Frugally Awesome…or Awkward: Part 3

FrugallyAfter I ran my last post in this series, I thought surely I would run out of awkward moments to share. Then I remember that I’m me, and there’s no shortage of awkward moments in my life, finance related and otherwise. For instance, let’s flashback to two weeks ago in my classroom: 

I don’t normally eat or drink while I teach–out of respect for the school rules that my students follow and for fear of choking and having to rely on a 12-year-old to perform the Heimlich Maneuver or page the nurse–but I had a wicked sore throat, so I was sipping on plain green tea in an attempt to preserve my voice. I took one quick, inconspicuous sip. Minutes later, I followed it up with a second sip. This time, I managed to miss half my mouth and essentially drool down my shirt. Instead of laughing too loudly, one student promptly raised his hand and assured me that things could have been a lot worse. He promised, “You could have been the teacher who walked backwards and fell into the recycle bin last week!”

While I certainly can’t claim that level of awkwardness (yet), the people in my life have done a pretty outstanding job of making me blush when it comes to finances in the past month. I spend most of my days minding my own business, trying to do my frugal living thing. Yet these short encounters transform me from frugally awesome to awkward in no time flat.

“That’s an Aldi brand.”

Last month, I attended a potluck baby shower for a coworker at another coworker’s home. I brought a homemade Rex Goliath wine, taco dip, and blue corn tortilla chips. Since I know nothing about wine that doesn’t come in a pretty blue bottle and cost $5 at Aldi, I ran into the liquor store and asked the wine sommelier part-time employee who might make $10 an hour what would be a decent, moderately priced wine that is appropriate for a work party. I left with my bottle of wine–that had an Ibotta rebate!–and headed to the party. For all the effort I put in vetting my wine decision, I apparently didn’t vet my chip choice. When I handed off my goodies to a friend, she quickly looked at the chips and noted, “That’s an Aldi brand.” Then, she promptly put out my taco dip and salsa and tucked the bag of chips behind another bag on the counter.

“Couldn’t you just pay with real money?”

Mr. P and I booked a last-minute trip to Vegas. We weren’t able to travel for spring break, and I signed up for a six-week stint of summer school. So this trip is kind of a farewell of sorts to my break before it begins. Because I spend about as much time on the Southwest site as I do on social media*, I found a deal that was too good to pass up. Three full days in Vegas with a two-night stay at the MGM and roundtrip airfare would set us back less than $550. I quickly put the trip on my Discover card and used my cashback earnings to foot the bill. When a friend inquired how we could afford to travel so often, I tried to let her in on my secret. Once I detailed my cashback payment plan, she replied, “Couldn’t you just pay with real money?” Needless to say, I won’t be telling her about how I’m using MyVegas to score free buffets and free Cirque du Soleil tickets.

“Isn’t that, you know, tacky?”

I recently turned 30. Mr. P threw a wonderful surprise party with my family and friends, and my mom supplied the decor. I’m confident she spent a pretty penny on all the Look Who’s 30 paraphernalia from Party City. Since a friend of mine was also hosting a 30th birthday, I sent her a text message the next day asking if she had any used for some of the decor. She eagerly agreed, lamenting the ridiculous cost of party decorations. When I was packing up the supplies, my traitorous husband asked, “Isn’t this, you know, tacky?” After trying to explain the difference between sending over a used napkin and a tablecloth that was still in plastic wrap, I also reminded him that I was completely honest with the party host and let her know that I simply didn’t want to throw out these items. I’m still not sure we see eye-to-eye on this one.

*Priorities, people. Priorities.

So Tell Me…Any awkward encounters as of late? How do people react to your frugality?  


Frugally Awesome…or Awkward: Part 3

32 thoughts on “Frugally Awesome…or Awkward: Part 3


    I feel like my takeaway from this series – which is my freaking fave by the way – is that PEOPLE ARE THE WORST. Maybe I’m misreading the tone, but I feel like that’s the kind of thing you just think quietly to yourself and graciously accept the chips! Like, COME ON. There are even polite, quiet ways to hide the chips afterwards if you’re that horrified!

    I feel like this series could have the alternate title of “Penny Continues to Be Gracious in The Face of People Saying Ridiculous Things To Her Face.”

    1. So. The chips never got eaten at the party. They didn’t even get opened. But they appeared in the teacher’s lounge and people totally wanted to know where to buy more. Cue the gloating 🙂

    2. Shannon says:

      “Penny Continues to Be Gracious in The Face of People Saying Ridiculous Things To Her Face” is my new favorite title.

  2. Someone was upset because you brought the Aldi brand of tortilla chips? That’s just nuts. Heck, even when we buy them at the grocery store, we pick up the cheapest brand usually. I bet if those chips had had a Trader Joe’s label, she wouldn’t have batted an eye and they are probably made by the same company.
    My awkward right now is that we have way too much baby stuff to hand over to my brother for his new baby, including some bibs that are so ratty I think I’ll throw them out instead. Why do we have all these things that my daughter outgrew years ago? Because we never throw out ANYTHING.

    1. Right? I kind of understand the whole designer label thing. I didn’t realize it translated to tortilla chips, though 😉 And these weren’t cheap! They were their non-GMO fancy ones! Good luck sorting through the hand-me-downs. I am in the midst of another purge. I can’t even imagine how much more complicated my clutter would be if there were children involved.

  3. I was discussing work I wanted to do around my house with a co-worker and she said “Aren’t you at a place in your life where you can just pay someone to do that for you?”. God forbid a working woman wants to save some money and learn a new home repair skill at the same time!

    Also, I agree with other comments – Ain’t no shame in the Aldi brand!

  4. Wow, this is a great series – Aldi is awesome and every tortilla chip is the same! Especially with salsa!

    Nice work, definitely got a few laughs out of me this morning

  5. Ok…the chip thing would have ticked me off! And the “couldn’t you just pay with real money?” What?? You are getting a portion of your trip FREE, why would you use “real” money? I don’t get it.

    We shop at thrift stores and garage sales for clothes, which really bothers my in-laws. They think wearing used clothes is disgusting. Like we don’t wash them or anything.

  6. Shannon says:

    Why would someone ask how you can afford to do something like travel and then ask why you don’t use “real money”?? That doesn’t make any sense!

  7. I’ve got to agree with Des…you are obviously a wonderfully nice person and people are taking advantage of that fact by saying ridiculous things to your face. At least they make for good stories! And how did your friend even know the chips were an Aldi brand? (Do they say Aldi? My Aldi’s too far away and I haven’t trekked out there yet.) I think she was just jealous that someone else brought reasonably-priced chips and she didn’t think to do so.

  8. I can’t believe the co-worker and the chips!! How freakin’ rude. I would have asked for them back and put them in my car. I’m sorry but when people have done crap like that to me, I consider them no longer friends. Ok, some of my friends think I’m cheap but I correct them and say I’m frugal. Then again, they’re all still working and I’m kicking back enjoying my early retirement.

    Love your articles. Keep them coming- Martin

  9. That woman who hid your chips… what a fool, but I know so many people like that. Oh how I beg and pray to God every day to bring Aldi to Colorado. The food prices out here are ridiculous! I would not be overly embarrassed by these things though. People are dumb. I’m definitely learning that in the Air Force.

    Next time someone asks you why you can’t pay with “real money,” just ask them how much debt they have. Hahah! That should turn the conversation quickly!

  10. Carrie says:

    I re-used a friend’d wedding decorations for my wedding. Not once in the last 24 years since did I think it was tacky. I always appreciated that she gave them to me because we were on such a tight budget.

  11. Kim from Philadelphia says:

    I’m stunned about the Aldi chip comment. So rude!!!
    Obviously this person has never had Aldi chips because they are delicious!!

    1. Crisps makes them sound much fancier than they really are! And I just learned what Lidl is this week. Sounds like they might be arriving in the States in 2018. I’m excited! I don’t think any of these encounters are ever meant in a mean way. At least, I hope not. Otherwise, I’m awkward AND dense 😉

  12. Casey Ray says:

    Wow – those stories are unbelievable! People can be so oblivious!

    I am lucky enough to run into awkward encounters every week with my coworkers! They go out to eat once every week to the same chain restaurant, and the expectation from my boss is very clear that we all go together. Since I bring my lunch every day (for heath reasons as much as financial ones!) I end up eating it either before or after we go out – because I’m still expected to go with them! It is so awkward to sit while they all eat…. My husband and I are currently saving 60% of our income, so my boss knows I could ‘technically’ afford to eat out. Perhaps I’d eat with them once in a while if they went to one of the dozens of delicious, healthy local restaurants within walking distance of our work.

    And recently my boss has mentioned requiring our team to spend $12 for a team-building activity she loves and I really dislike. I’m weighing whether or not I should politely refuse or just suck it up and go along with it….either way, it’s gonna be awkward!

    1. Those are tricky situations! That’s also frustrating that they won’t pick a healthier restaurant option. I would probably spend the $12 and then embarrass the heck out of myself. My ability to guilt myself into things is just about the only thing that rivals my ability to ferret out opportunities for awkwardness. 🙂

    2. Errrrrrr, I think your boss needs some sort of reality check. Firstly, lunchtime is YOUR time and she should not be insensitive enough to expect you to attend team lunches in restaurants your clearly don’t want to eat at especially since you prefer to bring your own lunch. Second, if she wants everyone’s participation in a team building exercise, that is work related so work can pay for it. Does she really think she’s actually team building in this way?

      I’d call it another nail in the coffin of working there. My suggestion, find somewhere else, or up the savings to 85% to get financially free from work and give them the big middle finger. From personal experience I can tell you it’s quite liberating. Good luck!!

  13. The one year I taught public school, right after college, I remember about two weeks in when a kid raised his hand and said, Miss, you only got one pair of pants? Which, while it was a rude question, it was also a pretty valid one because I had been far too stressed for the past two weeks to do any laundry and didn’t realize how closely students were watching my wardrobe selections. There were definitely a lot of other awkward moments too, but I’ve blocked most of them out. :/ Good thing there are people like you who are actually good at teaching and who actually stick with it!

    1. They.notice.everything. The other week, I had a student ask that I wear a dress that I hadn’t worn since the first month of school. She described it perfectly. If only they could remember everything else I teach them so vividly! Ha!

  14. I genuinely love this series. I think it’s a great way to connect with your readers; it definitely makes you seem even more down to earth than you already do.

    1. This is seriously the nicest thing ever, Katie! It’s good to connect…and I figure it’s a confidence boost for the rest of the world. “Not as awkward as that Penny chick, phew!” 🙂

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