05 April 2009

A Frugal Girl's Dilemma

We are a generally broke people, Be and I. We're down to 1/2 an income since he's still battling the work comp people (almost 2 years) and my coaching job takes a hiatus over the spring and summer. Darn those kids and their not wanting to go to school all year so I can get paid! Ha. Really, though, we don't mind our necessitated thrift all that much. We like being good stewards, paying down the debt from when we weren't so great at that, and trying out creative ways to stretch our tiny budget all over the place. My dilemma today, though, is when is it ok to stop being practical for a hot second and splurge?

My knee jerk reaction, after years of penny pinching and general miserly-ness is to say "Never!". Living a super thrifty lifestyle changes you over time, I think. Most things are no longer necessities, but luxuries cut out to make the zero based budget balance. Every extra penny goes to debt payments, and every money related thought is about how to better utilize current resources for even greater needs. Many, especially in our spendthrift populous, would think us thrifty folk nutjobs. We hear our friends, family, finance experts, and people on the street tell us all about how we just have to have discretionary cash to spend as we please without recourse or we will surely go insane and spontaneously combust. Yet, there are many of us, the frugal underground, who have not turned to self-immolation (and shhhhh, but we're happy about it). I have been one of the few, the proud, the unquestioning frugal for years and years ... until possibly, today.

The backstory here is that we have rewards checking accounts through our bank. They're free, and we signed up for the points rewards program when they started offering it to people who already had accounts instead of only new openers a couple years ago. Then, of course, we forgot about it. All this while the bank has been keeping track of the transactions we've made, and has added points (2/$1 plus bonuses for savings account transfers, opening new accounts, direct deposit, and EFTs) accordingly. I remembered this ... today, and logged in to see where I stood as far as points totals and reward costs were concerned.

Ooooooh, boy!

It's apparently good to forget about your rewards account for ... um ... years. I have something over 35,000 points! Immediately, of course, I called Be to make him log into his account and check his balance ... a whopping 33,000! Each of us is sitting on roughly $75 worth of redeemable value whether we choose giftcards, cash, or something from the prize (read: lame) catalog (who needs another umbrella, anyway?). As I skimmed the pages of available gifts, my pulse quickened when I saw that Barnes and Noble giftcards were on the list.

Ok, I confess ... I am a book-a-holic. A bibliophile who agreed at the beginning of this journey toward good stewardship to use the library instead, making a rule that I couldn't spend any money on books until well after we were debt free. As our budget is often precariously arranged, this rule has not been a problem. I don't have credit I can use anymore, so no money = no risk of spending it on books.

Faced with the choice between cashing in my points for more practical giftcards like those for the gas station and CVS or the entirely splurge-tastic (new word! ha) B&N, I am paralyzed. On the one hand, I should be a good steward. I should be practical, always. I should do the right thing and add to my family's budget with a smile on my face. On the other hand, it's free money ... money we would not have otherwise had anyway ... and money I would absolutely looooooooove to spend on books. Oh, my dear frugal friends, what is a girl to do? Be, with his cool exterior told me to do whatever I wanted to do. Ugh. That means nothing when you have a competition going on between wants and probably shoulds.

So, my lovely readers, I'm taking suggestions. What would you do if you could choose a $75 gift card? Would you splurge? Would you be ascetic about it? Would you have to write blog posts about it, and hope the comments helped you decide? Help a girl out here, pretty please?




  1. That's a tough one, I say you totally deserve it though for how awesome you've been with staying in budget! Now go buy some books!!

  2. I would have the same dilemma as you for about two minutes, then would pick the book gift card - I too have been using the library and borrowing from others.

    But, I don't think either choice is a bad one. Because you don't get books normally, it would be nice to be able to do that!