I read SMOL’s post on the difference between frugal and miserly with quite a bit of interest. Not to mention the conversation it generated with the numerous comments.
He basically summed up the difference as:
A frugal person loves to spend less on himself; but when it comes to people that matter, he does not mind spending money on them.A miser will not spend money on himself and others.
Although I largely agree with the above distinction, I personally don’t think it’s very useful, at least in my own situation. According to the Mrs, I tend to be “kinder and nicer” to friends or strangers as compared to loved ones like family.
First, I would impose more of my own views and preferences on loved ones.
For example, when I am out dining with her, I would actively express my displeasure if we are having something that is not to my liking. However, when we are out with friends, I tend to put on a happier front even when it’s the same exact dishes.
From my perspective, I see this as a positive thing since I don’t see the “need” to hide my views or preferences when I am with her.
Second, I exert much higher standards and expectations on loved ones as compared to others.
For instance, I am more frugal and more stringent on myself and the Mrs (who I genuinely see as an extension of myself). Like living up to the moniker of Mrs 15HWW. Duh.
From my perspective, I also see it as a good thing since I “care” enough about her to influence her to make the “right” and “better” decisions.
This is how I operate and the Mrs has occasionally complained vehemently about this, lamenting that it’s probably “better and easier” to be my friend rather than my wife.
It’s quite an oxymoron. I see the Mrs and I as a unit, so I do tend to spend less on ourselves and more on others. But it’s obvious that the Mrs matters a lot to me.
So am I a miser or not?
Nobody would really admit that he/she is a miser but there’s no escaping some “miserly” behaviour from time to time. Here’s two interesting incidents from the past two weeks.
Incident 1: A $7 and $2 item
About two weeks ago, we went on a trip to Johor Bahru with a friend. There was a Tsum Tsum merchandise fair at the mall and the friend and the Mrs spent quite some time looking around.
The stuff were easily retailing 20-30% cheaper than prices in Singapore and the friend bought quite a bit of stuff for herself and her daughters.
The Mrs was also interested in a key pouch that costs around $7 and some stickers at $2 for a page. I knew she liked them but I thought perhaps it was just the usual fleeting thing and she could have been influenced since our friend bought some items.
I also knew the odds are that she would not buy them unless I actively encouraged it.
But somehow, I could not bring myself to encourage her. I rationalised in my brain that the quality of the products were dodgy at best and they generally do not serve a useful function. They were basically just clutter to me.
So I gave a “up to you” reply.
As predicted, she did not buy them in the end. That night, she was quite upset about it and even one week later, when I bought her a brand new and speedy laptop at $1,200, she lamented how the stickers would have been the perfect accessory for the laptop.
It was only then that I realised how much she valued those items and that she would have been “happier” if I had cut $200 from the laptop purchase and bought her the two items at $7 and $2 respectively.
Talk about tunnel vision and being penny wise and pound foolish.
Incident 2: The diamond ring
The Mrs has been clamouring for a diamond ring for some time. Since about 8 years ago. I have been stalling quite successfully so far but her argument against further delaying the purchase is that when her hands become old and wrinkly, there would not be much point having that diamond on her finger.
Honestly, I thought I could “educate” her out of it. After all, yours truly desired a IWC/Chopard about 10 years ago but I have really grown out of it and appreciate my trusty and hardy Casio nowadays.
I really don’t know how much of that inclination to own a diamond ring has to do with the ego, peer pressure or De Beers’ marketing techniques, but there’s no doubt her desire to have a bling is pretty strong.
So earlier this year, I sort of promised to buy her one the next year, but obviously with some caveats. Like if we are still earning decent incomes and without children by then. On hindsight, I think that’s really “nasty” of me since there’s no doubt about our priorities.
Now that we are approaching the end of the year and there’s still no news on the baby front, I threw in an additional spanner recently. That we could choose to either use the $5,000 budget for the diamond ring or go on a US/Europe trip. Somehow, frugal/miserly me wants to drive home the lesson of opportunity cost deep into this purchase.
And to make matters worse, just the other day, she mentioned about getting a PlayStation 4 for me. She knows I have been waiting to play the new Dragon Quest game. But I brushed it off by promising that I would not buy any gaming gadget before she gets her diamond ring. Quite sadistic, huh?
What’s the point of the above rambling?
- I need to stop wearing these lenses that’s just loaded with my perspective. Of course I am not a tyrant and do give in from time to time. But maybe I need to do it a bit more. Especially for loved ones.
- Spending less and cutting back is sometimes the right decision. But sometimes the wrong one. Vice versa for spending more. Whether it’s right and wrong, you will know it, feel it in your own unique situation.
- I am a financial blogger but that does not mean I do not struggle with financial decisions. Sorry dear readers that sometimes, I don’t have the answers to my questions, not to mention yours.
- Being miserly too often will end up in misery. I am really putting myself out to hang and dry today.