Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is Frugal is the new Black?

You will recall that frugality is one of my lead-values. In many ways, this is a good, virtuous thing. However it does occasionally get me into trouble. Last week I managed to disgrace myself at my London club (£170 pa - bargain), leading to a potential exclusion from said establishment.

It all started very innocently. I had been running back to back all day and on my way back from the bathroom at about 2.30pm I realised I was starving. In the corner of my eye, I saw the lunch from a conference being closed up and beginning to be cleared. My eyes fixed on a glistening piece of salmon, only moments away from an encounter with a black plastic bag. So over I went, grabbed a plate and piled the stuff on.

'Excuse me?', a young, female voice sounded, in my ear. 'Are you with the Cement Mixers Convention? (not the real name). 'Errr, no' I replied, through my salmon. Stood in front of me now was this pretty 20-something, berating me about not nicking food. 'But the event's finished', I pleaded - this was going in the bin'. ' Not the point - you could have at least asked'. In this last point, she was right. So I shuffled off, humbled.

This, however, wasn't the end of it. Fifteen minutes later I was approached by the Maitre D' of the Club who reminded me of the difficult position I, as a Member had put the Club in the eyes of his client. Not content with bollocking me, the prissy 20-something had dobbed me in to the management. I offered to pay - which they accepted - and noises were made about me being asked to apologise to the committee - utterly mortifying.

However, I was out last night with some of my old mates from voluntary work. We all met 15 years ago, in our mid-20s and it was the first time we'd all been in the same room for a couple of years. All of them, I was delighted to find, were becoming more frugal than me. Martin (a mathematician) only reads books from libraries while I am never off Amazon. Anna (a mental health nurse) only buys second hand or half-price clothes while I will always go for Paul Smith (if its in a sale). Fiona (a conservationist) lives on nine grand a year and I need at least four times that.

All of these people - mid 30s to early 40s - share on thing as well as their frugality: they are happy people doing what they enjoy and not worrying too much about acquiring stuff. Only one has a car or owns a house. After a delightful dinner (cost £25 for five!) we walked, or trained home. Except me, of course, who drove.

So is frugality the way to go? I think it could be - as long as you don't forget your manners!

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