Frugality is using only one drop of toothpaste when you can use many, thrift is not wasting, not even one drop.
My Penang lang friend beat the drum loudly announcing to our friends I too have brought the famed Penang trait to Australia.
You brought your Penang frugality habits, the squeezing of the toothpaste till the last drop, to Australia. He was referring to my last blog about the meticulous way I roll up my tube of toothpaste. No, bro. Frugality is using just one measly drop of toothpaste. Hey you, use it sparingly. Thrift is about not wasting, not even one drop of toothpaste is flushed down the sink. You may use a few drops but hey you, do not waste any. Brush your teeth thoroughly before you rinse your mouth. I had to point out the difference, does that mean I have a disorder? Another friend, the Kiwi, encourages me to keep sharing, it’s a great way to let people know the real you, a little at a time. The rumination of a man. I hope that doesn’t make me a narcissist, it would be the ruination of me. Which begs the question. Why do I reveal my soul here? Why bare myself? Soon I’ll be the one without clothes, except I can never be the emperor. It’s a bit like packing up all that we have accumulated over a lifetime, taking a good look at them before we chuck them out in the landfill. This is more than spring cleaning. Spring cleaning is just tidying up, getting rid of surplus requirements, especially stuff we would never use again, dust collectors, space eaters. For me, blogging involves the close examination of my whole life. I have been lucky, for all my childhood and teenage life, my biggest fear was losing a parent or both. My Pa lived till 91, albeit bedridden in his last two years. Ma, touch wood, is still well at 96, well, as well as can be for a nonagenarian. Before a blog, I would collect my thoughts first, re-examine my principles, re-question my ideals and recheck my ideas. That’s the theory of it, my intentions of sharing my stories before I write. But when the ideas flow, maybe past injustices, unfair biases, ingrained attitudes, intuitive suspicions, newly learned philosophical arguments all collide and I reveal my true self anyway. Wu Wei is my new way. From the Tao Te Ching. The Dao is what the natural way is, untainted by desires. I have long called myself the idiotes- an old Greek word, but will I stumble upon the idiot inside me? But, this isn’t spring cleaning, it’s much more than that. It’s the final clean-up. No more clutter of the mind. It’s time to know what to unburden, what to let go, which to forgo, who to forgive, we will ultimately forget anyway. Wu Wei, if it isn’t relevant, we will do without, eventually forget. Let go, go with the flow.
But, this is about frugality. For me, there is a huge difference between being frugal and being thrifty. And then there is being cheap. The main idea of all three terms is about saving money. Saving money; that can’t be a bad thing, right? Which do we fall under? Let me use mandarins as an example. My Ma taught me how to select the best mandarins when I was still a boy. The skin must be smooth and thin to touch – otherwise you’re paying a lot for the skin, and the fruit must not be airy and light when you hold it. The heavier the fruit, the juicier it is. So, this knowledge is well taken advantage of by The Mrs. She leaves me to pick the fruits from the fruit and veggie shops. She says I know best. She’s Hakka, they are taught to leave some good ones for the next customer. You shouldn’t pick all the best ones and leave only bad ones for others. It is vulgar to be frugal, she may easily conclude. The frugal one will pay as little as possible for the best ones, and use them sparingly, as few as possible each time. For a family of five, the frugal mother will serve at most five mandarins for dessert. They will not have second helpings, no matter how hungry they still are. When I was a little boy, Ma would cut an apple for eight of us to share, equally. But, by her definition of what equal means. To her, equal meant eight slices in equal thickness, irrespective of our age, need or degree of hunger. In my example of the mandarins, a thrifty mother would hand pick them of course, the freshest with green stalks and heaviest, and at the lowest price. She would make sure the green stalks are all broken off, she will never ever pay for unusable weight. She would serve them to her family of five but would make absolutely certain that nothing is wasted. They will all have enough to enjoy. Not a slice would be left uneaten, nothing is wasted. The thrifty is in fact wise.
As for the third type, the cheap, they will always go for the cheapest, and therefore usually the lowest quality. It doesn’t matter if the mandarins are damaged, drying up, and past their use by dates. The cheap will just want cheap, they hate spending money. But when they do, the lowest price is their top priority, they will like it best when it’s free. Have you been out with a friend to the local pub where they offer a buy one get one free deal? When it’s time to pay, the cheap will say his was the free meal. Urghhling.