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I’d rather be frugal than hip

Marketplace Staff Jan 22, 2010
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I’d rather be frugal than hip

Marketplace Staff Jan 22, 2010
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TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Summer Sewell: My bank account has never seen disposable income. I use everything I make, and then some.

TESS VIGELAND: Commentator and Youth Radio reporter Summer Sewell.


SUMMER SEWELL: I’m a college graduate. And I work. Still I pay for meals with loose change. I calculate the price per ounce in the cereal aisle to ensure the best deal. Apparently, this makes me part of a new trend you have probably read about: being frugal. But there’s nothing new about it to me. I’ve been living in my own personal recession since before the real one started.

My financial life is, well, first I pay rent and then my bills for the month. Health insurance is a luxury. I haven’t had insurance for almost two years. DayQuil is my doctor. I can’t afford to think about a more serious illness or a medical emergency or even paying for antibiotics out of pocket.

The occasional parking ticket, alone, can almost swallow my so-called “savings.” Being broke means it’s never both; it’s either-or. As in, friends or food? Do I go out with friends or use the money to buy groceries? Do I buy my mom a birthday present or get my oil changed? Do I buy a new comforter or fix a leaky tire?

Life is a revolving catch-22. If I use my credit card to pay a bill, I’m stuck with finance charges. I can only ever pay the minimum balance. I notice finance charges down to the penny, because I study my online banking account like I was writing a thesis on it. I check it regularly to see that my paychecks have cleared before I put a stamp on my rent check or fill up my tank.

I’ve never had the money to keep up with trends. I’ve never tried to be hip. I have no clue where the newest, swank eatery is in L.A., but I know how to buy Chinatown vegetables, and add them to Top Ramen for a $1 dinner. And for 2010, that makes me part of a trend that’s been my life for years — being frugal.

Vigeland: Summer Sewell’s commentary was produced for us by Youth Radio.

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