Thinking Straight: Am I Being Cheap?

I’ve been having an argument in my head a lot lately about what it means to be cheap. Or, more specifically, about whether or not I’ve become cheap. I feel like my budget is fairly in line with my wants/needs most of the time. But more and more often it seems like there are a lot of things that I just cut out completely, because they don’t fit into what I allocate for spending.

It all started with shoes.

I spent a lot of time standing in 2015. In hospitals. In funeral homes. At family gatherings. We’re a family of standers to begin with, and these types of places just seem to equal hours of standing. Sometimes days of standing. And my feet hurt ALL.THE.TIME. Sometimes there was enough going on that I didn’t even notice. But, if you’ve ever spent days next to a loved one in the hospital, you know there are a lot of quiet moments when you’re just standing there with your own thoughts. Especially when you haven’t slept, and every other emotion you have is spent.

It occurred to me somewhere along the line that every pair of shoes I own hurt my feet. Why? Because they’re old, and worn out. I tend to wear the same shoes over and over again. And I try to take care of them, so they still look nice. But the insides are so broken down that they don’t provide any support. For the most part, I only buy shoes for special occasions: Heels to match the dress for my sister’s wedding. Shoes to wear on vacation. Sometimes these shoes get integrated into my daily wear, but mostly not. Somehow in my mind, I justify buying shoes (and clothes!) for special occasions, but not for everyday wear. After all, I have shoes.

So, I suffered along in silence standing on my sore feet. Until I woke up one more and felt the sharp pain across the top of my foot. And then I remembered: Broken feet! It was less than 5 years ago that I broke a bone in my foot. It didn’t take long for the pressure from that break to cause the bone next to it to break. The Orthopedist put me in a boot, and warned me if I wasn’t careful the other bones in my foot would break, like dominos. The culprit? Walking in unsupportive shoes. I broke two bones walking!

It occurred to me that, despite having fabulous insurance, the co-pays for the doctors visits, and X-rays, and everything else would far exceed the cost of new shoes. Even if I had to buy 3 or 4 pairs to replace what I wore throughout the week. And so, I went out and bought a new pair of shoes. I bought a pair of tennis shoes at first, followed a month later by a pair of cushy black flats. It’s amazing how much better my feet feel!

I haven’t completely succeeded: I still need to replace a few other pairs of shoes that I used to wear. And I need to throw my old shoes away! But, I’m making progress. And, I’m trying to keep this in mind for clothing as well. No, wearing a camisole with holes in it under my top isn’t going to break any bones. But I need to accept the fact that replacing clothes is part of life! And “everyday” is actually MORE worthwhile than special occasion, if taking into account the amount of use an item will get.

I don’t exactly have it figured out how this will fit into my budget. Maybe I’ll just pull from other areas when I need to buy something? Maybe I should start putting away a certain amount every week to buy clothes? I don’t know. But I do know that I need to stop being cheap!

– Cindy W.



  1. Hi Cindy,
    I know this so well! Coming from a family where there wasn’t much money for clothing, I grew up not really caring for what I wore. I learned to find things still acceptable that are not really acceptable anymore and it’s not easy to unlearn this. Today, I’m still struggling to wear decent clothing *every day* because I find it strenious to notice when something is too old, too shabby, too worn. (You wouldn’t think that if you could see me.)
    What helps me is to realize what I’m doing to myself, what signs I give about my attitude to myself with my garments. I want to dress now like somebody worth of clothing that is clean, whole, neat and … not hurting! Always. I’m taking care of myself now, and I realized that my soul feels much better when I know that I’m well dressed. It is a point of self-respect.
    I’m not speaking about very fashionable clothes, or buying something new every week. I work on having a good stock of reasonable clothing that I can use in as many occasions as possible, concentrating on replacing discarded items. I look for pieces with a high combination potential, and I buy *only* at sales (that’s easy for me, because I forget about shopping during the non-sales months). I go and find minimum 30 % discounts, better are 50 %. I buy sometimes at charity shops (which can be a bit tedious as you cannot be sure what they have at the moment, BUT I did manage to get some real bargains there).
    I look for items I really love and that suit my lifestyle. Then, I take care of them: if something’s not really dirty, I don’t wash it but air it on my balcony overnight which makes it fresh again. So I avoid unnecessary wear by washing (and laundry costs). I use a good electric lint remover for my knitwear. If there is a very small hole, I darn it, but only when it is not noticeable afterwards. I try to buy things that don’t wrinkle easily so that I avoid ironing (what I consider too boring). I don’t buy items that look already shoddy when new… I polish my shoes with some good product and get them resoled as often as possible. So I manage to increase the lifetime of my garments considerably, and my retirement savings, the environment and the fashion sweatshop personnel (I hope) are grateful.
    Like you, I have to accept that buying clothes is part of life and also of my budget. And I take heart and throw worn out stuff away!

    1. I think one of the biggest struggles for me, clothing wise, is dressing the body I have. A few years after college, I was thin, and it seemed like clothing at every store was made to fit my body. I dressed a lot more fashionably, and had no problems buying clothes. As I’ve gained weight though, it’s been harder to find clothes that fit the way I want them to. Add to that the fact that I’m constantly trying to lose weight, so I don’t want to commit to buying a lot of clothes at this size… It’s just a struggle. I think it’s a mentality that I have to overcome more than anything else!

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