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Discount Diva: Frugality can have its limits

What’s the wackiest thing you’ve ever done to save money?

Have you worn your whole vacation’s worth of clothing on the plane to avoid paying luggage fees at an airline? Have you spent the winter months with the thermostat at 40 degrees – just high enough to keep the pipes from freezing? Do you stand outside the shower with a stopwatch and cut off your husband’s water supply after 60 seconds?

There are varying degrees of frugality, and everyone has their own limit on what they’ll do to save money.

Take dumpster diving for food. At first, the thought of it kind of makes me gag. If we’re talking about wilted, unwrapped cabbage under a big pile of gross, leaky garbage – blech – I’d rather just spring the 79 cents for a fresh head from the store.

I’ve never technically dumpster dived, but when we talk about hypothetics I personally start thinking in shades of grey. Is it something like a shrink-wrapped crate of peanut butter? How far past the expiration date is it? Can I easily reach in and grab it? What kind of garbage is it surrounded by? It’s not that I can’t go to the store and buy my own peanut butter, but man, there’s just something about a freebie.

Still, there are plenty of things I don’t – or won’t do – to conserve coin.

Unlike the people on TLC’s show Extreme Cheapskates, I don’t empty my garbage directly into the garbage truck in order to reuse trash bags. I don’t shower with my clothes on to save water. And everyone in my family flushes the toilet after each use, thank you very much.

But if we’re talking a perfectly good bag of Doritos surrounded by “clean” garbage at the top of a bin, I’m totally grabbing that sucker.

I got a taste of people’s varying thresholds for frugality when I wrote about a lovely woman who always set her butter wrappers on top of her hot veggies to use up every last drop of butter.

Half the readers I heard from were outraged that she would waste her time on something that would save so little. The other half were outraged because, well, duh! Everyone does that with their butter wrappers! (Personally, my mom taught me to keep my wrappers in the fridge to grease cake pans.)

Sure some things, like reusing banana peels to polish your shoes, won’t save you a whole bunch of money. But there’s a lot to be said for doing things that make us feel frugal. And avoiding waste isn’t going to do anyone harm.

And in my opinion, being thrifty is nothing to be ashamed of. I mean really, wouldn’t you rather be a cheapskate than a Kardashian?

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