Want to know the worst combination for mental peace ever? Being a cheapskate who also hates waste. I have complicated my life to the nether regions of insanity because of this combo.
For instance, I didn’t buy shampoo or soap for years because we amassed a stash of hotel toiletries from our pre-kid travels. I made it my personal mission to not buy shampoo, conditioner, or soap until we had used up every free sample under our roof. We would finally get to the last bottle and then BAM, work trip involving hotel stay or free sample of Garnier something or the other in the mail. Never you mind my scalp has never fully recovered from such stringent, cheap concoctions…we made out like bandits with our loot. I used the conditioners on my legs for shaving cream and appropriated the really awful soaps for our camping box. All formulas too stinky for actual use were given to young RE to make potions in her tree house.
My bathroom windowsill is currently housing two Curels, one CeraVe AM, one shampoo, one conditioner, one body wash, and one Neutrogena Hydrogel tube all lid-free and upside down draining their last dregs into separate Dixie cups. Because it would be nonsense to waste two applications of conditioner or three drops of eye cream, would it not? Although I never thought to factor in the cost of the Dixie cups...
I bought this thread in October of 1997 shortly after Greg bought me my sewing machine. I didn't know bobbins weren't universal. This box has curved bobbins, my machine has flat bobbins. That didn't stop me from not wasting! Nineteen years later I'm still winding flat bobbins from curved bobbins and trying to use up every color of this low-quality notion. I wish a robber would break into our house and steal this thread so the task of using it up was no longer mine.
Everyone I knew who was done having kids gave me their old tubes of Lansinoh when I got pregnant with Archer. If you’ve ever used it you know one tube per human lifespan is adequate. Seeing as I wasn’t nursing I clearly had no need for this stuff…but it’s pure lanolin. I hated the taste on my lips but have since found it to be an excellent cuticle cream and finger salve for this crafter and compulsive hand washer who has eternally split fingertips. Two tubes down, one to go. I can do it. I can use it.
This is the wad of leftover embroidery floss from a few cross stitches I did when I was first married. It used to be four times the size. I have avoided spending 29 cents on a mini skein of floss all these years because I just rummage through my tangle ball and find whatever color I need for the project at hand. I’ve probably saved up to four dollars over two decades with this madness.
Ugh, these are the world’s worst pens. Foray, you stink! My love for office supplies is unsurpassed; I’ve purchased something from every aisle at Staples. (Once I did a freelance job for a kindred spirit and she paid me a $100 bonus in the form of an Office Depot gift card. Eureka!) In a moment of weakness I bought a 20-pack of these pens from the impulse aisle only to discover they are literally the worst pens on earth. Irregular, globby, smeary, the list goes on. However, my special cheapskate/non-waster gene prevented me from tossing 20 worthless pens. Over the course of six or seven years I have used them for non-important writing tasks (like grocery lists, phone messages, church doodles) and have four lousy pens to go. Wait, that’s a lie. I just finished the green one off and purple is almost dead. I will never deviate from Pilot Precise v5 fine tips or mini Sharpies again. Not even for Dr. Grip or a giant set of rainbow something at Costco. I learned my lesson.
I lose sleep Thanksgiving night imagining all the turkey carcasses being tossed out. Boil them and pick the meat off the bones, people! Can the broth! It is magical and will heal you come summer when you catch a freak summer cold. There is power in the turkey bone!
I walked through the spidery pond weeds and down the railroad tracks to Hobby Lobby with my baby in a carrier to return an unused spool of ribbon from a church activity. Post-coupon it totalled 60 cents with tax. I figured the gas for driving it back would negate the savings so walking it was. (Hope the church appreciated that one.)
Last, but CERTAINLY not least, this is my favorite kitchen towel from Williams-Sonoma. It is linen and absorbs hand washed dish droplets 379% faster than any other towel and air dries in a blink. It is a $20 phenomenon. I can’t toss it because the strands of square-ish linen holding on for dear life continue to serve their purpose. (I just can’t fold it anymore. It’s a strand wad. Maybe I should store it with my embroidery floss.)
Being a cheapskate has mostly been a blessing in my life, especially when it comes to sticking to a monthly budget. However, being cheap can be dangerous.
I am intrigued by the Bible story of married couple Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. To fiscally support the apostles they sold some land but secretly stashed a little kickback for themselves. When giving the remainder to Peter (and I imagine they did it with decorum) they acted like it was the full amount and each died on the spot for lying to Peter, the Holy Ghost, and God.
It might seem easy to judge their motives or call them out on their charity but I empathize with Sapphira:
1. My angel neighbor Keri texted a bunch of people on my street two years ago asking for donations for a fellow neighbor. They were going through hard times and needed help paying their utilities. I had never met them but instantly a number came to my mind. The number worried me because my well-tended and immutable monthly budget didn’t show enough left to give and still buy diapers and formula before the end of the month. I subtracted enough from the number to pay for diapers and formula. After all, family comes first and only a fool would give money they don’t have. I rationalized that I was still being generous; I was still loving my neighbor. I walked the money over to Keri but felt amiss on the way home. A few hours later my sister Cristall stopped by unannounced with a small can of formula and little pack of diapers - just enough to last me through the month. My insides withered as I thanked her. I should have given the number to my neighbor. The Lord doesn’t mess around with promptings. I knew this but I ignored it in the name of reason. I should have trusted He would watch over me if I watched over others. The odd thing is I’d given away much, much more in the past. Every time I’d given a true offering -something that hurt a bit to let go of- I felt enlarged, more whole, and happier. Like a starfish who regenerates a missing point I had quickly healed from any pinching sacrifice. Why I scrimped on small potatoes like utility money still bothers me.
2. Carson and Amy taught me how to grill salmon and henceforth I became a salmonmonger. I invited a couple over for salmon. As I prepped the meal I had the recurring thought I should invite two extra people over. I worried the fillet wasn’t large enough for six adults so I did not invite the afterthoughts. Insert same rationalization as the other story: I was already feeding other people...I was already being generous with my expensive salmon. Dinner came and we feasted. I tried to swallow my guilt by eating seconds; the dinner party followed. We ate and ate until we could eat no more. Guess how much delectable pink fish was staring at me from a cedar plank at the end of the night? Two adult portions. *sound of me mentally punishing my mortal mathematics*
Holding back, hoarding, treasure polishing, me-worship. Yuck. Ugly sauce. Is there anything worse?
In the sacred places and texts of my life there is an important word: ENMITY. It means friction, bad blood, resentment, hatred. A synonym is odium. (Now I get why Garfield’s nemesis was named Odie! Root words! So important!) It is how Satan feels towards me. It is how I am supposed to feel towards Satan and his minions. It is not a feeling that should be shared between loved ones. Up to this point I’ve always felt pretty enmity-free with in my life (concerning non-Satan loved ones…I have enmity toward American cheese, cats, Black Friday sales that start on Thanksgiving Thursday, and a few other trivialities).
Then I reread a really famous (well, to Mormons) article about pride. It said the central feature of pride is ENMITY which includes:
LIVING BEYOND OUR MEANS
WITHHOLDING GRATITUDE AND PRAISE THAT MIGHT LIFT ANOTHER
BEING UNFORGIVING AND JEALOUS.
All of those things seemed like diluted hate wrapped up in socially-accepted terms. Who doesn’t gossip a little? Who hesitates to forgive, especially when they aren’t the one at fault? Who doesn’t harbor a little resentment toward the mommy who lost her baby weight in three days or the teen who never got acne AND aced the ACT? Who isn’t jealous of someone who embodies all their unfulfilled dreams and untapped potential? The one that stuck out to me was WITHHOLDING GRATITUDE AND PRAISE THAT MIGHT LIFT ANOTHER.
Do I ever swallow my nice words because someone already has it good enough? Or because I’ll look like an idiot giving my compliment? Do I lock someone out with boundaries and ultimatums because someone besides God told me I’m justified? Do I say I’m sorry? Do I look for the good in others, especially when I am less than thankful for them at the moment? Do I lift or yank down? Do I build or wreck? Am I a fountain or a drain?
Back to the beginning, about being a cheapskate who hates waste. It’s wise to be frugal but I can't cheap out on people and I definitely shouldn't waste love. Hanging on to thread and lanolin and kitchen towels is fine and good but hanging on to relationships is real talent. Especially the tricky, prickly ones. People are delicate, not disposable.
I once read a curious book advertisement describing the Savior's power. Essentially it said
REMEMBER WHAT HE DID WITH A SINGLE LOAF
IMAGINE WHAT HE CAN DO WITH A SINGLE LIFE
I love to consider this in regards to holding back versus giving your all.
We all start with a crust. If you hold on to your crust, if you guard it and hold back...you're crusty. If you give someone your crust, the Lord gives you a slice. Give away your slice, get a hot crossed bun. Give away your bun, get a loaf of artisan bread. Give away your loaf and he gives you two. Give those away and come home to a commercial mixer capable of kneading 20 loaves at once. Use every ounce of flour you’ve got in that mixer and the Lord signs a paid lease in your name for a boulangerie just down the street from the Eiffel Tower. Bake bread from morning till night rejoicing in the fact that you aren't crusty anymore. You're a successful baker with oodles of resources and customers! Toss baguettes at strangers and stuff croissants in people’s pockets! Give! Give it all away. Give your money, praise, love, and time. Give the benefit of the doubt. Give beyond your comfort zone. Give a boost, staunch support, or full forgiveness (especially the little bit you're holding back). You will never be hungry or empty-handed because "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven." You can’t get ahead of the Lord.
Photo lyric from "Emmylou" by First Aid Kit, wax seal by my generous friend Sophie.