As usual, a terrible title. This one doesn't even say what I mean, so if any of you constant or occasional readers can offer an improvement, let me know. What I want to talk about is the kind of frugality that doesn't necessarily benefit YOU financially, but is still the frugal choice.
I've been thinking about this ever since I commented on a blog (can't remember which) about how it's not frugal to mooch off people; i.e. making people pick up your lunch check is not truly frugal, even though you benefit financially. I didn't explain myself very well in whatever I responded.
But I have a good example now. Frugal Son is going to a barbecue in Bayou Gauche (about 40 minutes outside New Orleans proper). He will go about 20 minutes out of his way to pick up two friends in New Orleans. Then he will repeat on the way home. Since these are starving students, I don't expect them to chip in for gas. I always make Frugal Son chip in for gas in similar circumstances, however. In the grand scheme of things, this is frugal in terms of energy and efficiency, even though Frugal Son expends more in time and energy than he would alone.
But sometimes this backfires or causes problems. I am always exhorting my children to be frugal without the pathology. Often, I feel as though I've crossed the line into mania. Today, Miss Em, who is visiting her grandmother, called to say that it bothers her to go out to yet another mediocre meal with visiting relatives. Of course, she will be treated by whomever picks up the tab. Still, she is part of a cooking family. Except for really excellent restaurants, or restaurants that serve an ethnic cuisine not in our repertoire, we generally would prefer cooking at home and using the money we save for say, a trip. Because of our ingrained frugality, it bothers her to waste money on mediocre food even when someone else is paying for it.
She mentioned that she enjoyed a recent restaurant meal with a friend even though the food was over-spiced and over-priced, because they went on their day off from their camp counselor job. This is a meal that is "worth it" even though it isn't frugal in a traditional sense. Many restaurant visits, however, including the one that the Divine Ms. Em is dreading, are visits of habit. People go out just because that is what they do. These family meals, she has noticed, are often stressful and chaotic (details not forthcoming). So we told her to suck it up and try to make pleasant conversation.
But still....cosmic frugality can be a good thing, or it can be a problem.
Any similar examples, Dear Readers? And do you have a better term than cosmic frugality?