Sunday, January 16, 2011

Self-Esteem and the "C" Word

You know the word I’m talking about: cheap. While most people love getting a good deal, there’s a lot of shame that can come with being cheap and cutting corners (and also, for that matter, with being broke.)
                Certainly, there’s the shame from others for being a “cheapskate” or a “penny pincher,” which often stems from jealousy, and can be combated with a witty comeback or two. But there’s also a shame that comes from within ourselves: the feeling that we are not worthy enough for something new,  or that we somehow “deserve” to have less than everyone else. This is a tricky situation. My stance for these cases is this: learn your limits and respect them.  After all, it’s worth it to spend a few extra dollars now, rather than a few hundred dollars later in therapy.
                One thing I had to draw the line on, for example, was shopping at discounted grocery stores. (You know, the kind that sells dented cans and the gamble on botulism.) I found this out a few years ago (2007, I think it was), when I was at one of these places and bought a bottle of Gatorade. When I went home and drank it, it didn’t taste quite like I remembered Gatorade tasting. I flipped it over and read the expiration date – 2004. I immediately wondered: why do other people get to drink normal-tasting Gatorade, and I have to drink three years expired Gatorade? To punish myself even more, I then drove to a “real” (ie not expired) grocery store and just stood in the aisles, watching the “normal” people, feeling ridiculously undeserving and jealous.
But what a waste of time! Because no matter what your boundaries are, there are always other ways of being thrifty. Don’t feel like you need to cash in your baseline self-esteem for frugality.  Of course, we live in a culture that is obsessed with spending money and with consumption, and readjusting your mindset can help quite a bit in that department. But being honest with yourself about what genuinely will help your wallet without causing you heartache is also useful. Here’s a short list of questions to get you started thinking about this:
-          Are there clothing items that, if you bought them used, rather than new, would hurt your self-worth? What are they? (Shoes? Sheets? Boxer shorts?)
-          How do you feel about digging around in a dumpster for, say, materials for an art project? What about discarded food items? Does packaging make a difference?
-          What about certain gigs that could earn you extra cash, like selling plasma?
Ultimately, remember: Saving money should be a reward – not a punishment!


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