Being frugal is not being mean!

We have a monthly dress down collection at work for a different charity each time. Most people give a pound. If it is a charity close to their heart some give more. Very few people seem to have an issue with this easy form of fundraising. However, once in a while there will be the odd person. We had a man who never joined in the dress down and if you rattled the jar at him he would loudly point this out and refuse to donate. Another young girl (on a full time salary and living with her parents) would dress down but tell you she couldn’t give any money as she was ‘saving her pennies’. 

I am always a bit disappointed with this attitude. I am saving my pennies (literally! I’m doing the penny challenge) but I’m not such a tightwad that I can’t give a little money to charity. That’s not frugality, it’s downright meanness!

This is the confusion some people have with the concept of frugality. It isn’t about being mean, sitting Scrooge like in the parlour counting coins. It is about making the most of what you have, recognising your financial limitations and living the best life you can without going into debt.

It is about appreciating people and experiences rather than things, enjoying spending time with friends and family rather than trying to find fulfilment through shopping, forgetting trying to keep up with the Jones’s and realising that simplicity and frugality can make you happier than a new car and a big pile of credit card bills.

Yesterday a young man who had a very difficult period during his teenage years, when he was thrown out by his parents and helped by the local charity we were  collecting for, put £10 in the pot. He doesn’t have much spare cash but he understood the value of giving back, which was quite heartening. 

Anyway, lecture over and off my soapbox. Have a good day!

13 thoughts on “Being frugal is not being mean!

  1. My husband retired a year early recently which means our income has dropped to a third of what it used to be, because of this sadly we have stopped our direct debits to 3 charities and it broke my heart to do so, we have been doing it for about 5 years. At Christmas, we don’t send cards, instead we give money to the dog’s trust and I will often donate to the food bank and will always put small change in the charity boxes in shops. You are so right, if we all did a little bit that little bit becomes a big bit.

  2. I understand your sentiment, but it could be they give to other charities, or give something else in their own way. I’d like to think as such. I remember being annoyed because a former employer of my husband had a “voluntary” fundraising drive for a charity of the owners choice. It wasn’t voluntary at all- no one wanted to experience the outcome of not contributing an expected amount. Seems he was trying to get his daughter a position in the charities office and this was his way of greasing the palms. Yeah, I got a little jaded about work place giving after that, but not about giving. Little bits do add up and so agree that saving money just to hoard is no life, but cutting costs so I can live a full life, and be a generous part of my community, is a good thing.

  3. Another way of looking at it. Maybe the girl’s parents take all her money off her and give her pocket money, maybe the family has loads of debt. You can’t assume people are well off if they appear to have material possessions.

    Putting myself in your workplace, I would be miffed if the collecting box was passed round on a regular basis if I was already giving as much as I could afford to charities of my choosing, (which I do). I don’t like to be asked for a donation, I want to make up my own mind who I support. I also think it is a private matter which charities anyone supports, and has nothing to do with anyone or whether they choose to give, or not to give . Donating is voluntary, not compulsory, and no one should be ashamed if they don’t give. Just my take on it.

    • I would agree if it was a lot, but it’s just a pound a month. Not much unless you are on benefits.

  4. Great post. I completely agree, being frugal is not about keeping all your money to yourself and never spending anything. It’s about knowing when to spend. I know people who go to the pub every night and then say that they wish they could give to charity but can’t afford it!
    I don’t give to all of them because there are just too many to give to but I do give what I can to a few chosen charities close to my heart.

  5. I completely agree about frugal not meaning miserly, but I’ve worked in offices where you’re inundated with a stream of collections, sponsorship forms etc. Years ago with a hefty mortgage, I’d literally get to the last few days before pay day with the change in my purse and nothing more, including no credit card or overdraft facility.. Nobody at work would’ve known how absurdly hard up I was. Plus sometimes people would collect for charities which – whether directly or indirectly fund animal research which I have objections to. As someone who’s shy and hates confrontation it was a real struggle for me to say ‘no’ and hold my ground. I know it’s annoying when some people seem mean with cash but voluntary collections are just that. I strongly believe nobody should feel obliged to give. It took me years before I worked up the nerve to refuse to give to birthday collections for people I hardly knew or for someone to do yet another sponsored bike ride or parachute jump. If people thought I was being mean, then I accepted that’s how they felt (though I didn’t agree!)
    It’s certainly a topic ripe for discussion.

    • Luckily we rarely do whole office collections and they are definitely voluntary. I’m talking about a pound for charity rather than birthday collections. I agree with you on that as I have worked in an office like that. The two examples I gave were of people who were mean spirited though and this showed in lots of aspects of their behaviour. Neither were short of money, they were just tight!

  6. In the US we have a casual Friday at many businesses which means IF you pay $5, you can wear what you wish within parameters of decency. Usually, it blue jeans. If a person cannot pay the amount specified, they don’t have the privilege of casual dress.

  7. While I think it’s great to have fundraisers for charity, when co-workers are keeping tabs on who gives how much (even a pound a month), it isn’t really “voluntary” anymore. That could be a problem in the workplace. Obviously, those who don’t give as much as others, or don’t give at all are viewed as mean. Those who give more are saints. In truth, though, no one knows with certainty what another’s financial situation is. Which is for the best. And ultimately, why does it matter who gives what amount? Many people stopped going to churches siting the issue of passing the collection plate around every week and one could argue the money is necessary to keep the doors open. It’s less about the money than it is the personal value judgement. The keeping tabs on each other. Ranking someone’s “goodness” or “meanness” based on what money they slip into the donation plate or jar. Again, I think it’s wonderful to provide an opportunity to make charitable contributions, but it should be done in a way that keeps any contributions private… where no one knows who gave what amount. Especially at work. Just my opinion.

    • I’m not suggesting that’s a good idea. No one keeps a list of who has given what where I work thankfully and it is voluntary. I did work at one place where you had to tick your name off a list for the very regular birthday, wedding, leaving collections and after a while I stopped giving if I didn’t know or like the person involved. These things can go too far! Not many people seem to object to the pound a month dress down collection though and seem quite proud of the amount we raise between us each year. Sometimes people say they have no money on them and that’s fine. Most people happily pay a pound if they have it.

  8. I used to work in the Civil Service and every Friday we had a weekly lottery. You bought a £ 1 ticket, chose your numbers and all the tickets sold were placed in a hat and one chosen. Each week we would sell around £250+ worth of tickets. The prize money was generally about half of what we had sold – the rest went to charity. The last year I worked there the chosen charity was Alzheimers – the previous, Alder Hey Hospital Liverpool. At the end of the year the money raised would be sent to the chosen charity. Four times a year we would also do a cake sale – again the money raised would go to charity. I no longer work in the CS but i try to give around £2 a week to the young men/women sleeping rough in Liverpool City centre. It’s a personal thing, but as my father received many an evening meal as a child in 1920’s Liverpool from the Salvation Army then I believe we should all help people less off than ourselves. As my mother used to say “There but for the grace of god go I”. I am certainly not a wealthy woman by any means – (I am in fact on a zero hour contract) but i think I can afford the price of a cup of coffee. Love your blog!!!

  9. We had dress down day at my work place on Friday for the football grand final here in Victoria- come dressed in footy colours. $2 donation to red kite which is a charity my employers support. I work for a major supermarket chain. I went dressed in footy colours – nobody collected my $2? I will privately donate my $2 to the charity directly now.

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