Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Thought for the Day: Thrifty, Frugal or Mean?

"Ooh darling! I've got a great idea. If  we cancel the staff party we'll look like we're in tune with the masses struggling in these austere times.  Look there's now a spare £50,000 in our bank account.   That can go towards our son's wedding.  Oh goody! I've just remembered it's traditional for the bride's family to pay. "

This  imaginary conversation that could have come straight from the upper echelons of British society serves as a good introduction for the topic of today's post.  Being careful with the pennies can be regarded as thrifty, frugal or downright tight but what's the difference between these terms?

Well, a chap called Dong has gone some way in defining this, although he uses the Americanism 'cheap' rather than mean to describe a person whose tighter than a duck's arse (or ass for my Transatlantic friends).  He's even included one of my beloved Venn diagrams. 

For me, it seems that there is an overlap between thrift and frugality which Dong acknowledges too.  They can co-exist very nicely together, thank you very much but there is mockery and scorn between what can sometimes be considered two different factions. 'How can you consider having lunch rather than dinner in a Michelin starred restaurant as making good economic sense.  I could buy two months worth of stuff from Netto for that kind of money!'  says Mr Frugal to Mrs Thifty.  'Is the food there locally sourced?' replies Mrs Thrifty.

Yet, both imply a considered approach to dealing with money which surely is to be applauded in these days where many people's spending has gone awry.  Both the thrify and frugal person are keen to cut waste.  It seems though that the frugal goes one step further on the careful spending scale, placing a degree of emphasis on using less resources  that a purely thrify person might find unacceptable.  Whether you are predominantly thrifty or frugal is down to mindset too. When you feel rich whatever your income you are more likely to live a simpler life and passing up on the latest handbag will not feel like an act of denial.

We now come onto 'mean'.  Well that's in an entirely different ballpark altogether. Certainly penny pinching at the expense of others needs to be considered carefully.  The relatively affluent are lucky enough to be able to consider the effects of their spending on others and can choose to buy more expensive local or Fairtrade products rather than hunting out cheap goods.  And  whilst it might be okay to review spending  at Christmas cutting back on expenditure (like the aforementioned staff party)  used to show appreciation to others requires careful forethought.  Foisting your penny pinching on others rather than feeling the effects yourself can  leave a bad taste in the mouth.

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