The cacophony of criticism (some of it mine) aimed towards financially profligate saints has become loud enough that it is easy to forget that Mormons have a well-deserved reputation for thrift. Recent interest in exotic cheeses within the blogosphere notwithstanding, most of the Mormons I know buy foodstuffs that have no pedigree, drive decidedly unglamorous cars and consider $40 meals on the high side. No doubt larger than average families are one reason many of us choose Toasty O’s and Puffed Rice over their better known counterparts, but I know a lot of people who could eat foie gras daily but choose instead Lynne Wilson.
Although we are sometimes criticized for our thrift, we generally wear it as a badge of honor. We tell stories of millionaires who live in modest split-level ranches and cut their own grass. A few weeks ago a friend of mine related how he coincidentally found himself sitting next to his bishop on a recent Southwest Airlines flight–strange in itself, but stranger still considering his bishop counts his millions in the hundreds. Perhaps there is an element of feeling good about one’s willingness to go slumming on a discount airline, but I think the more likely explanation is that ingrained habits die hard.
My favorite stories are those where thrift has crossed the line into plain cheapness. There is the man who instructed his family how to use a single square of toilet paper. And I’ll never forget my brother telling me how our neighbor shuttled him between fast food restaurants in order to get the best deal possible on a burger at one, fries at another and a drink at a third.
I don’t have a larger point here. I can’t trace the tendency to be cheap to the Nauvoo Period and I see nothing in the Proclamation on the Family that will divide orthodox cheapskates from reform luxury hounds. If I thought about it long enough I could find something profound, but for me thrift is just a cultural quirk and source of great stories. So if you have any of your own to share, let’s here ‘em.