“Here’s your credit card back.” My son Greg, along for the ride, was pumping a tank of gas for me. Regular unleaded, $2.88 a gallon. Soon he replaced the nozzle, twisted the gas cap back on, shut the little door, and tore off my receipt. Such service!
“Thanks, Kid.” As Greg buckled in I started the engine and pulled away from the pump and out onto the street. We hadn’t gone two blocks when I let out a groan. “Oh, man….”
“What’s wrong?” he said.
“Look: gas is $2.87 here!”
Greg rolled his eyes and then feigned exaggerated distress. “Oh, how awful! You just wasted, what, twelve cents?”
I glanced over at him. “Oh. Um. I guess you’re right; it’s no big deal.”
And he was right — my reaction was nothing short of irrational. Brent has a good job; has had for several years. We have no car payments and no trouble meeting our bills. As I thought it over, I realized that I don’t mind occasionally spending $40 or $50 for dinner out, though I could fix the same meal at home for around $9. While I don’t shop at the expensive clothing stores, if I really need a particular skirt or top and finally find just the right thing, I’ll buy it without qualm… even if it is not on sale.
When grocery shopping, I buy mostly store brands rather than the pricier national-brand items, but then I’ll splurge on fresh seafood and enticing produce. We might have cornbread with canned field peas one evening, and an elegant scallop sauté with asparagus the next.
So what’s up with this selective frugality? Why do I cheerfully plunk down several bucks for a pound of scallops, but kick myself when I fill up the car and then realize that I could have bought gas for one cent cheaper?
As usual, I have a theory about this. Years ago, when Brent’s industry was in a terrible slump, he went for a few years either unemployed or seriously under-employed. During those times, we watched every penny. Our budget was so tight it squeaked. We didn’t do anything that wasn’t in the four food groups–well, usually only three of them. Mac & cheese, Ramens… we ate like college students or something. Also, we used as little gasoline as possible. The kids and I walked to the library and the playground, and sometimes the grocery store. But sooner or later I would absolutely, positively have to buy gas — and when I did, you better believe I scoped out the cheapest place.
Once our finances stabilized and I could buy stuff like a normal person, I adapted with great thankfulness. But the lessons I learned, about how to get along on a little and prioritize what I spend, have stayed with me. Healthy, appealing food is important enough to invest in it, so I am happy to do just that. Suitable clothes for business, school, etc. — also important. However, when it comes to the truly mundane, like putting gas in the car, I turn into a real tightwad.
God brought us safely through the tough times, and remembering those times makes me appreciate the way he now provides so generously. As near as I can figure, my gas-price complex is a useful, lingering reminder NOT to take abundance for granted.
It’s also good for amusing the offspring.
Does anybody else have “selective frugality?” I’m linking up for Company Girls Coffee… please join us!
Thanks for reading!