Frugality Isn’t Cheapness

Those of you who know me, know that over five months ago, I underwent gastric surgery. During that time, I have lost about 75 pounds. While that is a great thing, the drawback is that I have run out of all the “thin” clothes I had been saving for when I lost weight, and now I’m at the point where I have to buy new clothes. I hesitate to spend a lot of money on new clothing because in a few months, they will be too big for me and I’ll have to give them away.

The daughter of a very close friend is getting married next week, and I needed to get a new suit. I went to a men’s store I used to go to and found some beautiful suits, but they were priced four hundred dollars and up. I could justify the expense if I was going to wear the suit for the next five years, but to shrink out of it in a matter of months seems like such a colossal waste of money. My ever-practical wife suggested we look for a suit at a thrift shop. I told her I didn’t like thrift shops, because they all smell stale or like moth balls, and that I could make one of the suits I have at home work. She said the suits at home were all too big and I really had to get another suit, so reluctantly, we went to the Kiwanis Club thrift store (I reasoned they were a step up from Salvation Army or Goodwill).

I started looking through the racks of clothing, which reminded me of the clothing we distribute to poor people in Eastern Europe, when I came across a suit, that looked pretty good. I tried on the jacket, and it fit. I grabbed it and ran to the changing room, and the pants fit as well. They were even the correct length. Upon closer examination, I found the suit had the original store tags on it, and the pants had been tailored because the excess material from the hems were in the back pants pocket. The jacket pockets were still sewn, so I knew this suit, which fit me like it was made for me, was never worn. I checked the tags, and the suit was price marked twenty-five dollars. I thought it was quite a deal, until I got to the register and was informed that because it was half price Tuesday,  the suit would be half price. So I got the suit for twelve dollars and change. My wife told me she was praying I’d find something suitable for the wedding.

It gave me pause to think. Even though I will be giving the suit to rummage in a few months, at least for now, it fits me, and I saved 388 dollars. Saving money isn’t a matter of being cheap. It means I have more money to give to the poor, support humanitarian efforts, and in general, the means to bless other people.

There are some people who are cheap. They spend the least amount of money on anything, and sock away what they don’t spend, amassing a fortune, but living like paupers. Yeshua said, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?” We need to be careful about how we spend our money, but not so we can make ourselves wealthy. We need to be careful with our spending, so we have the money to help others and practice a godly generosity toward those in need, and to help worthy ministries. We may be stressed financially, but from the perspective of most of the world, we are wealthy. How do I define wealth? We go to sleep at night knowing we are going to eat tomorrow. I know many who don’t have that luxury. It’s good to use coupons and take advantage of sales and offers. Being better stewards is not simply saving money. It is saving so we can be generous when we have opportunity.

If any of you want to help elderly Jews in the Former Soviet Union and Israel, you can give to Chevra USA, www.chevrahumanitarian.org.

also posted in Riverton Mussar: A Wellspring For Ethical Change

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3 thoughts on “Frugality Isn’t Cheapness

  1. We have a reputation everywhere for being cheap, to the point of dishonesty. Why? Probably general anti-semitism. If the price is too high, you “Jew ’em down.” Yet, in my 73 years, I have NEVER met a dishonest Jew. In fact, most of us would give you the shirt off our backs if needed.

    Rabbi, you discussed being frugal about buying the suit. Let’s face it, when you bought the suit at the thrift shop, you did something that benefitted avery party to the transaction. You got a nice suit cheap. The store made a sale, which paid the help, and the profit went to the poor. That’s a classic win/win.

    Great posting, Rabbi, but you didn’t explain the apparently disproportionate number of Jews who own Cadillacs. The anti-semite sees only the Cadillac, and never stops to think how the Jew really might have gotten the car.

    I think there’s a lesson to be learned here.

    • Actually, Jews tend to be more generous than the average person. Check the rolls of donors to hospitals, universities, civic organizations. Generosity is part of Jewish culture. As for Jews and Cadillacs, thats a tired old stereotype. In my parent’s generation, second generation after the immigrant generation, owning a Cadillac was a symbol of success that said “you made it!”

  2. Yes, it was a symbol that “I made it,” but still the goyim took it as a symptom of greed and overconsumption.

    The only thing I see is that anti-semitism is so ingrained in society, that everything a Jew does is seen negatively. The donors you mention gave out of generosity, but ask just about any goy and he’ll say they were just trying to get their name on something. I know it’s just a fact of life and a price of being Jewish, but I am still fascinated by it.

    Off subject, but have you seen what is oging on in Californis about circumcision? That, in my opinion, is a sign of the resurgence of the anti-semitism of the 1930s.

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