Some of my saddest choices in life have been due to being cheap. It was a quality I was taught at an early age. When Star Wars toys came out, my dad figured that cheaper and in bulk was better. So instead of some Kenner action figures, I got Lazer Force toys, which were vaguely similar.
This continued on throughout my growing up, with the knockoff brand or something sorta close to what I wanted being good enough for me. Unfortunately, I used this as the gold standard. Or really the 10k gold standard. I hoarded my money, I short-changed myself. Shoes. Clothes. Appliances. Etc. There is a good reason sometimes why name brands cost a little bit more. Sure you are paying for a name, but you are also paying for something that lasts a hell of a lot longer too.
Terry Pratchett had a neat way of explaining this.
Sometimes paying a little bit more makes sense. Unless you are dealing with kids who will outgrow, lose, or wear out anything short of titanium. Then, cheaper is a little bit better.
One of my regrets in life has been holding onto money with a tight fist. When you are involved in the courts, you realize just how quickly other people can spend your money. And come back asking for more, like Oliver Twist in a soup kitchen.
Due to my growing up, I have had an aversion to spending money. And when I was married, we never had any. We were constantly short shifting the utility companies so that we could go have fun money or buy or replace something. Shoes, clothes, eating out a ton, that kind of thing. When I was in college, I was a cheap bastard too. I don’t know what I was saving up for, because it was all gone shortly after I got married. One of my regrets in that time of my life was instead of stacking up my nickles and dimes, I should have gone on a few trips. When I was young and stupid, I wish I had seen more of the world instead of thinking college prepared me for any of it. You cannot lose experiences in divorce court.
And yes, I do talk about that kind of thing a lot here, but mostly because I hope that anyone reading it either can relate and knows they aren’t alone, or it will be somewhat cautionary for them.
I dated a woman for a while who introduced me to her family. It was a table of ten or twelve people and she, her sister, and her parents basically did a Rock Paper Scissors over who would pay the bill. At that moment in my life, I should have known that I was not going to last long in that situation because I probably would never get to the point where I could just pick up the tab for dinner for a dozen people. And back then, the idea of even offering to do so made me a little nauseous to be honest.
I’m working on being more generous, because the times I have let myself be generous, I have genuinely felt good about it. I have a buddy who is very generous. He calls himself an idiot or bleeding heart half of the time too, but he gives without expecting reciprocity. That was not something I ever saw growing up or when I was married. The funny thing is that when he shows his generosity, it is infectious. I lower my defenses too and think “Hell, if he can do something like that, why can’t I?” He might not even know that by helping others, he is encouraging people like me to also be generous.
I dated a woman who used to tip well and once in a while she would pick up the tab for the car behind us when we got coffee. Sometimes there is nothing that makes somebody’s day better than someone else paying for your coffee. It’s like a bucket of ice water in the face of a shitty day.
I’m not writing this to virtue signal. I’m writing it because I know I can do better. I actually struggle internally with did I give enough and did I give too much? A lot of the time I am frozen and I don’t give at all. I often regret that. It isn’t just money either, but time.
Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking who have reached the last years of their lives and they are holding onto a professional position. I have heard of a doctor who retired at around 80 years old and opened up a store where he is selling off things he has collected over the years. I say good for him. And I also used to work with a man who is around the same age who will probably be wheeled out of his office feet first. Why? Why not enjoy the few years you have in life instead of giving them to a company that won’t even put your name on a brass plaque for giving them the best years of your life?
That isn’t being generous with your time. Time is really the only thing we get in life, and we have to rent that.
Yes, there are days I am terrified over how I will make a living with writing. I could give up these pretentious things and just punch the clock.
It’s hard to keep going with a dream when you are walking that razor’s edge between doing what you should do and what calls you. Somewhere in the middle with that is generosity. Not only with others, but also giving yourself the credit that things are scary, but you are going to be okay. One way or the other.
It was fear that kept me from not being cheap for so many years. I’ve seen people die with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, cutting their pills in half, fretting that there wouldn’t be enough for their kids or church or whatever to inheirit. Their kids were for the most part ungrateful little shits who didn’t even care when they were gone. They blew what they inheirited on stuff.
We get this one life. We should try to make the best of it. Sometimes that means sharing. We shouldn’t look in someone else’s bowl to see what they’ve got that we don’t, we should look in their bowls to see if they have enough.
At the end, all the extra money we get to keep just pays for an upgrade to our caskets. We wind up in the same place anyway.
Jeez, I hope this didn’t get too morbid.