Last week, on a nice spring day, I was sitting outside on my porch reading one of my many library books. My neighbor came over to see how I was doing and wanted to know what I was reading. I flipped it over to show her the title and she could clearly see the library bar code and due date stamps on the back.
“Oh, gross. It’s a library book,” she said.
“Yeah. So? I get most of my books from there,” I said.
“Don’t you ever wonder where they’ve been? I could never read a book that’s been through so many hands. I only buy new or use my e-reader,” she said.
I have to admit, I never thought about it. Sure, sometimes I get a book that has some unidentified substance spilled on a page, or some crumbs fall out, but overall I’ve never thought of library books as disgusting. They’ve been used by many people, but so have most things we come in contact with on a daily basis. (Think how many people have touched that door handle at Target or the handle of the shopping cart, or used the restroom in your office building, or coughed all over that sofa in your doctors’ office. Makes a book seem not so bad, by comparison, doesn’t it?)
Out of curiosity I asked my neighbor if she ever shopped at yard sales, or bought anything from Goodwill or another thrift-type store.
“Ick, no,” was her answer.
I suspect my neighbor isn’t alone in being a little repulsed by frugality. The thought of buying used items probably grosses out more than a few people. Knowing that other people have used, worn, touched, coughed on, and spilled things on those items makes them uncomfortable. Then there are the more “extreme” frugal tips that can gross some people out. Things like dumpster diving, using washable cloths instead of toilet paper, using cloth diapers instead of disposable, only flushing the toilet after a #2, and composting with worms can all test the strength of anyone’s gag reflex. Even gardening can be disgusting if you have an aversion to dirt.
Some people find certain aspects of frugality so revolting that they spend thousands of dollars more per year than they have to. They buy everything new and refuse to try anything that might be a little icky. I once knew someone who refused to buy anything but new houses and new cars because she didn’t want anything that someone else had used. Talk about spending thousands more over a lifetime! Certainly not all frugal ideas are gross, but some of the ones that result in the biggest savings (buying used, renting items, or getting things like library books for free being the main ones) may carry an ick factor.
So what do you do if you want to be frugal, but find yourself shying away from certain things? Here are some quick tips.
Try It At Least Once
If you’re dismissing something just because you think it might be gross without trying it, at least give it a try. You might discover that it’s not as bad as you think. Or you might find yourself saving so much money that you quickly get over the ick factor. If you try it and can’t handle it, at least you’ve made an informed decision rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
Disinfect & Clean
Many things can be cleaned. You can scrub down most kids’ toys. Clothes can be washed thoroughly. Dishes can be disinfected in the dishwasher. Cars and houses can all be cleaned. Airing things out in the sun can kill germs and get rid of odors. Even a library book can be wiped down with a disinfecting wipe as long as it’s encased in a plastic dust jacket cover. You can clean and disinfect most things so that they meet your standards of cleanliness.
Refurbish & Restore
You can refinish furniture if something has been spilled on the outside that can’t be cleaned. Floors in a home can be refinished or replaced. Walls can be cleaned and then repainted. If you buy kitchen chairs with soft chair pads, you can usually replace those or get rid of them entirely. If a simple cleaning won’t achieve the level of cleanliness that you want, you can refurbish an item. It’s more work, but if you get the item cheap enough it can be a worthwhile investment.
Find Other Ways To Be Frugal
If you’re still grossed out by certain things, it’s okay not to use them in your frugal repertoire. However, to get the most out of your frugal journey you’ll have to find other ways to cut your expenses. If you insist on buying all your books or DVD’s new instead of borrowing or renting them, maybe you’ll need to eat out less, for example. There are lots of ways to be frugal so you have to find what works for you.
Personally, while there are some things I might not do because of the ick factor, giving up my library isn’t going to be one of them. I get so much from the library that I can’t imagine life without it. Library books and used books may, indeed, be gross, but in the grand scheme of things, they aren’t gross enough to keep me from using them. Neither are many of the things I can buy at thrift stores. The amount of money I save by borrowing, renting, and buying used far outweighs the ickiness in my mind.
(Photo courtesy of jimw)