In order to live a meaningful life, one must be generous.
This might sound antithetical to what you think frugality means, but I assure you, it is not.
We all have something to offer. Some of us have money to spare. Some of us have time.
One thing that there is an infinite supply of is kindness. Some people (maybe those who work in an airport, or those who are asking for change on the street) never hear kind words. Kindness costs nothing, and can pay off in spades.
How Generosity Recently Saved Me $400
I live in a basement apartment. I'm friendly with the people that live above me. The other day, I took a book and my phone out to the back garden, looking for a warm place to sit and read. My landlord had the same idea, so we sat and chatted for a bit. She knows I'm buying a condo, and she has a background in mortgage, so she's given me a bit of advice. After a few pleasantries were exchanged, we both sat quietly reading our books.
Then, she got up and went inside.
I thought she was going to be inside for a long time, so I took my phone out and called my parents. I had recently discovered the cost of washers and dryers (yet another thing renters do not ever worry about!) and was joking with my parents… “did you know that washing machines are really expensive?” Their answer, of course, was yes. They were amused at my utter lack of knowledge in all aspects of owning a home.
My dad offered some great advice. “Call your uncle, who works at Maytag. He'll be thrilled to give you some guidance, and he'll be happy you asked.”
We got off the phone. My landlord had returned during the conversation, and after we hung up, she said, “I couldn't help but overhear you. We get a contractor's discount since we own several rental units in Portland, do you want me to help?”
Did I ever! So, she made a phone call, and told me that there were two units that were on sale and fit my requirements (thank goodness, because too many options would result in a paralasis of choice). One was a Frigidaire, and one was GE.
We had a long, somewhat ridiculous conversation about which side the hinges should go on (where I recently rediscovered my inability to know intuitively my lefts and rights) and she gave me some price quotes. They were $200+ cheaper than the list price, and they included free delivery. They were also $400-500 cheaper than the big box store where I probably would have gone without any of this guidance.
So I called my uncle. My dad was right, he was thrilled. He also was extremely knowledgable. Turns out, GE has both a higher price and an inferior product. They break more often, and they are more expensive to repair than Frigidaire. He also recommended a dryer with electric heat, because there is less risk of venting natural gas right into the environment if you use electric heat.
That made the decision easy.
Understanding the Remarkable Power of Generosity
Why was my landlord so generous? I never would have thought to ask her to help me out. But she did. We aren't friends. In all honesty, our relationship is money-related. But I live in her basement. The living quarters are fairly intimate. I have to go through her back door to get to my place. In a landlord-renter relationship, one person quite clearly has more of the power than the other.
But just because I couldn't be generous with my money (and paying rent on time every month does not count as generosity!) doesn't mean I wasn't generous in other ways. I bring treats from my kitchen. I included her in “Kathleen's Homemade Christmas” this year. I even watch her dog when she's out of town, and unlike my other petsitting roles, this one has largely gone unpaid.
That's the point, though, friends. If you give without expecting anything in return, or you are generous without keeping score, someday something wonderful will happen, and you'll get a washer and dryer in less time than you would have taken going around to all the stores and stressing out about spending that kind of money.
Be kind, be generous, and do not expect anything in return. You'll be surprised at what comes about anyway. That's the power of generosity.
What generous moments have inspired you?