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What I learned from my cheapskate friend

Yes, you can buy gifts second hand. Especially if they’re collectable items.
Yes, you can buy gifts second hand. Especially if they’re collectable items.

IT used to be uncool to be stingy. But if you want to be money smart - and have plenty of cash saved for later, there's easy things that will make a huge difference to your bank account.

My friend Norma kept her fingernails short for vegetable gardening. She baked mince pies from leftovers and pastry from scratch. If something was cooling in her kitchen, it had a tea towel over it.

She wore knitted jumpers she'd had for forty years and when her shoes were broken she took them to Mr Fixit. Her record collection was sourced from the local op shop.

She only heated the room she was using. She refused to buy milk in plastic containers because birds got plastic rings from the lids stuck on their beaks. She was the first environmentalist I ever knew.

Because of these things, Norma had a reputation around our small country town as being stingy. Norma had her own house, a car that had been running since the 1970s, and had a holiday up to North Queensland every year to visit her son.

She died with savings, so she could have had overseas trips and lobster by the sea, but that wasn't her. She loved simplicity.

It's time to embrace being stingy again. Reward being stingy. Celebrate being stingy! Stingy means taking care of your money. Stingy means reusing and recycling. Stingy means contributing less to our overwhelming landfill problem. Stingy means not having to eat dog food for protein when we're in our eighties.

Over the past few months, I've realised that as a single woman (like Norma, for twenty years of her life after her husband died), I'm at huge risk of being in poverty when I'm out of the workforce. I don't want that - no one does. Isn't retirement all about sipping cocktails and eating crème brulee inside your duplex in Noosa? Or making mince pies and gardening, like Norma?

Norma was awesome with her money, but always generous with her time and love (pictured here with Melanie’s sister Sarah). Be like Norma.
Norma was awesome with her money, but always generous with her time and love (pictured here with Melanie’s sister Sarah). Be like Norma.

So, changes need to be made. Here are some of the things I'm doing to make sure the thirty or so years I have after retirement aren't years filled with financial stress.

Unsubscribe to all email promotional newsletters

How often are you sitting at your computer, and (conveniently, always around payday when you think you're flush) a newsletter comes through with the latest bargains on a swimsuit you didn't know you needed, or a new handbag? Unsubscribe. I worked out I make a silly, impulse purchase like this every month. If the purchase is $250 (I know, I'm embarrassed, as is my credit card), I'll save $3000 a year by unsubscribing.

Don't eat out (as much), and if you must eat out, take a container

Our generation loves to eat out - it's one of our great pleasures. Once a week, save yourself $50 and buy a frozen meal from the supermarket. Instantly, that's $43 in your pocket. If you must go out, have you ever noticed how much food is left over? I have a gastric sleeve, so there's always loads. It's seen as stingy to ask for takeaway in certain places - bugger that. Bring your own container and take it home. You'll save yourself $15 the next day for your meals. Annual saving, if you're eating out once a week? $780

OK, it might be a bit confronting at first — but bringing your leftovers home will save you a lot.
OK, it might be a bit confronting at first — but bringing your leftovers home will save you a lot.

Buy all your toiletries and detergents at bargain shops

Toiletries are ridiculously expensive, given they're all made out of the same few ingredients, really. In the major supermarkets you can pay as much as $16 for 2L of laundry liquid. I buy mine in a bargain store and pay $7.50 for 5L. That's a huge difference over a year. You can also buy your soap, shampoo, razors, moisturising cream at bargain shops for a fraction of the price.

Increase your super by 2%

Most Australians interaction with super is pretty negligible. We expect our bosses are paying 9.5% or more into our super accounts. Firstly, sign up with the tax office to make sure this is happening. Secondly, add an extra 2%. If you're on the average Australian wage ($78K), that's about $30 a week you'll be losing from your take-home pay packet. Might feel painful now, but it won't when it's an extra $100K in your retirement fund after you've said goodbye to your working life.

Start a gift cupboard

I've spent my life seeing things I know my family and friends will love, buying them and giving these things to them straight away. Don't do it! Start a shelf in your pantry that's for gifts. Collect things there you think would be great presents, save bottles of wine people bring to your house that don't get drunk, hold onto gifts you're given you might not have use for (but label so you don't regift to the person who gifted them to you!).

Be sparing with your loyalty and surf the catalogues

My local chemist charges $15 for a prescription I can get at the discount chemist for $7. Yet, they employ 8 local staff, hold onto my prescriptions, remember my name when I visit and genuinely care about my health. They perform these services for hundreds of people in my community, and provide a safe space for methadone users and senior citizens. So, I'm going to stay loyal to them. I'm happy to pay that extra $8 per prescription for that service. Some stores are about community as well as business, so reward them with your loyalty. For everything else, I surf the catalogues. If one shop has a deal on mince, I eat mince that week. If another has a good deal on cheese, I'll do my cheese shopping there. Don't get locked in to doing all your shopping at one place. Go where the bargains are.

Shop second hand

This is a no-brainer, but it's also the scariest part of being stingy. Buying for yourself from op shops is fine, but giving someone else a present you've bought from an op-shop? This can be scary stuff. Last week I did this for the very first time: my friend loves guns and cooking so I went to the local Vinnies and bought him two incredible books about guns and cooking for his birthday. I spent about half an hour embarrassedly explaining why they were second hand … but he loved them.

It’s OK to give second hand gifts — especially if they’re really into collectables.
It’s OK to give second hand gifts — especially if they’re really into collectables.

When I think of Norma, I don't think about the stuff she did or didn't buy me. I remember dancing around her lounge room to those old records, learning how to cross stitch, playing the pianola and the taste of those delicious mince pies I've been trying to duplicate as an adult ever since. I'm sure for birthdays and Christmases she bought me little gifts, new gifts, but I can't remember what they were. I remember time and her love and her fun.

And think about how much love and fun you'll be able to give when you're not constantly worried about debt and your future.

 

Follow Melanie on Twitter: @MelanieTait

Topics:  budgeting editors picks money


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