Does Frugality Gross You Out?

used books

Last week, on a nice spring day, I was sitting outside on my porch reading one of my many library books. My neighbor came over to see how I was doing and wanted to know what I was reading. I flipped it over to show her the title and she could clearly see the library bar code and due date stamps on the back.

“Oh, gross. It’s a library book,” she said.

“Yeah. So? I get most of my books from there,” I said.

“Don’t you ever wonder where they’ve been? I could never read a book that’s been through so many hands. I only buy new or use my e-reader,” she said.

I have to admit, I never thought about it. Sure, sometimes I get a book that has some unidentified substance spilled on a page, or some crumbs fall out, but overall I’ve never thought of library books as disgusting. They’ve been used by many people, but so have most things we come in contact with on a daily basis. (Think how many people have touched that door handle at Target or the handle of the shopping cart, or used the restroom in your office building, or coughed all over that sofa in your doctors’ office. Makes a book seem not so bad, by comparison, doesn’t it?)

Out of curiosity I asked my neighbor if she ever shopped at yard sales, or bought anything from Goodwill or another thrift-type store.

“Ick, no,” was her answer.

I suspect my neighbor isn’t alone in being a little repulsed by frugality. The thought of buying used items probably grosses out more than a few people. Knowing that other people have used, worn, touched, coughed on, and spilled things on those items makes them uncomfortable. Then there are the more “extreme” frugal tips that can gross some people out. Things like dumpster diving, using washable cloths instead of toilet paper, using cloth diapers instead of disposable, only flushing the toilet after a #2, and composting with worms can all test the strength of anyone’s gag reflex. Even gardening can be disgusting if you have an aversion to dirt.

Some people find certain aspects of frugality so revolting that they spend thousands of dollars more per year than they have to. They buy everything new and refuse to try anything that might be a little icky. I once knew someone who refused to buy anything but new houses and new cars because she didn’t want anything that someone else had used. Talk about spending thousands more over a lifetime! Certainly not all frugal ideas are gross, but some of the ones that result in the biggest savings (buying used, renting items, or getting things like library books for free being the main ones) may carry an ick factor.

So what do you do if you want to be frugal, but find yourself shying away from certain things? Here are some quick tips.

Try It At Least Once

If you’re dismissing something just because you think it might be gross without trying it, at least give it a try. You might discover that it’s not as bad as you think. Or you might find yourself saving so much money that you quickly get over the ick factor. If you try it and can’t handle it, at least you’ve made an informed decision rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

Disinfect & Clean

Many things can be cleaned. You can scrub down most kids’ toys. Clothes can be washed thoroughly. Dishes can be disinfected in the dishwasher. Cars and houses can all be cleaned. Airing things out in the sun can kill germs and get rid of odors. Even a library book can be wiped down with a disinfecting wipe as long as it’s encased in a plastic dust jacket cover. You can clean and disinfect most things so that they meet your standards of cleanliness.

Refurbish & Restore

You can refinish furniture if something has been spilled on the outside that can’t be cleaned. Floors in a home can be refinished or replaced. Walls can be cleaned and then repainted. If you buy kitchen chairs with soft chair pads, you can usually replace those or get rid of them entirely. If a simple cleaning won’t achieve the level of cleanliness that you want, you can refurbish an item. It’s more work, but if you get the item cheap enough it can be a worthwhile investment.

Find Other Ways To Be Frugal

If you’re still grossed out by certain things, it’s okay not to use them in your frugal repertoire. However, to get the most out of your frugal journey you’ll have to find other ways to cut your expenses. If you insist on buying all your books or DVD’s new instead of borrowing or renting them, maybe you’ll need to eat out less, for example. There are lots of ways to be frugal so you have to find what works for you.

Personally, while there are some things I might not do because of the ick factor, giving up my library isn’t going to be one of them. I get so much from the library that I can’t imagine life without it. Library books and used books may, indeed, be gross, but in the grand scheme of things, they aren’t gross enough to keep me from using them. Neither are many of the things I can buy at thrift stores. The amount of money I save by borrowing, renting, and buying used far outweighs the ickiness in my mind.

(Photo courtesy of jimw)

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10 Responses to Does Frugality Gross You Out?

  1. Samantha says:

    I find library books fascinating. I always wonder who took it out and what that person was like, what their house would look like. I love the story their covers tell

  2. rob62521 says:

    I’m with you…love the library and will take my chances!

  3. hon says:

    I find people with the attitude expressed are pretty selective in their ‘ick’ ratings. Does she fly? Airplanes are filthy, the seats and trays are used by millions. The carpet is truly icky the gunk is just not visible. Worse yet the air is recycled so every virus imaginable is floating by.

    If her family fails to remove shoes at the door, they are trekking all the ‘filth’ from buildings and walkways into the home.

    The doctors are discouraging use of ‘waterless’ wash products as the chemicals are dangerous if ingested and have potential to reduce immunity.

  4. Jay says:

    Agree with Hon! However, sometimes it reflects a deeply imbedded feeling: DH grew up extremely poor, sharing a bed, clothes, etc. Never got new, at best it was the second hand clothing store. Years later, we walked into a thrift shop looking for vintage clothes. The look on his face was pure revulsion, and he had to leave. Clearly, and this was acknowledged, the odor alone brought back unhappy childhood memories …

  5. Julie says:

    Amy Dacyczyn has a great article on this subject entitled, “Selective Squeemishnish.”

    Does this lady eat at restaurants, try on clothing at a store, hug her child when she gets home from school, turn doornobs or go on rides at an amusement park? Americans are basically squeemish where they choose to be, and usually their choices are irrational. Particularly Amy comments on how some adults will have multiple partners for sex, yet worry about such things as where a library book has been or if their purse gets dirty sitting on the floor.

  6. Julie says:

    Oops…It was “Squeemishness.”

  7. Thad P says:

    I wonder if your neighbor ever handles cash or coins?

  8. Minny says:

    I’m with all the others. I do understand where Jay’s DH is coming from though. I have one or two wrinkles from a similar source!

  9. Gail says:

    Using cloth diapers is now in the extreme frugal arena?! 50 years ago for the most part it was the only way to diaper a baby as disposable were just coming to the forefront and weren’t that good. I used cloth diapers for my babies, nursed them and made their baby food myself. I didn’t think any of it was icky.
    well poopy diapers aren’t a whole lot of fun, but doable and I found that hanging the diapers on the line and then folding them when dry was very soothing activities and helped relieve some tension caused by dealing with little munchkins. I did these frugal things not only because they were good for my babies but also were frugal and we didn’t get welfare, WIC or food stamps so we had to make our money stretch. I only bring up welfare because when I see welfare moms wasting money on disposable diapers and bottled formula I wonder at how they can afford it, because I sure couldn’t. My MIL thought that the very thought of nursing a baby was icky and I was sent away out of the living room to feed my babies. One of the most natural things in the world–how could it be consdered icky?

    Some of these people that consider a library book to be icky needs to be sent to a third world country for a month to live. She will be eager to use a library book when she returns!

  10. Jay says:

    One reason to use disposables is no washing machine, or laudromat within reasonable distance.
    We lived on a boat for a while, and tried a service (amusing to see the guy coming onto the dock to pick up the pail) but ultimately we had little choice but to use disposables.

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