Monday, April 10, 2006

Frugal vs. Miserly

A couple of comments on the last post brought up a good issue:
Being Frugal vs. being Miserly/Cheap, etc.

In response to my mention of tipping $1.00 on a $4.40 meal, Bitty said "You're frugal and careful but not a miser." John said "My grandmother used to be frugal AND cheap. The family would all go out for dinner, but she left a really poor tip. It didn't matter if the service was good or awful." And Hazzard commented "I wonder if some people out there think money management means to be frugal, or a miser. I think it can mean a lot of things, but the bottom line is, good money management says that you have a plan, know where your money goes, and you are making financial decisions for today and your future."

I think this is a great topic for discussion-- how do you balance frugality and generosity in your life?

When I did my monthly wrap up for March, there was some discussion in the comments about my charitable giving, and how I always find myself feeling a bit guilty that I don't give more-- lately, it's quite a bit less than 1% of my income. But I'm not a stingy, ungenerous person. I think I feel most generous when I have some personal connection to a cause-- not necessarily that it is an issue I feel passionate about, but if someone I know does, and they ask me for money, as long as I don't totally disagree with the cause, I'll give a decent amount. I gave $500 to an organization at my university over a period of 4 years. If anyone in the office is selling candy or cookies for their church or scout troop or whatever, I'll buy some. And when catastrophic things have occurred, as they seem to have done a lot in these last few years, I've always made donations. But I do admit I have a bit of laziness in this area-- I feel like I should give more, I'm not sure who to give to, but instead of figuring out a plan, I just end up waiting for opportunities to present themselves.
Aside from that, I do believe in tipping well. I usually tip around 20%, and never less than 15%. If I'm eating in a diner or less expensive restaurant, I tend to tip an even higher percentage, since I always feel like the wait staff are more often people whose lives really depend on those jobs. (If I'm in some swanky, more expensive place, I start to wonder if a big tip is just ennabling someone who really needs to get over thinking they're going to be the next international superstar model.)
I also am not one of these people who gets really anal about splitting checks in restaurants. With some of my friends, we just alternate who picks up the tab and don't worry too much about whose turn it is. If the check is being split, I always try to put in plenty of money to cover what I've eaten if the other person's share would come out to less, but if I'm the one who ate a bit less, I don't make a fuss if people just want to divide the check evenly. If I felt like someone was really abusing my willingness to do that, it would bother me, but most of the time, these things are just not worth getting upset about.
Then there are presents-- I don't give my friends and family really expensive gifts. But if I see something that just seems perfect for someone, I'll sometimes buy it and just give it to them, even if it's not their birthday or a holiday.
I'm sure there are many other examples of the various large and small ways we all balance giving and saving, and what makes us feel generous vs. penny-pinching and Scrooge-like... jump right in, folks...


Anonymous said...

Hey, people who work in swanky places need to eat too, even if they need to "get over" themselves. I've worked in both types of places, and people at the swanky place often stiffed me on tips. (I know you said you give at least 15%, so I'm not down on you for that- just your perception of the types of people who work there.)

Often the bad tippers were the ones who ran me to death- needing something every two seconds, sending the steak back because they decided they did not like it, etc. I had regulars who did not tip at all, and had really weird demands, like certain curtains be shut and that only 8 fries be placed on their plate. I worked hard for those tips, in the swank place and the diner, and I only got 2.13 an hour in both those places. I do not want to be an actress or model, I was just working for a living.

Madame X said...

I know-- there are lots of reasons people wait tables other than being aspiring actors and models, but it's a stereotype that is so entrenched here! And either way, waiting tables is not an easy job.

Anonymous said...

I like your tipping comments. Not only do I like to give a bit more at the hole-in-the-wall places where I assume the wait staff isn't getting rich, but I also feel ridiculous asking for change on my 20% tip on a $13.00 tab. ("Could I get 40 cents back, please?")

Not that the wait staff is getting rich at most places, but the high-end places where the meal costs more and the alcohol flows lead naturally to higher tips.

Dude said...

It seems doctors and attorneys have a stereotypical reputation for being the worst tippers. I wonder if there is any correlation between miserly and wealth accumulation.

My wife worked as a server during college. Unfortunately she is empathetic to a fault and is overly generous. Sometime I wished she'd never worked as a server.

mapgirl said...

I have to say, my brief stint waiting tables was an eye opener. I got tricked into waiting tables for a VA Tech game when I thought I was running food. It was hectic!

I generally tip 15%-17% for good service. 20% if I'm in an expensive town like SF or NYC. If the service is bad, I leave 10% and write a note on the receipt.

I think it's better to be overgenerous because you're leaving a tip for the server, the bartender pouring your drinks, the food runners and busboys. So that single server isn't the only person relying on your tip. I personally think it's a crappy way to compensate people since one person will tip out the runners and busboys way differently than another. Believe me, I know. The 19yo twit buying a new tattoo every week would stiff me all the time. The 25yo who was using this as her second job would give me double for running her food. Same job, same service for both her customers, but that's the way it went.

IRA said...

Apollo - I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about unintentionally stiffing a waitress. But I personally always try to give 20% if it's even halfway decent service. My doctor friends and lawyer friends are all very generous tippers. That being said, they also came from solidly middle class families. I do know one attorney who is notoriously cheap when it comes to tipping. But she also comes from old money. I think if you're born with a silver spoon in your mouth, it may be difficult to have compassion for folks who are being nickled and dimed to death. That's why people like Paris Hilton make me want to vomit.

Anonymous said...

$1.00 on a $4.40 check is like 23%. That is pretty damn nice if you ask me!

Anonymous said...

It's easy an frugal to be generous in small amounts. Everybody hates rich misers. So do it! As long as you spend less than you make, save, and follow a budget... no problem. Then your wealth can be a blessing to others as well.