As I am writing this, I am sitting right across our new snake plant. I had read about it over at The Green Purpose and figured I wanted some more green life to improve the mood in our living room.
Did I buy it?
In this case, I am actually a little embarrassed to admit that no, I did not buy it.
Why? Well, I don’t have any friends or family with one (that I know of), so I had no one to get an offshoot from.
How did I come across one then?
Well, I thought maybe my grandmother might have one, so I thought about it for some time, before asking her if she did.
She did not, and now I had a problem. She had heard that I wanted a snake plant. In her grandmotherly mind, that meant she had to buy me one and ship it over 570 kilometres (over 350 miles) to our flat, because our local plant shops could not possibly have one.
I thought I managed to talk her out of it, only to greet my father, visiting for a few days over Easter, with a 3 feet tall snake plant in hand. I suppose I might have expected as much, but to my surprise, he had not paid for it either!
As it turns out, he had gone to the plant shop to ask after a snake plant. The store clerk said they were not in stock, but she had one at home not five minutes away, and he could have that one.
Que bafflement and amazement that a stranger gives my dad a large, healthy snake plant for free.
While I suppose the monetary value of a single plant might not be ruinous, there is a point here that I wish to emphasis.
I have incredibly generous friends and family.
Generous to the point that some of them will eat rice and beans for a month if that means buying me something they heard from him who heard from her who thought that maybe I might want such and such item.
Which is why I need to be careful about expressing wants.
Probably, I could get most anything I want, simply by expressing a want and waiting. On the surface, that might seem frugal, as I am not actually spending any money. But make no mistake, doing so regularly is undoubtedly cheap.
Because of their relation to me and consumerist habits, I am making someone else spend money in my stead. Not good, and not in line with my values at all.
Somewhere during the rise of consumerism, we got the strange notion that used things are not suitable gifts. That is, not unless they are old enough to be an antique or an heirloom.
We insist on buying people new things, afraid that anything less would make the recipient feel as if we do not care for them.
Excuse me, but that is utter horseshit, and I would like all my frugal friends to fight it with all their might.
When my frugal friend got me a whisk I had wanted, I was ecstatic for two reasons: It was free, and it was used. Not only had she paid no money for it, but she had contributed no more landfill when she acquired it, and she had actually reduced her carbon footprint by reducing said landfill by a tiny fraction.
Just like refusing plastic bags in the shop and bringing your own, every little bit helps.
I believe in a frugality that encompasses everything, not just my own, selfish wallet. That means I cannot make other people do my shopping for me (expansive and expensive wedding/baby lists, anyone?).
By and large, my relatives are good with this. Over many years, we have learned to give each other donations if we give each other gifts at all.
But to get there took years of careful conversations. If you are a family who equates love with new things, you can’t expect everything to turn around 180 degrees within a fortnight. These things take time and patience, and some people just cannot understand why you would not want all this fabulous stuff!
It was my own fault that the snake plant ended up in my living room. A careless request from someone who doesn’t usually make requests? I should have known better.
To me, frugality is not just something we embrace solely in this household. It is a way of life I hope to inspire others with and spread far and wide. To have others buy stuff for me feels an awful lot like cheating.
Much like taking on an uber frugal month, and then just postponing all the shopping you had planned to do to next month. Sure, you are frugal that one month of the challenge, but that is not the spirit of the challenge.
Do you have particularly generous relatives, to the point where it impacts your frugality? We would love to hear all about it, and particularly if you’ve found efficient ways to deal with them in a kind and honest way.