The Case for Frugal Collecting

My husband and I live on a tight budget. We rarely go out to eat, we price compare everything from cantaloupes to health insurance, and new ways to save money are constantly on my mind. But in spite of our frugal lifestyle, we both have a weakness for collecting. Show us a decent deal on an item for one of our collections, and we just can’t walk away.

Books are definitely my biggest weakness. There are a couple of book series that I’m looking to complete, and when I find the next book at a used book store I usually can’t resist. Some people would say that that’s a very bad thing. They would declare that having a collection leads people into spending more than they have without letting themselves consider the consequences.

But I actually don’t think my collecting is a bad thing. In fact, I would argue that building a collection is an especially fulfilling way to spend fun money when you don’t have a lot of it.

Frugal Collecting

First off, let me say that our collected items don’t generally cost much money. They haven’t appreciated in value like the “collectables” most people think of, and are unlikely to do so in the future. We tend to pick up additions at used book stores, flea markets, thrift stores, and the occasional clearance aisle. We’re just collecting because we like the items in question, not because we expect a return on investment later.

Let me also add thatneither my nor my husband’s collecting has led us to overspend and bust the budget in any given week, month or year. Money management always comes first, and collecting second. Building a collection is just like participating in hobbies or choosing to keep pets: it’s a good choice if you can do it responsibly.

The Fun of Collecting

The really wonderful thing about adding to a collection is how satisfying it is. The five dollars I spend on a collectable feels worth a lot more because of everything that comes with it. First there is the thrill of the hunt, when I’m digging through the shelves or racks or scanning the titles at the bookstore, anticipating the sight of the item or title I’m searching for. When I find it, I not only get the excitement of having found what I’m looking for, but also the more lasting enjoyment of building a collection that matters to me. There are plenty of ways I could spend my five dollars, but adding to a collection tops the list.

As long as the item you’re collecting is affordable every now and then, why not treat yourself? Never let a collection turn into an excuse for overspending. One way to prevent a splurge when you don’t want one is to avoid the stores where you’re likely to find a collectable; i.e., if I don’t have a few dollars to spend, I don’t go to the used bookstore. But if you can trust yourself to spend wisely and at the right time, collecting is a wonderful way to spend.

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