It's good to be frugal, thrifty and un-wasteful. But there's a fine line between being sparing and being stingy. No one wants to wear the title of cheap tightwad. So here are seven ways to become a more generous penny-pincher.
1. Give, give, give. This is finance 101. Charitable donations equal tax breaks. That means donating done throughout the year turns into an added bonus come April 15. This is not limited to just cash donations. Your old clothes, computer, even your car can be counted as a donation. Read up on the rules, but remember the charity isn't the only one that cashes in when you give.
2. Leave a nice tip. Time for a pop quiz. You buy a coffee. The total is $2.59. You give the cashier $3. What do you do with the remaining $.41? If you responded, "put it in my pocket," you may be on the verge of becoming a tightwad. Instead, try dropping that change into the coffee cup next to the cash register marked "thanks a latte." If the service is good, if the food is tasty, if the waiter smiles, leave a reward. Fifteen to 20 percent is pretty standard at restaurants these days. Who knows, leaving a nice tip could get you on the barista's good side. And maybe someday she'll reward you with a free cup of joe.
3. It's all about who you know. In a world where connections are often king, being faithful to the same businesses could equal rewards down the road. Being a friendly, loyal customer means a lot — especially to locally-owned businesses. Learn the employees' names. Better yet, learn their kids' names. To show customer appreciation they'll pass along discounts and to those who are especially friendly- maybe even some freebies.
4. Stop mooching. Not ordering a meal when eating out with friends may seem like a way to save a few bucks because after all, they're not going to be able to eat all of that food, right? Wrong. Saving money doesn't have to mean skipping out on dining out. Ordering water instead of soda or beer can save you a minimum of $2 to $5. Pick an appetizer as your main meal or order a small salad. If someone offers you a few fries, take them. But don't think that when everyone else's meal ends yours begins.
5. Don't arrive empty handed. Gifts don't have to be extravagant to be thoughtful. Show up at a party with homemade cookies, a couple two-liters of Coke or a DVD. Better yet, snag a good deal by keeping close tabs on The Bargainist. Showing up with a small token of appreciation will have the host thinking you're sweet — not stingy.
6. Pick up the tab. Do not panic. Take a deep breath. Picking up the tab doesn't have to be painful. Just offer when the time is right — like during a trip to Starbucks or while renting a movie at Blockbuster. No, it may not be a steak dinner or front row tickets to Bon Jovi, but it's still a nice gesture. Who knows — maybe they'll return the favor some day.
7. Stop begging. The coupon has expired. The sale ended two days ago. The discount only applies to the magenta curtains. Whatever the deal was, it's over. Arguing for it will only make you appear cheap. Arguing for it loudly while a long line of customers wait in line behind you will only make you appear like a cheap tightwad. There are times that warrant a firm stance or a good fight, but those times are rare. If paying full-price feels sinful, politely decline to make the purchase and shop on. That's the frugal thing to do.
By: Alison Storm
* Hot deals expire quickly. This deal may no longer be valid.
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