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I’m not sure when it was that I realized I was frugal; I’d always known my parents were, especially my father.  In fact, in my youth, I remember it being the bane of my teen-aged existence when I wanted to buy some exorbitantly priced piece of clothing  that was the latest fashion statement at the time.   A part-time job followed shortly after this time.

But I went from ruing the frugality of my parents to reveling in my own in the space of about a decade.  Of course, frugality was a necessity when I was at university; five girls with limited income living together led to all kinds of thrift – from turning down the furnace thermostat to learning to eat well on a budget.  Although, there were some economies that were not socially acceptable, like scrimping on laundry or house-keeping.  The ethic of cleanliness next to godliness seemed naturally to go alongside the frugality.

As the years passed, I was lucky enough to have a series of good jobs that meant I was never impoverished.  But rather than spend extravagantly, my husband and I were good little savers, socking any extra cash onto the mortgage, as much as the contract allowed annually.  Relative to similarly placed friends, we delayed the move to the monster house, and renovate and decorate with less exuberance.

At work, while others reveled in maximizing their R&D budget expenditures, I made a sport of being the lowest spending, difficult to do if there is any hardware development underway.  Early in my career, I heard one of our more seasoned directors exclaim that our firm really couldn’t do anything for less than $1 million; I remember being shocked at the time, and more so when I discovered that it really was true.

But my thrift really takes flight in the minutiae, where I can definitely say I am penny-wise (but hopefully haven’t succumbed to its ‘pound-foolish’ antonym).  For example, it was a revelation to me a few years ago that some people actually purchased, for money, plastic bags with which to pick one’s animal’s droppings.   A colleague had a dog at work, and I offered to take it down for a watering; he thrust a purpose-built plastic bag — scented, no less — in my hand and sent me on my way.  It seemed shocking – if I didn’t have a dog, my non-recycling-oriented garbage would be composed almost entirely of empty plastic bags, so to me it was only natural to re-use these for the dog.

I also abhor paper towel, preferring to use tea towels or rags.  My husband, on the other hand, is a paper towel partisan, finding uses for them, in quantity, at every turn.  Occasionally, the dog barfs on the carpet (it is a truism in our house that the dog deliberately moves to the least washable floor surface in the vicinity in order to throw up, for reason’s I’ve never understood); I’ll be dashing for the rag bin while the DH is unfurling sheets of paper towels.

I’ve also learned that using the dryer kills my clothes – that is, colours and crispness stay true much longer for many of my clothes if I dry  them on the line.  And the majority of items that are allegedly dry-clean only can be washed.  My favourite washer cycle is the one labelled ‘hand wash’ – a bit of a misnomer, I know. 

My optometrist tells me I am the last of his clients to still use non-disposable contact lenses.  I’ve always kept my lenses for a year or so, and am religious about properly cleaning them, so  it seems wasteful that I should switch to throwing them out daily and, of course, constantly paying for new lenses. 

And for preserving leftovers, the frugalistic’s favourite nest egg, it is recycled plastic bags over plastic wrap for me any day.  Although I have been known to re-use sheets of plastic wrap in a pinch.  And foil.  There was a time when I was loathe to admit my frugal ways, but now I admit I’m a cheapskate and proud of it.