Saturday, 6 June 2009

So are men frugal?

There's an interesting trend I've been noticing over the last few weeks and months which is that almost all my followers and most of the people who comment on this blog (with a few honourable exceptions) are women. Does that mean men aren't frugal?

I think it actually says more about the dynamics of blogging than about frugality. Women are more prone to support and get involved with a blogger they like than men are, I would say but there is an interesting point here which I was discussing with a colleague on a work trip I've been on this week (hence the gap in posts) which is that men are frugal in a different way.

Her husband for example sweeps up all sorts of discounted 'bargains' in the supermarket when he shops which she says aren't really bargains at all because they all have to be eaten up in the next couple of days. Mine does the same. He also rarely eats up what's in the fridge while I'm away (his argument being that 'he doesn't know what's in there')

On the other hand I've another male friend who's a genius at cooking from leftovers. (But he's the only one I know)

Men, I reckon enjoy the hunter-gatherer aspect of frugality. Bagging bargains. Going off and killing or catching things, foraging for wild foods. Although there are of course exceptions, women generally have a more domestic take on the subject. They're better at handling a household budget, planning a week's meals and using up stocks. Which is why the man traditionally handed the woman the family's housekeeping money.

Or maybe I'm totally wrong . . . Male readers, do come out of the woodwork and tell me how frugal you are. Women - tell me how you leave it all up to your man. Or not . . . What happens in your household?


recipes2share said...

I think my hubbie is the least frugal person I know - he is so not interested in costs etc so long as the fridge is full and he can every-now-and-again spend a wad in Decathlon...I simply shudder at the thought!!!

Jackie said...

In my (limited) personal experience, the men in my life are decidedly NOT frugal.

My parents run a small business, & mum always got enough cash from dad to cover the household necessities, fairly frugally. My dad would then go and spend the rest on whatever caught his short attention at the time (although always within means). Curiously though, dad has always run the business off the smell of an oily rag.

My partner is similar. Because I take such an interest in what we eat, I take on all the responsibility for it. We are currently on one income while I study, and I suspect if he was left to his own devices it would be expensive takeaway and ready meals all the way. He is already anticipating how he will spend our (dramatically) increased discretionary income once I graduate.

Signe said...

Interesting question Fiona - there's definitely a 'hunter gatherer' element to the way men and women source their food. Men hunt, women gather but of course there are exceptions to the rule. recipes2share's husband sounds much like my Dad who worries more about the fridge being full than being frugal and careful about the food shopping. When he's in charge of food shopping it's as if he's anticipating a nuclear disaster, always buying too much and with little thought of when all of the food will be eaten. Mum is the opposite - careful and thinks ahead, she often cooks in large batches and freezes stews, bolognese sauce, etc for future meals so she never has to resort to a ready meal or takeaway.

I'm a hybrid of both :) Conforming to gender stereotypes, I gather like my female antecedents and think about economical ways of cooking and eating (and actually more about nutrition than either of my parents, so I look at how to balance my meals throughout the day with lots of veggies, fruit and fibre-rich foods) but then I'll be tempted by something unusual or gourmet and snaffle it up without thinking too much of the cost!

A deceptively simple question, to which there's no easy answer ;)

verity said...

OMG, this is a really sore point... We had an argument last night over a £14 bottle of balsamic vinegar - I know such things are expensive if you want good quality, but I pointed out that this made a complete mockery of me trying to keep our household bills as low as possible. Last month I spent £60 per week on our food - that's nearly 1/4 of our food budget. GRRRRRR.

Karen said...

My husband seems wary of eating food from the fridge when I'm not there. i think it is because he knows that i do generally make weekly plans and he's worried he might eat something 'important'. The concern doesn't seem to extend to cold meat though, he'll always snaffle that up.

In general he's frugal in a different way. He worries more about the 'big ticket' items like getting a good deal on the mortgage. He's also quite keen on literally becoming a hunter so we can frugally feast on venison!

In the meantime I potter along baking bread and making packed lunches. We do seem to slip into stereotypical divisions of effort.

Fiona Beckett said...

All replies from women so far which rather proves my point ;-)

I agree Jackie about the bigger things. My husband is incredibly good about getting deals on household and car insurance which I wouldn't have the patience to research.

And Sig - I confess I have my impulse buys too. Particularly anything new or unusual I haven't tried before. (Though not a £14 bottle of balsamic - I'm with you on that one, Verity!)

My husband also makes exactly the same 'It might be important' excuse about the fridge, Karen. Even when I tell him there are there for him to eat while I'm away. Not sure what the psychology is on that one.

Still waiting for one of you guys to pop up and tell me how frugal you are . . .

verity said...

Having calmed down slightly over the balsamic, I'll add some more constructive comments which basically reflect what everyone else has said.
1. Boyfriend openly admits he is crap at planning/organising food. I've had to take responsibility for this because I earn only 2/3 of what he does and can't afford not to (unfortunately his last girlfriend earned lots more so I suspect she was less stressy about this than me!)
2. Boyfriend is good at finding deals on flights and cars and insurance and things. Big things. It's weird, because over the course of the year, I reckon the savings that can be made over groceries are similar to the savings that can be made on insurance.
3. Boyfriend also seems wary of eating things from the fridge, not sure why.
4. I do make some impulse buys too, I'm a sucker for expensive ice cream (although maybe no longer now I have an IC maker), and cake ingredients...

TonyM said...

LOL - well I am a man and I consider myself frugal (ish) - which in woman speak probably means not frugal at all! I think frugality (for obvious reasons) is incresing so there is hope for us boys yet.

Jean said...

Well, let me see. My ex-husband was not interested in saving money at all. He shied away from things on sale, or on offers, because he thought there was something dodgy about them if they were being reduced.

He shopped at Gieves and Hawkes for his shoes and shirts, while I dressed in Tesco and Asda.

I once asked him to get some suntan lotion for the children (only tots at the time) and he came back from Boots with 6 bottles of lotions. He'd spent over £40 on them.

Occasionally he would do the supermarket shop (only as a last resort though), and would usually come home with cases of wine, new light fittings, bits and pieces for the car but nothing to make a meal with.

On another occasion he went to the supermarket for food and came back with over 60 different sausages. I kid you not. Did I mention he was my ex?

Anonymous said...

Well I'm a chap and consider myself frugal! I do make some impulse food buys though but that's usually a tasty joint or luxury sausages etc. which I'll then base a meal around. I hate to throw food away and try to use leftovers in soup/risotto etc.

Fiona Beckett said...

Good to hear from a couple of blokes - well done TonyM and anonymous though it would be good to know more about how this frugality manifests itself (A friendly request for more information not a challenge!)

And I hesitate to comment on your domestic affairs notSupermum but it does sound from that as if you didn't have - how shall I put it - a similar take on handling the family finances ;-) (My ex bought shoes from Gieves & Hawkes too. My exemplary husband buys his cheap from TK Maxx!)

Jean said...

Well spotted Fiona....!

Anonymous said...

Men can be frugal and match women penny for penny. Unfortunately in my experience, my mother, sisters and ex-wife out-frugal me so I go with generalisations. As a male, I have tend to buy far too much on impulse, over-buy etc.

I am learning and at least can see my faults.

Tim Hayward said...

Well, while we're generalising rabidly... :-)

In my experience men and women often interpret frugality in different ways. Amongst the women I cook with and for, frugality often fits comfortably with an element of self-denial - often allied to health or weight concerns.

Most male cooks I know are a chuffed as hell to make huge financial savings via their cunning and acumen, while never letting their standards of gluttony drop.

This results in epic clashes. "I thought we were being frugal... how can we be when there's not cubic inch of free space in the freezer or the larder?" versus "I thought we were being frugal - how can anybody buy lamb in less than whole carcasses or walk away from perfectly jar-able fruit at fourpence a tonne?"

Now, of course, my partner would argue that it takes male logic to spend your way to frugality. I would argue in return that some of the smartest purchases and biggest savings occur when you start thinking more commercially: thinking about food cost like a chef, varying buying decisions to take advantage of retailer gluts, buying in bulk and storing.

To be entirely even-handed, it's probably fair to say that this also maps onto a certain male predisposition to laying-in stores, providing for the tribe in times of famine, 'being-prepared' and a load of other faintly queasy, quasi-survivalist, boy-nonsense.

In the end, as with anything else, it's a question of style (and, in the case of men, being right) but by far the biggest saving comes when both men and women agree to move away from prepared foods and operate from raw ingredients. That's the big step, the one that takes a combined commitment and can make huge savings while actually raising quality of life.

Either way, I'm happy to be in a relationship where we disagree how we should be frugal rather than if.

Jackie said...

Is it an age thing? Is age more significant than gender?

Sol said...

Hey there Fiona, I hope to try and make this short...
I agree with Jackie and Tim in many ways. Firstly, my Father NEVER EVER went shopping with my Mother other than Xmas food shopping. Where he would be hopping mad, and shout out “how Much for a bl%£dy Turkey”... Where as we always shop together, we draw up a menu plan together and add 2 new recipes a month.
We are both very an@l concerning money. Skin flints to the last, imagine Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost giving the cheque to the Nun and she cant let go. That is me. WE budget for everything. And are hoping to pay our mortgage off before we are 37 (5 years to go and we don’t have children so it is just about possible).
As we have a menu plan, we also have a list. We shop from the list as much as possible and try not to substitute as this I find leads to disaster. We eat 2 plain foods dinners a week, soup (sometimes homemade), or poach eggs on toast etc. We grow veg also so this really helps. We seem to come in most weeks under £40, most of the time under £35, this is food only, washing powder and toilet paper are bought on offer and in bulk and we keep it in the loft. This also includes all lunches as we make them and take them to work with us.
By menu planning and being prepared we don’t need to order take aways. Which we are always regret as it is never any good.
And I agree with the person who said shop like a chef in bulk. You can buy from some cooperatives and then share it out between a few friends bringing the cost down. Google food cooperatives for this.
So I would say I think it is an age and cultural thing that men maybe don’t get involved or don’t want to upset their wives?...

p.s. maybe post it notes on the food that you have ear marked for a certain day would help anyone afraid of eating the wrong food. Or put you menu planner for the week on the fridge?

Sol said...

and another one, is having a stocked larder which you can shop in, when too busy to shop, or unexpected guests arrive.

as Tim said a bit survivalist in nature but necessary in such uncertain financial times. Acase of if made redundant could you shop for a few weeks to help out financially? completely from your stock pile?

James said...

I'm not a woman. Last time I checked anyway. Frugal to the last - taught from when I was young that waste was bad by my mum and both grandmothers. Maybe that gives me more of a 'domestic take'.

I'm very tough on myself shopping. I question everything I buy - how much I need, when am I going to use it, will it be used up in time, do I really really need it at all etc. I am even more careful of bargains. Just clever ploys to make you spend more. I take the calculator with me when shopping, and always compare prices between different shops, I know where the best prices are for the things I buy regularly. But having said that I do compare price with quality, and the quality has to come first.

Cooking from left overs is how I live - also how you come up with new ideas. I find lunch is a great mealtime to use up left overs. Made a warm coleslaw once from left overs. Nettle potato pancakes a couple of months ago. Greek style field mushrooms with tabbouleh last week. It's much more exciting when you're getting something for 'nothing'.

I do stockpile my leftovers in the freezer though. Recently got to bursting point, and I put myself on a strict 'if it's not out of the freezer you're not eating it' policy - apart from fresh vegetables & fruit. It works. And so many lovely savings.

He doesn't know what's in the fridge? What does he want - flashing neon signs?

TonyM said...

OK I have to confess I am more interetsted in the theory of frugality than the practice. I can take great pleasure from making a week's worth of chicken soup with little more than some chicken wings and a few vegetables, or a sausage and bean stew for under a fiver. I also love experimenting with the cheaper cuts of meat (or what were cheaper cuts until they became fashionable). However, my fridge does seem to possess hidden corners in which perfectly delicious food languishes forgotten until it it well past safe to consume - and this is an area where I really do see the need to improve. However, the key to this is, I think, more self controlled shopping - something for which I would get only a C+ in my end of term frugality report I fear!

Fiona Beckett said...

Absolutely excellent set of comments with you guys rising manfully (if that's not an unfortunate expression) to the challenge. The last contributions from Tim and James in particular underline that men ARE frugal but just go about it in a different way. Like most things there's manspeak and womanspeak (those who are interested in such things might enjoy a book by an American professor of linguistics called Deborah Tannen called You just don't Understand)

But the prize for frugality so far has to go to Sliceoflife (a man or a woman? I suspect the latter) who with the help of his/her partner manages to restrict his/her spending to £40 a week - sometimes only £35. Assuming this is the 2 of you. If it's £40 a head it's still not bad.

And I suspect it's a temperament thing rather than an age thing, Jackie although it's true to say that older men never had anything to do with the housekeeping budget (but were also more frugal generally in those days)

Sol said...

Sorry Blogger is awful at night time and it took ages just to even look at your blog...

Anyways I am a She and PB is a he. And yes the £35-40 is for both of us but we have an allotment, where others might not.

If anyone else is trying to cut down on food shopping I would say eat vegetarian as much as possible. But cook it from scratch. have a great day!

J.N. Urbanski said...

My husband is the most frugal man I've ever met. He has two pairs of shoes and goes clothes shopping once a year and only to get businesswear. He shops around and gets the best price for everything from food to property to insurance policies. He's also a bit of a iconoclast: when we met he was wearing ripped t-shirts and moved into my apartment with one bag.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

My husband is extremely frugal.

I remember the first time I went shopping for food after we were married. I felt really excited that I had got some great prices on things.

He said, "Can you do better?"

At first I was upset, but then he showed me one thing that I could do better (I had bought fruit juice on a great sale; he pointed out that it would be cheaper to just drink water).

He asks me to cook enough so that there will be leftovers. He will skip lunch rather than eating out to save money. Sometimes, he will come home to eat if he can.

He puts off buying things for a long time; he really wears his clothes out, for example.

For me, it's a great blessing, because he is even more frugal than I am. He is quick to point out needs versus wants.

I'm so glad he isn't a big spender.

Unknown said...

Being a man I'm probably the most frugal person I know. I just found your blog otherwise I would have commented earlier. I'm also a nutrition nut and a foodie so I know when and when not to be frugal.

Shop weekly, make the most of shopping by using the local farmers market, always make lists, go around the outside isle of the supermarket and avoid the inner isles as much as possible to avoid unneeded purchases, buy in bulk when it makes sense to do so, buy steel cut oats rather than other more processed versions etc.

The key to being frugal however is to know what to buy on the cheap and what to buy from the highest quality manufacturer. Also avoid buying in the middle as that is where the markup is. Also note that being frugal means learning to cook properly and learning to fix things yourself, something that both men and woman seem to be valuing less as our culture changes.

I have however met some women whom couldn't be frugal if their life depended on it. $150 at the hairdresser when I know of qualified hairdressers with salons in their homes whom do it for much much less, not looking at price per kg on sticker prices in the supermarket, buying a new dress for every occasion etc. etc. This isn't to say only women are like this by any means as some men are as well but the demographics on this blog are too limited to draw a clear conclusion on the subject, obviously women and men whom are not frugal will not be reading the blog and other factors such as the possibility men are just not commenting or maybe using other sources for information come into play.

None the less great blog, I will be reading some of the past entries to see what I can learn.

pengwen said...

I agree that men and women are both frugal, just in different ways.

I think I may be able to shed light on men's fridge fear, though. My husband will never get food from there or from the cupboard. When asked, he says that he 'can't find anything.' He also claims that I move thing so he never knows where they are, even though he could just look! It's not a big cupboard!
I firmly believe he is subconsciously remaining ignorant of the kitchen layout so that when he wants food and I say, why don't you get it yourself? he can say that he doesn't know what there is/where anything is.
I can't really blame him though. There are definitely things that I could easily learn about, but it's just easier to say, dear can you help me with this?