I’ve had this post in mind for a while but I struggled to write it because I guess talking about money is always a bit tricky. It’s worth saying that I am not saying anyone else’s approach to money and spending is wrong, just different, and all I can do is talk about works for me personally, and us as a family.
Can you be thrifty without being tight? Or do you have to be a bit tight in order to be thrifty? Money is odd. I always feel that no matter how much you have, you will live within your means. I don’t like spending money, I never have. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from but I’ve always been quite careful with money. I hate spending more than about £15 on an item of clothing, and I keep clothes for years, literally YEARS. I buy the cheapest possible greetings cards and quite often get toys and things second hand on ebay.
When I was working and single I never had the highest salary, and for a long time managed to scrape by, covering my mortgage, bills and food with perhaps £30 left for clothes/entertainment every month. A carefulness with money that always came naturally was essential in those days and Birthdays and Christmas were the times I got new clothes or DVDs etc. Years of this basically led to an increased aversion to spending.
Then I met my husband, who has a similar attitude to me. He also had years of scraping by on a low salary and he too had learnt to be careful with his money. The difference between us was that his hard work over the years really paid off and he now earns a far better salary than I had ever dreamed of! In our early relationship, I was promoted too and with our combined salaries we were decidedly comfortable. It was a really weird experience for me not having to budget for every single penny spent.
After making the decision to be a SAHM and live off of my hubby’s salary, we are still better off than I ever was on my own but we are not exactly loaded or carefree, by a long way! We budget for everything and try to save every month in various forms to make sure we can afford unexpected car bills, holidays and other expensive times, like Christmas and Birthdays.
We manage pretty well but I think my natural aversion to spending still helps! I like to look for bargains, I buy Monkey’s clothes a season or more ahead in the sales, or I buy them from supermarkets or Primark because I don’t see the point in spending a lot of money on something he will wear for such a short time. We’ve even bought some things from charity shops, as let’s face it, baby/toddler clothes are very rarely ‘well-worn!’ We’ve actually been really lucky too in the fact that Monkey has had a lot of second hand clothes from a friend with son a year older than Monkey. This has saved us so much money over time!
The only exception is shoes, as he has wide feet so it’s important for his development to have his own shoes. They mold to the feet wearing them so wearing someone else’s shoes can be uncomfortable. Because of this Monkey only ever has one or two pairs of shoes at any one time. They are just so expensive and I just don’t see the point for lots of different pairs at his age. I wonder if I would be different if we had a girl? Maybe not!
He very occasionally gets a new toy, if we think it will help his stage of development, but for the most part, and especially as he gets older, we try and keep toys just as christmas/birthday presents. Some of the more expensive toy items, I prefer to get second hand. I got some great £5 bargains off ebay last summer. Occasionally if a big thing, like his trike, is in the sale, we will get one new, but it has to be quite a good discount!
We have just bought some outdoor toys for his birthday – we were looking for a swing/slide and a playhouse, but they are all so expensive and we just couldn’t justify spending the hundreds of pounds on new ones. We just can’t afford to! So it has been hello ebay again and we’ve got some great second hand bargains. So they are a little faded or worn, but then all outdoor toys end up like that and Monkey doesn’t care! It’s not just Monkey’s bits we scrimp on though either as hubby and I rarely buy ourselves clothes or other bits, and any recent purchases have been in the sale or from Primark.
I prefer to think of myself as thrifty rather than tight though. Tight has such negative connotations of greediness or a lack of generosity. I like to give lovely things to people, it’s just that I like to get them for the lowest price possible, that way it means I can afford to get them more. And the fact that we save more in various ways means we are able to be a bit more relaxed about buying lunch out at the cafe at soft play, or have day out as a family.
One of my friends laughed at me the other week as I had patched a puncture on Monkey’s ball. She laughed as the balls are only a few quid, and thought it seemed pointless, but to me it made sense. I was fixing a puncture on his buggy wheel so why not fix the ball too? Why not save myself spending those few quid if I could? Besides, Monkey loves that ball!
Then on the flip side, we are spending a lot of money on the garden. We sold hubby’s nice pre-Monkey car for a banger which takes 6 or 7 tries to start somedays. We did this a) because hubby now works within walking distance and it was de-valueing on the drive and b) because we felt the money could be put to better use, for example, to give us a nice garden.
I guess it comes down to choices. What is important to you. I’m not saying the choices we make are right for everyone but they work for us. We could be a lot better in some ways – I know we could save money on our food shops by being a bit more savvy, but it comes down to laziness and effort. Especially now I am pregnant again, we just like the ease of ordering food online and having it delivered. I’m sure we won’t do this forever, but right now it works for us, and we still try to make the most of offers where we can. We also plan our meals, which really helps keep the food bills down.
We have a nice house and we do like nice things. I guess that the times we do spend a bit more money on something it is because it is something that is exactly what we are looking for, and that we know we will have for many years to come. The gorgeous dresser we have in our dining room was pretty pricey, but we couldn’t find what we wanted cheaper, even after many hours scouring for a second hand one to do up, and we adore it. This is our family forever home and that dresser will be with us for many many years.
Being a bit thrifty day to day allows us to save and then spend a bit more on things that mean more to us.
Whether we will always be like this, I don’t know. Maybe if we suddenly became millionaires (unlikely as we don’t play the lottery) I would relax my spending rules? But it is so ingrained that I’m not sure I could ever see myself spending lots of money on things like baby clothes when they won’t be needed for very long. As with so many things though, different strokes for different folks and we all make different choices for different reasons.
What do you think? Is Thrifty and Tight the same thing? Are you thrifty or are you a bit more relaxed when it comes to spending?