I come from a long line of tightwads who pride themselves on their skills at making do. We fix what’s broken and repurpose in ways that can either be clever or border on nuts.
My brother turned our parents’ old barn into some of the most gorgeous banisters, vanities and doors imaginable. Don and I repurpose old tools and junk into art. We have no issue with secondhand, be it clothing or building materials or furniture.
But the one area where my frugality bothers me is when it comes to vacations. There, my cheapness is an issue. I go to war with myself.
Camping, I can handle. We own all the equipment and camp sites are cheap, if not free. There’s something about being outdoors that genuinely makes me feel I’m getting the most from my time and my money.
When we camp, we’re closer to the outdoors — part of the outdoors. The air is better; the stars clearer and more plentiful; the smells more intense. The cold, more cold. The hot, more hot.
The vacations I think of as being the most memorable all involved tents. I’m simply bent that direction.
But it’s winter now. To tent-camp comfortably would have required more hours in the car than we were willing to spend, so I put my web search skills to use and tracked down a true bargain vacation. For not much more than a campsite — and without having to sit through a spiel on buying a timeshare — we had a house by the beach. Granted it was in a still somewhat hurricane-ravaged area during a time of year when many tourist attractions and restaurants aren’t open, but I badly needed some time away.
Even more than I needed the substantive items I knew I would measure this vacation against.
Vacations are tough for a tightwad. We tend to quantify the cost of each day against the equivalent items we might’ve purchased in lieu of days at the beach.
For instance, Don and I currently have a refrigerator that will randomly create a pond at its base. I suppose in some homes this might be a charming feature. In ours, it is not. The lily pads have proven to be slip risks, and the cat has grown chubby from all the koi. Repair attempts have been futile. The fridge needs to go.
We also have an old sofa where a section keeps aiming downhill. I’ve reattached the legs many times and tried propping a variety of things underneath, but the fixes tend to only last days before it goes wonky again.
It’s not an entirely horrible problem, since sympathetic family members recognize the difficulty of rising from the crevice and tend to wait on whoever is wedged in its depth. But the couch is nubby and dog-scented, and I can’t help but fantasize of going all Morgantown on it (i.e., dragging it to the street and setting it on fire).
We could have a week at the beach, or a new fridge. A week, or a couch.
Living so far from our family, we use our vacation days to see them. It’s a whole day driving there, a whole day driving back. It’s the trade we’ve made for living away.
So, I felt selfish for wanting this time to ourselves. For wanting sunrises over sand instead of mountains for once; for wanting the sound of wind in palm trees and seagulls and the crashing of waves; for wanting seafood instead of Tudor’s.
For wanting a week’s worth of memories more than a level couch or housebroken fridge.
But I’m on the other side of that week now, and all I can say is — it was truly worth every cent.