frugal is the new chique, or …

Frugality. It is the word that in this economy, has taken on a completely new meaning. Cliché? Well no, its not. Everyone knows how your job, your home or apartment, your savings, and your investment nest eggs can just disappear in a moment. Few are immune; fewer still scoff at the term, regardless of ‘social’ or so called ‘economic’ standing. Take a look at the commercials or the news. Everything says save, everything says sales, every store competing to sell you your necessities at the lowest price. They will calculate the savings per month or year so the term is never far from thought or wallet. The big name pharmacies have expanded their services to become the 21st Century ‘One Stop’ shopping centers. Go to their clinics; get your prescriptions filled, while you shop for groceries, clothes, the latest money saving magazines. Oh, and do not forget to browse around the ‘Dollar Section’ with that trusty circular newspaper in hand. Yes, we double coupon. Every trick on getting the maximum bang for the buck presented, almost minute by minute, via all Medias. Websites like ‘Eversave’ and ‘Coupon Mom’ cropping up daily. By the way, it happens to be an interesting concept she exhorts. Never knew how many loop holes existed until this past year.

Clipping is no longer a laughable or ’embarrassing’ idea. Knock offs are the order of the day. Brown bag lunches are back in style. ‘Infomercials’ are looked at more keenly for their worth compared to store buying. Online buying is no longer a trend. With Tax Season in full swing, e-fling via Turbo-tax is the way to go if your portfolio is simple enough; if not the H & R Block’s of America has the deal for you. Even your slime, slinging ‘entertainment’ shows have the ‘wear it like a celebrity for less’ segment.

All this will continue for a very long time. You see, big banks and investment firms are still handing out our hard earned money as if it was candy to a privileged few. My question is why the masses have not revolted. Maybe they are too busy counting their pennies to be bothered. I know we are.

How many times do you resist any given department store in a month’s time? Does the list of absolute essentials travel with you constantly? Do you know the price ranges for the things your household consumes, and then shop in stores according to consumables- the bulk products at warehouses and the perishables at the corner fruit and vegetable Walla? How many supermarket and drugstore discount cards hang from your key chain? Do you plan every meal? Do you happen to own any ‘Tupperware’ you take from table to fridge to work? Do you skimp and save towards a goal? Do you have ‘economic’ goals? Some will say, absolutely. I tend to disagree.

Are Muslims frugal? Well I am not sure, really, how the term is applied. I have seen the commodities some women pluck in front of their feet during, and after Jumma’ah while sharing home cooked meals. They will sport the Coach and Fendi bags, the designer shoes neatly tucked in cute tote bags, and the ‘Joneses’ coats. So I may have to guess, wildly, that the economy at home is just dandy.

I know of one couple who consider themselves tightfisted wads who end up throwing out expired stuff by the boatload, and more often than not are found on ‘return item’ lines for a purchase they really did not have to make. Do not step into the garage; the Bow-Flex collecting dust may squash you along with the hundred other boxes containing what? ‘Who knows anymore’? They are so frugal they hoard.

My husband had a similar conversation with fellow compatriots on this subject. They said they were better off than he was. You see, these men live in communal apartments paid by the owners of the stores and Deli’s they work at about eight men thick to a pack situated less than a building away from work. So what if they get paid a couple of dollars less? They do not pay for rent, electric bills, satellite TV, train or bus fare, or landline phones. The food, they chip in to cook and the actual staples come from the Deli’s they work at. The same goes for the packs of cigarettes and the ton of coffee or tea they drink in a 12 or 14-hour shift. They have enough pants, shirts,  T-shirts, a coat, a pair of sneakers, and a pair of boots to rotate in a week and to last them a couple of years. They’ll pay for these along with their laundry bill (unless there’s a washing machine in the apartment-no dry cleaning in this group), and the mobile phones with a ton of economic phone cards they hunt the lists looking for the longest mileage per call .

In essence, they save most of their weekly pay. They do not go to the movies, or the park. You never see them in a bookstore or library. The newspaper circulates until everyone has left a thumbprint on it. Restaurants and other activities are a foreign concept. They rarely have days off and they try their damnedest not to go to a doctor. Therefore, they have no insurance premiums or co-pays. And because they have ‘low’ salaries established, courtesy of notarized letters from employer and their nominal income tax returns (if they file), they qualify for Medicaid or the emergency type if necessary. Their families are kept back home. Sending them money only for the sheer necessities. That way when they go home, a year or so later, they will have saved anywhere from 20 to 40 thousand dollars. This they then spend during a 6 to 8 month stay overseas, and then borrow the ticket money, if they didn’t buy a return ticket, to come back to start the cycle all over again.

My husband, in this scheme of things is branded the fool. Our apartment should be sub rented by the bed width. Our food should only be the basic stuff, none of the fancy ‘American’ stuff. Our vacations and days off should be curse words. The university and extra-curricular courses should end immediately- why waste money on those girls. Speaking of girls- they should have been sent back home to be married years ago. That wife should also be back home tending the cows. And what’s this about medical, life, and practice insurance?! What, you don’t have faith in Allah SWT? Sell all that stuff you have. Get rid of every one, stop going out to the movies, those journals and magazines have to go (you’re already a doctor, what are you studying for now, to be an astronaut?), cut those restaurant affairs (why do you need to spend two hours eating with God knows who- they’re probably not even Muslim), and move in with the men. “You’ll be stupid-rich in no time.”

Frugality, they seem to have it down to a science. Ahh..and living, or is it existing? “Well, Allah says…”


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