One Cent Cheaper

“Here’s your credit card back.” My son Greg, along for the ride, was pumping a tank of gas for me. Regular unleaded, $2.88 a gallon. Soon he replaced the nozzle, twisted the gas cap back on, shut the little door, and tore off my receipt. Such service!

“Thanks, Kid.” As Greg buckled in I started the engine and pulled away from the pump and out onto the street. We hadn’t gone two blocks when I let out a groan. “Oh, man….”

“What’s wrong?” he said.

“Look: gas is $2.87 here!”

Greg rolled his eyes and then feigned exaggerated distress. “Oh, how awful! You just wasted, what, twelve cents?”

I glanced over at him. “Oh. Um. I guess you’re right; it’s no big deal.”

And he was right — my reaction was nothing short of irrational. Brent has a good job; has had for several years. We have no car payments and no trouble meeting our bills. As I thought it over, I realized that I don’t mind occasionally spending $40 or $50 for dinner out, though I could fix the same meal at home for around $9. While I don’t shop at the expensive clothing stores, if I really need a particular skirt or top and finally find just the right thing, I’ll buy it without qualm… even if it is not on sale.

When grocery shopping, I buy mostly store brands rather than the pricier national-brand items, but then I’ll splurge on fresh seafood and enticing produce. We might have cornbread with canned field peas one evening, and an elegant scallop sauté with asparagus the next.

So what’s up with this selective frugality? Why do I cheerfully plunk down several bucks for a pound of scallops, but kick myself when I fill up the car and then realize that I could have bought gas for one cent cheaper?

As usual, I have a theory about this. Years ago, when Brent’s industry was in a terrible slump, he went for a few years either unemployed or seriously under-employed. During those times, we watched every penny. Our budget was so tight it squeaked. We didn’t do anything that wasn’t in the four food groups–well, usually only three of them. Mac & cheese, Ramens… we ate like college students or something. Also, we used as little gasoline as possible. The kids and I walked to the library and the playground, and sometimes the grocery store. But sooner or later I would absolutely, positively have to buy gas — and when I did, you better believe I scoped out the cheapest place.

Once our finances stabilized and I could buy stuff like a normal person, I adapted with great thankfulness. But the lessons I learned, about how to get along on a little and prioritize what I spend, have stayed with me. Healthy, appealing food is important enough to invest in it, so I am happy to do just that. Suitable clothes for business, school, etc. — also important. However, when it comes to the truly mundane, like putting gas in the car, I turn into a real tightwad.

God brought us safely through the tough times, and remembering those times makes me appreciate the way he now provides so generously. As near as I can figure, my gas-price complex is a useful, lingering reminder NOT to take abundance for granted.

It’s also good for amusing the offspring.

Does anybody else have “selective frugality?” I’m linking up for Company Girls Coffee… please join us!

Thanks for reading!

About Jan C. Johnson

Welcome! If you like food, reading, laughing over life's little disasters, and maybe thinking about the bigger things of life, you have come to the right place. Besides blogging, I write humorous fiction, though real life tends to leave fictional humor in the shade. But I'm not a total goofball. No, really. I'm also working on a biography project. I live in North Texas with my husband, Brent. We enjoy bicycling, Mexican food, and traveling to visit our kids and grandkids.
This entry was posted in I Remember When... (my OWN stories), Near As I Can Figure..., Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to One Cent Cheaper

  1. diane says:

    Isn’t it odd how we get funny about some things? A while ago I became debt-free, and with the bump in disposable income upped my cell phone (phone and contract) considerably(I have no land line)…but I refuse to pay for anything other than basic cable, prefering to scope shows out on youtube or netflix weeks or months after they air.


  2. Cindy says:

    When Dan and I were first married, we lived on his college teaching assistantship – $750 for the semester! We managed to eat on $25 per week and that included Tuesday night at the all you could eat pizza buffet and the 50cent movie at the theatre or movie night on campus. Our parties with other married couples in similar circumstances were always a treat – people were very creative. Even though we were below poverty level, these were some of the happiest times of our lives. As I look back fondly on those times, I thank God for the many blessings we enjoy today.


    • Jan says:

      Hi, Cindy! Your comment brought back lots of great memories for me, too. Sounds like our newlywed days at A&M, right down to the weekly food budget! (Are we dating ourselves with that dollar figure?) We had fun times with our weeknight Bible study group, potlucks and such, all on the cheap.
      Thank you for the comment!


  3. Lea says:

    Now, this is a superb entry and brought back such memories for me. My husband began his insurance agency 37 years ago and we didn’t have a “pot nor a window” (as my Grandma used to say). The Lord blessed beyond measure and my husbands business has afforded us many of life’s luxuries. I have fond memories of both the years of often doing without a lot of wants and the years of being privileged to enjoy many of them.

    Blessings to you for a wonderful Valentine’s weekend!


  4. Yes, I can relate to selective frugality! We are just now in the unemployed/underemployed category. My husband is three weeks into the new job. For me the gas prices of one cent cheaper is because 2 something for gas is just too expensive. What I’m really looking for is the dollar cheaper gas that just doesn’t exist right now!?! But, I can relate to selective frugality…we skimp on phone/cable/ etc.. but I do buy nice produce. It is nice to be able to splurge on what we want.


  5. jen says:

    Hi Jan! That is funny! I cringe every time we have to fill one of the cars. Thanks for sharing! Have a wonderful weekend.


  6. Star says:

    Absolutely! I HATE spending a fortune on gas, buy as cheap as possible at the grocery and get almost all my clothes on sale. But I definitely spend more on produce and healthier foods and on curriculum that I can’t find used but really want!


  7. Kathy Falley says:

    Thanks for sharing!As newly weds we had the lowest pay. Steve was a 3rd class petty officer.Our free console televison had a unique on,off switch. Simply bounce a ball on the floor to turn off and on! Our early married furniture was a chair that I discovered while taking the trash out,and our Sofa was found alongside the road. We had new matching covers on the chair and couch,and new yellow curtains for our 8×35 ft Mobile home. My new Viking sewing machine was a wedding gift from my mom and dad.I really gave it a workout.The first 3 months in our Kenskill Mobile home were cold!The pilot light kept going out.Thank God for sleeping bags! Thank God for our deep love for each other!! This year we will celebrate 37 yrs together! The Lord has certainly blessed us. Love Kath


    • Jan says:

      That reminds me of our first television (small, black & white) and our “Attic Reject” newlywed furniture. I never heard of that early type of “remote,” though — really funny!
      Blessings to you and Steve.


  8. Pingback: Selective Frugality, Part 2 | Joywriting: Everybody Has a Story

  9. Pingback: The Joys of Guilt-Free Spending | Joywriting: Everybody Has a Story

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