There’s a big difference between being cheap and being frugal. Being cheap means always choosing the least expensive option, no matter what. Being frugal means carefully considering how to spend money and making buying decisions based on value. Some people are fine with being labeled “cheap”, but I’d prefer to think of myself as frugal. There are certain things for which I’ll always be willing to spend a bit more money. The following is a random list of some of those items.
Luggage: Cheap luggage is basically disposable. Have you seen the way baggage handlers treat luggage at the airport? It’s like luggage picked on them when they were in high school, and they’re still holding a grudge. A cheap suitcase can be purchased for as little as $50, but you would be lucky to get more than three or four uses out of it. After that, you should expect it to arrive at your destination without wheels and with your unmentionables peaking out through busted zippers. Good quality luggage will cost quite a bit more, but you can trust that it will arrive intact.
Plastic wrap: Cheap plastic wrap makes me irrationally angry. I don’t know why anyone would buy it. How can the buyers of cheap plastic wrap stand the warped, ragged scraps of plastic they finally manage to pull off over the flimsy, tiny-toothed aluminum cutter that is barely even attached to the stupid box?! And then how do they get it to actually cling to the dish they’re trying to cover? I’ll spend an extra buck for the real deal any day.
Organic milk: No kidding, organic milk truly tastes better than the non-organic variety. It tastes creamier and less sour. Organic milk is also free of all the extra antibiotics and hormones that are present in regular milk. This is especially important if you have kids (which I don’t). Some girls are now getting their periods as early as age nine (nine!) and many doctors and scientists believe this is related to the high levels of hormones in milk.
Photography for special events: Once in a lifetime events will remain vivid in your memory if you have fabulous pictures that capture the best moments. I’ve been to weddings where the couples hired top notch photographers, and it was so worth it. Great photographers will take a journalistic approach to an event. They will snap amazing candid shots that capture the event better than a posed picture ever could. The picture at the left is me and my friend Ben dancing at a wedding last October (I’m glad Ben’s lovely wife, Meredith, let me steal him for so many dances!). This picture perfectly reflects the fun, festive wedding of the fabulous Meghan and Chris Passo.
Vacations (Sometimes): Don’t get me wrong, vacations do not need to be pricey to be great. An inexpensive weekend getaway is a fabulous thing. But sometimes, it’s worth spending real money on a really amazing vacation. The pyramids of Egypt, the canals of Venice, and the beaches of Thailand don’t come cheap. I’ve never experienced any of these places, but I plan to. I’ll save and budget accordingly, but I would never let the price tag of a trip to one of these destinations prevent me from going. One should never be too cheap to see the world.
Ice cream: Ah, my favorite food! I’m a bit of an ice cream connoisseur. I’ve tried them all and I can tell you that the brands made with fewer ingredients are always so much yummier, although they’re also more expensive. But it is so worth it! Ice cream made out of real ingredients like cream, milk, and sugar is so decadent and indulgent. The cheap, gummy varieties just don’t compare.
Shoes: Ah, my favorite accessory! I’m a bit of a shoe connoisseur. (Wait, this sounds familiar…) Quality materials and good engineering make a world of difference when it comes to shoes. I’m pretty sure this is true for both men’s and women’s shoes, but I only have experience with the latter so I’ll talk about that. Good quality high heeled shoes are made so that the heel is placed further in from the end of the shoe. This makes the shoes much more stable. They also have more padding in the soles. Never mind the fact that good quality shoes just plain look better. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes cheap shoes stand out like a hooker in church, but you can always spot them from a mile away. I can’t get on board with spending $700 on a pair of Monolos, but I can definitely understand paying a couple hundred bucks for a pair of shoes that will get a lot of use.
Direct flights: Have you ever tried to change planes in Chicago? It’s a great city, but it is the armpit of the world when it comes to weather. Chicago experiences blizzard conditions and/or thunderstorms approximately 360 days per year. An hour layover can easily turn into half a day spent staring at the “delayed” status on the departure board while steam comes out of your ears. If I’m stuck in the terminal like a penned animal for hours, I’m probably going to spend at least $50 on booze and lousy airport food. These would not be frugal purchases, but desperate times call for margaritas. It makes a lot more sense to spend a little more money on a direct flight and to get where you need to be in less time and with less alcohol in your system.
Viva la frugal!