COLUMN: Stingy? No. Thrifty? Yes

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I grew up appreciating the value of a dollar and while I don’t pinch pennies as tight as some people, I don’t like to let things go to waste.

Checking on a field of corn last week – I wanted to see how dry and close to harvest it was – I noticed a few ears lying on the ground. The wind storms we had this summer didn’t do as much damage to my fields as some others I’ve seen but there was still more corn going to waste than I wanted to see. I knew I had a few plastic shopping bags in my trunk and with about an hour of daylight left, I went up and down a few rows, snatching ears of downed corn I knew the combine wouldn’t reach.

I ended up with about 100 ears of corn piled in my trunk. The monetary value wasn’t much, maybe a couple of bucks with corn around $6 a bushel. But it wasn’t the money that counted, but the waste.

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” was a motto I learned growing up and while I’m guilty sometimes of procrastinating or not using time as well as I should, I don’t waste a lot.

Some people may call that being stingy or even greedy, but it’s common sense to me.

I hunt for bargains, stretch things where I can and make use of what I have.

I save things, too, whether the aluminum cans that some people throw away or lawn clippings I deposit on a compost pile.

My home is pretty much a place to sleep for me and since I work a lot and spend more free time on the farm than at the house in New Boston, I’ve been renting half of the place to others for the past 18 months.

It’s this money-saving action that gets me the most flack from friends. But the folks who have rented my spare bedroom and bath and shared my kitchen and living room have been very nice people and fun to be around. The rent they pay comes in handy, especially since it’s space that would otherwise be idle, but it’s not all about money. It’s nice to have someone to keep an eye on the place. Growing up in a large family and going to school in a seminary, I’m used to living around others.

A couple of single friends are even considering doing the same thing.

I guess it comes down to valuing things. I’ll never forget helping an old farmer when I was a teenager. In the hayfield, he would sometimes stop his tractor, grab a pitchfork and gather in an occasional tuft of hay the baler had missed. The extra fuel the tractor was burning was more valuable than the salvaged hay. But it was the idea that counted to him. “I hate to see anything go to waste,” the farmer once said under shade of an old maple tree.

I agree and an hour picking up corn Thursday not only reminded me of the value of thriftiness, but was a nice mental relief from an other wise hectic week.