Sunday, October 17, 2010

What motivates a cheapskate?

The Washington Post has an article on the new book The Cheapskate Next Door. And one of the not so surprising finding is that many supposed "cheapskates" are driven by environmental motivations. The common thread is that people live within their means, and this doesn't mean just economically, it means ecologically as well.

One of the difficulties that we have to deal with an economy is that it is driven by acquisition beyond what we can live with. It is easy to buy ten pair of shoes in an outing, but its really difficult to wear ten pairs of shoes. One of the things mentioned in the article is that many cheapskates eschew yard sales because you often buy things you don't need. But I still do, because if you show with intent it can be a great way to shop, just like the thrift stores they actually do shop at. Disclosure, I do both. It is amazing how many electronics you can find that are still usable. Case in point, today I was looking for replacement router since I "bricked" mine trying to do some funky hacking. While looking I found two brand new motherboards, the main system board of a computer. Unfortunately these were from 2001 so I'm not sure they have a lot of utility. So what motivated that person to buy those two motherboards in the first place. My guess was an ambition to do a special project. And that's what motivates so much of our buying, potential, ambition, intention.

My favorite example of good intentions when I go thrifting are all the pieces of exercise equipment that one can find. And that is so much of our economy, we have so many options, so much space we buy not what we need but what we think we need. The irony is that our supply chains are so much better today, is it possible to lead a life of just in time instead of just in case?

The irony is that we buy so much and hold it so we feel that we can be in control, but the debt we take on means we aren't. In the end cheapskates do splurge (well most of us) the question is we do it consciously.


At 1:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freecyle baby! Good place for kiddie stuff that you don't use for very long.
- Roger

At 8:26 AM , Anonymous Rosa said...

I loved this book! I feel so out of place so much of the time - most of our friends have huge debt obligations and feel like they "can't afford" to care about ecology or charity or justice. But on the other side the folks who will talk on those issues are often doing so from a buy more, use more kind of mindset.

Cheapskate Next Door could have visited our house, and knowing he found so many folks living this way was really heartening.


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