All those fees and taxes. Funny About Money faces a new 2% tax on groceries in Phoenix and is considering whether it's worth it to go to the no-tax Commissary with her frugal friend.
The New York Times has a piece on the 3% fees for currency conversion that the evil credit card companies tack on.
Needless to say, 2% or 3% is more than you can make on your money in most bank accounts or CDs these days. So why do I say What ME Worry? Am I losing my frugal edge? After all, I did counsel a fellow blogger to get the designer purse she wants, rather than several less thrilling alternatives.
No, I don't think I'm losing my frugal edge. After all, I popped into Big Lots this morning to take advantage of their 20% off sale.
Sometimes it's just not worth it to worry about those percentages because it doesn't pay or because you can't win.
Grocery tax. My esteemed state with its regressive tax system has long had sales tax on food. It used to be the regular tax (almost 10%). A few years ago, it was made more progressive and lowered to about 4%, with a concomitant rise in state income tax. I supported this, even though it went against my own pocketbook. Plus, I don't spend that much on food. It seems to me that it's better to learn frugal grocery shopping tips, which will save you far more than a few percentage points, than to worry about the tax.
That's why I stock up: I have lots of cabot cheddar that I got at a killer sale ($3.40/lb), plus loads of canned tomatoes that I got a Big Lots. Ditto for the 50 lb. sack of oatmeal I bulk buy.
That's why I learned to cook. As it happens, home made food is healthier, better, and--it is true--quicker than going to a restaurant or a fast food place.
Now the currency conversion fee charged by credit cards is awful. We tried to evade this a few years ago. I learned--as did many people who responded to the Times article--that Capitol One does not charge the fee. So we looked into getting their card. But their customer service and general ratings leave much to be desired.
So I called every one of our cards to inquire about the fee. Our LLBean visa (only used for free shipping from that company) had the lowest fee. I called three times to double check. I even asked if there were any additional fees that I might not know about. I was assured that there were not. We got the bill--and presto--they did have the lowest fee for currency conversion, but they also had tacked on a surcharge for something or other. I called the company to try to get the surcharge removed, arguing that the customer service reps had not informed me about the charge. No success.
We figured out that, given our generally frugal ways and the fact that our credit cards have rebates between 1% and 2%, we should just be mellow about the currency conversion charge. It is, as Mr. FS pointed out, a tiny part of the cost of the trip. We save more than the charge on the whole trip simply by buying less in the souvenir department and subbing a few picnics in a park for restaurant meals.
In other words, sometimes apparent frugality really doesn't pay. In fact, I use the term apparent frugality because it's not frugal to waste your time and drive yourself crazy when you have little chance of succeeding. Funny did the math and came to the same conclusion.