When I was a little girl, I bought a nice big box of those 64 crayons (we weren’t yet up to 128, though I might’ve bought that when I got older). It had so many beautiful colors and things I hadn’t even dreamed about when I was really little, like gold & silver. It had a peach color which was at least closer to my skin than the white or pink crayons of my 16-crayon box.

I loved that box of crayons. And I almost never used it. I was worried that if I used it up, I’d have to buy another one. That would cost money. It’d be better to make this last as long as possible. So instead of doing what I should have—colored with the crayons I’d saved to buy—I saved it for more special occasions.

Looking back, I wish I could tell my younger self that it was ok to use those crayons, that’s why I bought them in the first place. I could save up to buy more in the future.

Unfortunately, those same tendencies have stuck with me. I was confronted by two examples earlier this year…one of which was salvagable and one of which wasn’t.

The salvagable one was a bag of chocolate-covered cherries which Micah & I had bought while in Michigan. The chocolate was dark and the cherries were delicious. I didn’t want to just eat them up, so I put them in the fridge and told myself I could stretch them out over a month or two.

As time passed, it never felt like the right, “special,” time to eat them. And so they stayed in the fridge…for a year. About 12oz of untouched chocolate-covered cherries slowly going stale.

Fortunately they were in the fridge so they kept pretty well. One day, after going through the same “not yet” mental steps, I realized that we’d had them for a year! That was enough of a kick in the butt for me to eat a few. Since they weren’t yet stale, I started having a few as dessert each night, offering them to Micah too.

It took us about 2 weeks to eat through the rest of the bag. They weren’t quite as good as when they were fresh, but they were still tasty. The milk-chocolate-covered cherries his grandparents had given us were too far stale, alas.

The second and unsalvagable one came to my attention when staying at my parents’ house over Christmas. When I was 17 (7 years ago), I’d bought a bottle of cucumber vanilla soap from The Body Shop. It was $12, I think, which was more than I liked to spend all in one place (I was a very thrifty teen, saving up for a $2k violin and a $2kish trip to Europe before I was 18).

I’d bought it in anticipation of my highschool Seniors dinner. And over the years, I’d used it when I felt like there was a good reason. So, 7 years later, only half the bottle had been used (I think family members might’ve occasionally used it too…at least my little sister). I poured some into my hand and discovered that the smell had gone bad.

All because I was too worried about spending the money to replace it.

The silly thing with all of these is that I didn’t need to replace any of them. I can survive without crayons, chocolate-covered cherries, or scented soaps. I proved that by not using them while I could. But my mind kept insisting that I get my money’s worth by using them only for something special or otherwise rationing them.

I don’t splurge often. When I do, I’m trying to learn not to make it truly wasteful by being too afraid that I’ll waste whatever I just spend the money on. I’m wearing that geeky t-shirt (instead of saving it for special occasions) or using the proper amount of embroidery floss on a project (instead of skimping), and otherwise enjoying what I do spend the money on.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Have you ever found yourself wasting something you spent a little money on by being too afraid to use it up.


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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda May 5, 2010 at 8:04 am

I’ve done similar things. Our household has evolved to have a saying, that typically reads as “Chocolate is a renewable resource.” It works for all sorts of those little treats that you get and then want to save to savor or ‘save for special occasions’.

Heather Solos May 5, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Absolutely brilliant and something I’ve been guilty of as well.
.-= Heather Solos´s last blog ..Emergency Water Conservation: How to Hand Wash Dishes =-.

Meg May 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Wasteful frugality is an oxymoron. Literally. Frugality is by definition the opposite of wastefulness.

Therefore, such things aren’t frugal, just cheap. But there are definitely many, many cases of people being unnecessarily cheap when they should have been frugal instead. And often that comes from people not examining what it means to be “wasteful”.

Carl May 5, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I used to have this problem with nicer bottles of wine. Now my problem is that I never have any wine left in the house…

Mrs. Micah May 5, 2010 at 9:10 pm

@Amanda indeed it is. And a perishable one!

@Heather thanks! Glad to know I’m not alone.

@Meg indeed, it was the contradiction in my thinking & actions which inspired the title. All the while I was being wasteful while thinking myself frugal. Cheap is the word for it. 🙂

@Carl Sounds like a good shift!

Christina @ Northern Cheapskate May 5, 2010 at 10:43 pm

It’s like you got inside my head with this post! I can so relate!

I’ve gotten a little better with this now that my kiddos are older… but it’s still hard for me to see them use up things like stickers or break crayons. 😉

It’s good to remind yourself that it’s good to be frugal… but it’s just silly to waste perfectly good stuff in the name of frugality. If you’re not going to use it… give it to someone who will!

RainyDaySaver May 5, 2010 at 11:19 pm

I am also quite guilty of this. I want to make my ‘splurges’ or gifts (like gift cards) last so long that sometimes it’s too late. Gift cards expire before I find the ‘perfect’ item to spend it on, or that piece of chocolate cake I’m saving for the right moment goes stale before I can bring myself to eat it.

BTW — I thought I was the only one who loved that peach crayon in the Crayola 64 box (with sharpener, of course). I used that crayon up much faster than any of the others because it was my preferred color of choice for skin color on the people I was drawing.
.-= RainyDaySaver´s last blog ..Credit Card is Paid Off / Midweek Link Love =-.

Laura May 6, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I have gone through this lately…mainly with candles and stationary… “But it’s so pretty and if i use it then I won’t have this pretty thing anymore!” The need to declutter has really helped me use them along with my new found desire to enjoy life more! (Plus once I use them, especially those two things, I have a good reason to go find new pretty ones!)
.-= Laura´s last blog ..1 Happy Things for Me A Day =-.

nadia May 7, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I have done this too. I think it is also a big part of some hoarders illness.

Carrie May 29, 2010 at 12:25 am

i think my parents actually did a really good job instilling the idea that you should use the good stuff on a regular basis in me and my siblings.

example a) we always, always each got a new box of crayons for christmas. the old boxes got dumped into a big tub that we could use to replace any crayons we used or broke in our new boxes and if that tub got too full the extras got donated to the local elementary school.

example b) once my parents found the china they wanted (which was like 15-20 years after they got married) they got a ton of it (like place settings for something ridiculous like 36 with expectations that kids using it would mean some of it would break sometimes, one set of 12 they got from an ad in the newspaper for $100 total) and they got rid of everything else. we always used the fine china at every meal. that was just normal for us.
.-= Carrie´s last blog ..How to Subscribe to an RSS Feed for Just Part of a Blog =-.

Starving Student Survivor June 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Like buying a special outfit only to have it sit in your closet waiting for that special occasion. And then you have two kids and it doesn’t fit anymore.
.-= Starving Student Survivor´s last blog ..Dealing with Too Many Toys =-.

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