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Archive for June, 2006

When Should You Pass Up Free Stuff?

June 14th, 2006 at 07:09 pm

I've been thinking lately about the fine line between prudent frugality and rank scavenging, when it comes to the opportunity to get something for free. I ride a commuter train into the city every weekday morning, and I feel it's eminently practical to pick up one of the daily newspapers left behind by other commuters at the end of the trip. The paper's free for me, and that's one less getting trashed or having to be recycled. But I'm in a quandary about how much stuff I ought to take for free. There are two city papers, a suburban one, a couple of national papers, even occasionally a tossed magazine, that I can pick up if I am willing to fish through the trash bin. I've gotten over the creepy feeling that I look like a homeless person poking through the papers, but how much can I read each day anyhow? Truthfully, I'm happy enough with just one paper.

A week or two ago, some promo people were on a downtown street handing out gum samples. One guy, instead of passing out a package or two to a customer, held out a cardboard box full of gum packages and said "take all you want". So I grabbed a huge handful. Such a deal! The only problem is....I don't chew gum! So I gave away lots at work and saved a few to give to my nieces and nephews. But again, I wonder - should I take something that's free if I won't use it? Why not pass on it and let someone else - gum chewers - have the opportunity?

So I'm going to try to pass on the free stuff unless I really plan to use it. My home is cluttered enough with not only the things I use but with the stuff I don't. I'm on a campaign to reduce the mess - although it's very hard (for me) to throw out something that isn't outright trash yet. There are other options, donation (and tax deduction, perhaps), re-gifting, and recycling. The point is, if I don't need it, it's wasteful to accept it, and maybe I should pass it by.

Introduction

June 9th, 2006 at 04:21 pm

I am not an extremely frugal person; I refuse, for instance, to wash and reuse ziploc bags, However, I do like to save money wherever I can. I am the daughter of a very frugal man who left brand-new shirts in his drawers when he died because he hadn't yet worn out the ones he was wearing, and who was comfortable shopping at rummage sales for old radios (he had dozens) and used books (he had thousands). Saving's in my blood. The one thing I wish my dad had taught me was the magic of compounding and how to invest. All I ever saved for once I got out of college was a down payment on a new car. Somewhere in my mid-thirties it occurred to me that I had absolutely nothing saved for retirement. I bought a house, and it became important to put a little money aside each month in what I call my "house account" to accrue funds for the inevitable improvements and repairs that crop up. I also began to save for retirement at a furious rate, after reading some articles that convinced me that I would be doomed to poverty in my dotage if I didn't start saving. At my current savings rate, I will probably be okay, but everything I read about saving for the future tells me that the earlier you start, the more your account will be worth when you're ready to retire. I'm trying to make up for that lost time. In future posts, I'd like to talk about some of the books and financial authors I have read, and discuss a few strategies that work for me. Some of my methods may not be suitable for everyone: For example, I always pay my credit card bills every month - why pay interest if you don't have to? And you'll never catch me at Starbuck's. I'm too cheap to spend so much money for a cup of coffee. Still, I have picked up some great suggestions over the years, so I'm going to jump in and post some here in future blogs.