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Saving Money: Thrifty or Cheap?

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Why do moms feel ashamed of the age-old art of saving money?

saving money or being cheap

Wendy Thomas: At a recent soccer game, I was talking with one mom whose husband was out of work and who had recently gone back to work because "she had to." Money was tight in the household. The subject of her son's birthday came up, and she lowered her voice so the other soccer moms couldn't hear as she told me about her themed party held at a park with outdoor games and homemade cake. "It didn't cost much, and the kids had a blast," she told me.

She also confessed in a whisper that she should have looked at a thrift store before buying her son a new soccer goalie shirt for his birthday gift. "Do you know how expensive those things are?" she asked me.

As the mother of six children and a writer of a weekly newspaper column and blog on thrifty living, I can relate. I get called cheap all the time. I once wrote an article about spending less than $4 total on one of my daughter's birthday parties. "That's horrible!" I heard. "How can you be so mean to your daughter?" responded another.

To many, being thrifty is synonymous with being cheap. And being cheap to these people means not showing love or not having fun.

To others like Danny Kofke, author of How To Survive (and Perhaps Thrive) on a Teacher's Salary, being thrifty means financial freedom, even if you are called names.

Kofke is a special education teacher and author in Georgia. His wife, Tracy, was a school teacher before becoming a stay-at-home mom to their two young daughters. In order to live off a single teacher's salary, they've had to be thrifty most of their lives.

He remembers one particular incident in which he was called cheap and really did not care. Before his wife had their first daughter, they had worked hard at paying off all their debt so they could make it on a teacher's salary.

"We actually had one car for three years -- we paid this off in two years so we would not have a car payment while Tracy stayed home. This was during the time that Tracy was working -- she worked at a different school than I did. Depending on our schedules, I would sometimes have to ride my bike to work so Tracy could have the car. Some of my coworkers would make fun of me -- no one rode their bikes to work -- and call me cheap and say just get another car. I knew that this practice would help Tracy and me achieve our goal of her staying home once we had a child, so I did not really care what others thought.

"A few years later, these same people that once thought I was cheap were asking my advice on finances. I think that a silver lining to the recession we had is that others are beginning to see that being thrifty is a good thing, and it actually gives you more freedom."

Pegi Burdick, creator of, has also been called cheap while trying to be thrifty. She teaches people how to be totally conscious when pulling out their wallets, and about the shift in mindset from fearful spending to sexy savings. She lives what she teaches.

Some of her thrifty lifestyle choices include:

  • Taking enormous delight in driving an inexpensive car -- VW -- down from the over-priced Mercedes ($21,000.00)
  • Taking pleasure in returning to Costco blueberries that tasted terrible ($6.99)
  • Arguing with the vet why she was charged an extra $2.00 for a syringe
  • Feeling entitled to demand from Chase that they put back the $39 fee they took for not shutting off her ATM card when she was $3 over her balance (their new way to collect fees)

"I teach people: I worked hard for my money, and I will decide who gets it and when. When a friend told me I was cheap to use a VA in India for $6/hour versus an American for $20, I scoffed ... three months later, she asked for his name and contact info.

"I am now very comfortable and confident in how I manage my money ... five years ago, I was insecure and concerned with what others thought ... now, pish ... I think they are the foolish ones."

next: Go from Vixen to Virgin for Only 15 Bucks
30 comments so far | Post a comment now
Johnnia September 30, 2009, 7:15 AM

I know what you mean about being told your cheap. I am a SAHM of three kids and my bf works two jobs to support us….I clip coupons and buy only the things I “must” have on sale and some of my gf’s say I’m being cheap…..

MikeB September 30, 2009, 7:29 AM

I’m cheap and proud. I ride my bike to work every day, rain or shine, saving on gas and a health club membership. I only have basic cable to get internet service, not the $180/month that most people pay to get dozens of channels they don’t watch. I never eat lunch out, I dropped my home phone since I was already paying for a cell. I do many other small economies that all add up.

My teacher wife is getting furloughed four days for the State to save money. We’re going to Paris, France for vacation- That’s what we do with the money we save by living smart.

That Guy September 30, 2009, 10:29 AM

Don’t have kids if you can’t afford them.

Anonymous September 30, 2009, 10:34 AM

Most soccer moms are snobs anyway.

Wendy  September 30, 2009, 12:32 PM

Even if I had only one child, I would still live a thrifty life. To me it’s more of a life style choice, being thrifty means being wildly creative with what’s at hand.

Becky October 14, 2009, 3:25 AM

Great article Wendy! Can very much relate…

Anonymous November 24, 2009, 7:20 PM

I love this article!…almost everything in my house I have bought on sale or at a yard sale…I almost never pay full price for anything…

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