charliejuggler (charliejuggler) wrote,

Cheapskate thrills

I'm proud to be a cheapskate. Inspired by my dad (who once had to go outside Hamleys, the famous London toyshop, for fresh air after feeling faint at the thought of people spending so much money) I've always looked for bargains, tried to repair things if they still have some use in them, been happy with second-hand and watched what I spend (apart from a few years after university when I lived on a permanent overdraft - a lesson learned eventually after realising the interest I was paying).

It isn't easy being a cheapskate today. From the rapacious entertainment industry, endless reproducing the same content on slightly different media (what exactly *is* BlueRay?) for us to buy, to the electronics sector pushing out ever shinier must-have gadgets, to invented 'shopping holidays' like Black Friday, there's a lot of pressure to Buy Buy Buy. If Primark can sell you a new T-shirt for £2, what's the point of sewing up the hole in the old one? Just click a couple of buttons and the Internet will provide a replacement for anything you've broken. However I'm lucky in that my wife shares my cheapskate nature, so we watch the cost of everything and break out the sewing kit or the superglue where necessary.

Having children opens up new worlds of potential spending. Our NCT antenatal instructor handed out a list of all the equipment that apparently parents would 'need' before their first kid arrived, but then asked the question 'how much of this do you actually need' - it proved to be a lot less. Luckily young children don't actually care, so you can dress them in hand-me-downs, charity shop finds and gifts from generous friends and relatives and they'll often find more amusement in a stick or conker than the latest toy. Alex is very canny about re-selling old clothes and toys at the sales run by the local preschools, which are also a rich source of replacements. Our two are also very fond of charity shops, proudly clutching the £2 slightly battered cuddly animal or a handful of 50p books as they leave. This year's major Christmas present for both was a Thunderbirds Tracy Island, bought from eBay for £30. From the positive reaction to this, I'm pretty sure we're not ruining their childhood through a lack of generosity. If anything, you can get more toys if you don't mind them not being brand new.

Although I work in IT we're seriously behind the curve in terms of gadgets. There's nothing from The Cult of Jobs in the house (can't stand their lock-in business model, no matter how shiny their toys), we don't own any tablets and we don't play videogames. Much of the television we watch is recorded from Freeview (it's remarkable how many kids' films you can collect by keeping an eye on the schedules - and even more remarkable how expensive it is to buy Disney films on DVD, even the old ones). Our car is elderly, untidy and was bought mainly because it can carry huge loads of children, camping equipment and building materials, and we'll run it until it's uneconomic to repair. Our bicycles are secondhand and look the part, which has the useful side effect of making them less of a target for Cambridge's many bike thieves.

I don't want to imply that we're poor - although we only have a single income, we're much luckier than many, live in a nice part of the country in a house we (mostly) own and live comfortably. If we're careful, we have enough spare cash for the odd foreign holiday, can fund our own projects (such as building Alex a studio), can eat out occasionally, buy rounds of drinks, feed my addiction to the printed word and Alex's pottery collecting. In a world where Austerity is king, perhaps being a cheapskate is the best strategy.

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