Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Conservers and Consumers

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Somewhere early in our dating, my husband and I realized we were both frugal. While neither of us remembers a financial revelation, this common value has made our married life a lot easier: decisions about where to put our money, which gifts to give, how often to replace something. Yet to the casual observer, our thrifty habits don't look alike at all.

My husband is what you could call a conserver. If he values something, he makes it last. He can delay a new purchase until it becomes a necessity, stretching the life out of something with clever solutions. He happily polishes his shoes. He details our cars as if they'll one day become classics. He ceremoniously switches his wallet from one rear pocket to the other on each New Year's Day, just to even the wear on his pants. (I know, I know, that should have been the tip off!)

I, on the other hand, am the quintessential consumer. I like to be armed with research, coupons, and a complete mental inventory of every purchasing outlet. Finding what we need--at a price we can afford--is both an art and a science. In fact, my ability to uncover great deals makes me careless with what we do own. If an item shows wear, I'm more likely to replace it with a secondhand steal than I am to repair it. Without temperance, my exciting new ideas and bags of bargains can overwhelm both our routines and household.

We make a good match. Creating a life more frugal isn't about following a set of instructions. It's about finding an approach to money that fits your strengths--and if you're lucky, a partner who offsets your weaknesses.

After all, someone has to polish all those sale-priced shoes.

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