at graduate school, suddenly I was responsible for buying groceries and having some money left over at the end of the week to do the things I wanted to do.
Some people call me cheap, and others tight. I prefer to look at myself as frugal, or perhaps thrifty, and my beliefs about money do not render me stingy, although I do like to save money. I tend to look at having and spending money like this: I like to save money on things I don’t really care about, so I can have money to spend on things I do. So, for example, there is no difference between buying eggs at Aldi, or eggs at Meijer. However, I save about 40 cents/dozen by getting the eggs for 79 cents a dozen at Aldi. At a dozen per week, I save over $20.00 a year. Twenty dollars buys a few books, which I do enjoy. Another example is generic pop. How much is a 2-liter of Pepsi? Somewhere around $1.25. The generic is $.75. Savings per week if I buy 2? $1.00 a week. In a year, that is $52.00. Chicken noodle soup is basically chicken stock, noodles, and a few chunks of chicken. I can get Campbell’s for $1.00 or Aldi for 50 cents. If I buy 4 a week, in the course of a year I have saved $104.00. I don’t really care enough about pop, eggs, or chicken noodle soup to readily distinguish between generic and name brand, but I do enjoy having an extra $176.00 at the end of the year.
Like I said, I don’t think I am cheap. I like to buy people gifts, and I always try to tip 20-25% when I go out to eat. I also make sure I give a fair percentage of my income to charity, including my church. In fact, one thing I save money for is to share it with others. However, I would much rather “share” my money with others than with the electric company, gas company, or grocery store. This is one main reason I also go to extremes to save energy, and this is reflected by the fact that our air-conditioning has kicked on probably 10 times this whole summer (it has been unseasonably cool, so we don’t usually save as much energy as we have this summer).
So what is my basic philosophy and challenge to you? Well, it could be summarized as “tighten your finances where it doesn’t really matter, so you can have more money where it does.” There are many creative ways to save money, and the way I look at it is that if you can put effort into whatever it is you put effort into (school, job, hobby, etc), you can put effort into saving money, since it will likely benefit you and those that matter to you!