Frugal DNA

by Steve and Annette Economides


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If you hang around with frugal friends and are willing to admit it, you'll probably notice that there appears to be no one way to live a Dollar Stretcher lifestyle. There are, however, several similar "genes" that most zealous frugalites carry. Here are a few we've observed.

  • Lifestyle Gene - Frugality isn't "belt tightening" during a crisis; it's not a fad or temporary thing. It's a lifestyle, usually born out of necessity, but continued because it is fulfilling and "we just couldn't imagine living any other way."

  • No-Fad Gene - Most economizers avoid trendy toys, decor or fashion for two reasons. First, they consider the cost. The newest stuff is usually the most expensive. If you wait a while, you'll find it in the thrift stores for pennies on the dollar. Secondly, we tend to be independent sorts, not caring much what others think. We wear what we like and usually buy standard or classic fashions. If we need something dressy, we'll hit the consignment store or thrift shop. Steve recently picked up a Yves Saint Laurent suit in perfect condition for $12 and an Eddie Bauer sweater for $7. Annette found a Jones of New York two-piece suit for $15. Whew, what great deals!

  • Brand-Disloyalty Gene - In most cases, brands don't matter. Whether it's clothing or food, most tightwads know the names they'll avoid, but their bottom line is to be fashionable or well fed, while still being frugal.

  • Non-Materialistic Gene - Less is more. Most frugal-minded people realize that stuff costs money to buy, money to maintain and money to replace. When we have a need, we'll try to make do with what we have, substitute with something that will work, or borrow from a friend before plunking down our hard-earned cash. Our property originally had 70 trees on it. Now there are quite a few less. Before we purchased our own chain saw, we borrowed one from a friend. After borrowing it a few times, we realized we needed to purchase our own tool. Most consumers would immediately run out and purchase something to meet an immediate need before determining if it was really a necessity. Not so with Dollar Stretchers.

  • Worn-Out Genes - We wear things out. We'll sew, tape, glue or screw things together to keep them serviceable. As a last resort, we'll replace a broken whatchamacallit, with a used one, if possible. Clothes are handed down from one kid to the next. Toys face the same fate. When we get rid of something, you can be assured it has lived a long, useful life and probably won't be accepted by any self-respecting thrift store or dumpster diver.

If you feel as if your gene pool has been diluted, don't despair; just hang out with some Dollar Stretching friends. Frugal DNA is contagious. Pretty soon, you'll be viewing life as a game, and you'll be playing to win. There's only one rule to remember: Get the best price for the highest quality. Oh, wait! There's one more rule: When you do find a "killer deal," make sure to tell a friend, but only if there's enough to go around.


Steve and Annette Economides are authors of America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right On the Money (A New York Times Best Seller) published by Random House 2007. They have five children ranging in age from 13 to 24 years old. They also publish the HomeEconomiser newsletter 6 times each year. Subscriptions are available for $12 per year. For more info and lots of free money saving ideas, visit AmericasCheapestFamily.com

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