A Dollar Stretcher Is...

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Awhile back, I was thinking about what a Dollar Stretcher looks like. Who are they? What makes them different from other folks?

For instance, it occurs to me that Dollar Stretchers are smart consumers. We're more likely to do some research and shop around to get the best discount. We'll wait for it to go on sale. I'm sure that we have other traits in common.

Then it dawned on me that who would be better able to describe what a Dollar Stretcher looked like than our readers. So I invited your thoughts on what you think makes someone a Dollar Stretcher. Below are just a few of the great ideas that we received.

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

I'm a faithful Dollar Stretcher reader that was raised by a couple of original Dollar Stretchers, folks who knew how to stretch a dollar before the term existed.

I think that a real Dollar Stretcher is someone who is his/her own person, making his/her own decisions about what they need in life without consulting the Joneses first. My mother always said that she was more excited about how little she spent for something, rather than being able to brag about blowing a wad of cash.

A Dollar Stretcher is patient and can wait for a bargain. They don't have to go to opening night at the movies. Instead, they can wait for the film to come out on Netflix.

A Dollar Stretcher knows just what they need. Extraneous bells and whistles are not necessary and neither is "brand new." They don't have to update their computers every six months. They wear them out. We've had ours for seven years now and they've done everything we've needed them to do, including running specialty businesses on them out of our home.

A Dollar Stretcher knows that his livelihood and future depends on him. He/she gets a good education, a good job, doesn't live beyond his/her means, and always puts something away for a rainy day. They also learn at least a bit about investing to make the most of his/her savings.

A Dollar Stretcher can splurge when the occasion calls for it, but it's usually a planned-for event or purchase that doesn't blow the budget.

Finally, a Dollar Stretcher can sleep at night.
Amy T.

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

What is a Dollar Stretcher? A dollar stretcher comes in many types of packages and they come from all economic backgrounds. Some may be the children of Depression Era parents (like me) and others may be the products of post war babies (such as my husband). Being a Dollar Stretcher does not necessarily mean that a person is poor or in financial straits, it just means they value a dollar and want to achieve as much with each dollar as possible.

Being a Dollar Stretcher does not mean that a person is cheap, quite often it is exactly the opposite. A Dollar Stretcher may wait for a quality item to become available at a good price and then they buy it once. By purchasing quality, it then becomes unnecessary to purchase the item again, and again, and again. This, in turn, stretches a dollar. A Dollar Stretcher may drive a newer car or an old beater. For example, I drive a newer car, but I will drive it for 12 or 15 years, maybe more. Being a Dollar Stretcher does not always mean getting the cheapest price at the beginning, but it can also mean saving money over the long haul by not having to make repairs on an item all the time. It may mean paying $180 for an all weather coat in 1996 and still be wearing it today because it was that well made for a cost of $16.36 per year roughly. It is still going strong with no signs of giving up. To me, that is stretching a dollar and that equals value.

It may also mean shopping around for the best prescription prices even though you have insurance. For example, my insurance requires that I mail my prescription to them to be filled in order for them to cover it and get me a "deal" on the price, which is $35 per month. Plus, I have to hassle with mail ordering refills. In shopping around, I found that I can get the same name brand medicine from Wal-Mart for $25 for a month's supply. That saves me $10 per month plus my time. That is a Dollar Stretcher. A Dollar Stretcher is many things.

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

A Dollar Stretcher is someone who expects value. Value to a Stretcher is defined as the value of their quality of life. Shopping is a skill, not a hobby. It's more important to a Stretcher to spend time with others than to race around trying to acquire material goods. A Stretcher values an exchange of ideas and experience, and enjoys helping others. When we pool our various interests, philosophies and life experiences, we are all en-RICH-ed. True wealth has little to do with money.

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

A Dollar Stretcher lives intentionally. They spend out of both necessity and desire like others, but with a more conservative, goal-driven perspective. They are more likely to deny themselves than others. They are more willing to purchase second-hand and not be in the latest fashion. They are much more educated on costs and regularly look for less expensive ways to do anything. They are more likely to do it themselves as much as they can and hire things done less often.

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

  • Someone who views saving money as a sport
  • Someone who believes that simple living within his/her means is the path to stress reduction
  • Someone who doesn't "need" an item just because it exists and "everyone" has it


A Dollar Stretcher Is…

Her whole family wears name brand, stylish clothing that was purchased from the Goodwill, Salvation Army, garage sales or other various thrift stores, with the occasional new clothing purchased on a great clearance deal. Their home is also decorated in great finds from thrift stores, auctions and garage sales. In addition to looking great, as well as helping the environment by recycling, the children are learning to be good consumers. And since we started them at a young age in a frugal lifestyle, it will continue without much argument as they get older (we hope!).

The family's cars aren't new, but they are clean and well maintained. Since they carpool and try to group all errands together, they do their best to save on gas. They live in a modest sized home that they do their best to maintain. Since the husband is handy, he can do most repairs and updates to the home himself. He also has many friends in different construction businesses, so bartering and trading for services between them all is common.

They all eat well with groceries purchased either on sale with coupons or at a discount retailer, and most of their meals are made from scratch. The lunches she packs for them to take to work and school keep their waists trim and help them avoid the expense of fast food. And speaking of trim, they all stay healthy and fit by doing outdoor activities, using their bikes and roller blades, gardening, and during the winter, working out to an inexpensive Pilates tape at home rather than owning a gym membership. On the occasions when they do go out for dinner, they try to find "kids eat free" nights or use coupons to keep the costs down, and rarely, if ever, do they go all out on a big splurge at a restaurant.

They keep their thermostat set at a reasonable temperature in both winter and summer, and try to conserve energy and keep the electric bills down by turning off lights and not wasting electricity.

They use their local library to borrow books, and buy them only at garage sales or thrift stores. They have also discovered the local pawnshop is a great place for buying videos and DVDs. If they ever go to a movie theater, they try to see a matinee film at the cheaper price.
Heather in Coon Rapids, MN

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

We are a retired couple. We built a new home four years ago, and it is paid for. We have a two-year-old Toyota that we paid cash for. We have traveled extensively. We have some nice investments that allow us to live comfortably and have some extras. Stretching a dollar is just so much fun. We raised six boys and stretching a dollar came in handy and now it is so interesting and gives me a feeling of accomplishment. It is just so wasteful not to try to get the most you can for your hard-earned dollar! I guess a Dollar Stretcher starts out needing to and ends up wanting to.

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

A Dollar Stretcher is someone who sees the big picture in life, and looks at everyday activities with the long-term plan in mind. A Dollar Stretcher enjoys going out to eat, as much as anyone does, but doesn't do it if it doesn't fit into his/her financial plan. He/she is disciplined and wise. He/she is someone who can enjoy life's luxuries on his own terms with a clear sense of priorities. A Dollar Stretcher is someone who intimately intertwines his use of time and of money, realizing the two are essentially the same thing. And most importantly, a Dollar Stretcher is open-minded, always improving and looking for better ways to enhance the world and self.

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

What does a Dollar Stretcher family look like? My family is generally nicely dressed in a variety of name brands mixed with discount store bargains. The name brand clothes are gifts, hand-me-downs or purchased from a thrift store. When it comes to dressing my toddler over his entire lifetime, I have probably spent more on thank you notes for gifts and hand-me-downs than on clothing from retail stores. My son wears cloth diapers for the most part. He has a tiny tushie so the bulk of cloth diapers holds his pants up better. There are times when we use disposables, but we try to balance convenience and value. We do this in everything we do, including food. At the market, we will rarely buy convenience foods. However, I have found that the pre-packed tuna salad kits with a serving of fruit, fresh or in a fruit cup at sale price, is a better option than fast food. My husband keeps a few in his work truck for lunchtime emergencies.

In our free time, we are generally seen playing with our toddler or working to fix up our little house. We work and play as a family and have a great time in the process. Twice a month, we host a dinner for friends. Our friends are generally happy to have simple menus or even warehouse club pizza. For less than $20, we can feed a small group and have hours of fun in our home surrounded by the love and laughter of our friends. It is much nicer and cheaper than dragging a toddler out to a "boring" restaurant. Our hobbies even save us money. Gardening, sewing and home improvement projects generally top the list of free time activities. The important thing is that we do these things because we love them, not because we feel so unfortunate as to have to. We generally avoid investing money on disposable items (diapers, cleaning "systems," etc.) and rarely have the latest and greatest thingamajig. My husband and I have made purchasing mistakes in the past and have learned from them to develop a spending style that balances our desires and true needs.

We are somewhat organized. It takes a certain amount of organization to be able to retrieve the size 2T hand-me-downs and keep track of what you have and what you need. Organized meal planning prevents emergency food expenditures. A predetermined laundry schedule makes cloth diapering easy. A shopping schedule allows me to make childcare arrangements (a.k.a. Nana) so my two-year-old doesn't rush me into decisions, which is something most of us have done when shopping with a tired, hungry or otherwise irate toddler.

We can often be spotted asking questions:

  • Is this the best price you can offer?
  • Is this item likely to go on sale soon?
  • Do you offer a discount for cash customers?
  • When are your seasonal markdowns? I just scored bubbles and sidewalk chalk at huge markdowns with this one.
  • Would you be willing to notify me before your next sale? This one works best in small stores, children's resale shops and, my personal favorite, when making a purchase of used children's items from an individual. Using classified ads or websites like Craigslist.org, we have saved tons of money on items and identified people with similar taste willing to sell children's clothes or toys when they become available. Keeping in touch with a few such people can save a ton!
  • Is there any other possible solution to our situation? What is the least expensive solution? What is the best long-term solution?

The most important traits are our intelligence and unwillingness to compromise our personal goals just to keep up with our friends and neighbors. We live in Southern California and still manage to have a comfortable life with a stay-at-home parent and another parent working only forty hours a week. It does take effort and time to think financial decisions through, but the payoff is incredible.

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

Dollar Stretchers come from all income, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. We are as diverse as America. Our one common trait is basic common sense.

In life's journey, I've been a student, a "soccer mom" with a mini van, a single, struggling mom, the owner of a growing and lucrative business, and the caretaker for an elderly relative. Regardless of my income or financial "comfort level" at any stage of life, I have always felt the importance of making wise choices with my money.

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

I am certain that we do not live, breathe, and eat money. Instead, we accept life and the "needs" that go along with it. We work hard to meet those "needs." We respect financial independence and even sacrifice to obtain that independence. We enjoy freedom from everyday money worries.

Bills are not the enemy. Instead, they are small bumps rather than hurdles that we get through one small bite at a time. We are not into the fastest or the easiest path. Rather we seek the path that makes the end results all the more worthwhile.

Dollar Stretchers are people who live life, love life and choose to simplify their consumption in order to increase their time enjoying life!
Linda in Lawrenceville, GA

A Dollar Stretcher Is…

I think Dollar Stretchers are people of substance rather than superficiality. We've made a decision that the fads, status symbols, and the mood of the moment does not determine how we spend our money or live our lives. We use our creativity and time doing things that matter. Instead of spending our dollars frivolously at the mall or store in an attempt to lift our moods and look like carbon copies of less careful spenders, we are making our dollars work for us. We spend time cooking home cooked meals, sewing our own items, raising vegetables ourselves, and planning menus. Being careful with our budget and not being ruled by consumerism allows us a sense of satisfaction that we are our own people, good stewards of the blessings that we receive, and people of depth.

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