Being Cheap vs Being Frugal – by Seth Anthony

Submitted by Seth Anthony

Triune Lodge #307 Middletown, PA

When I first joined Odd Fellowship, a wise veteran member let me in on a secret.

“The F in FLT doesn’t stand for friendship. It stands for frugal.”

Oh, how right he was.

When I returned to Odd Fellowship after a several year hiatus, I was struck by how little the conversations had changed. At my first meeting back, there was discussion about getting new promotional items for the Lodge, such as shirts, hats, etc. When a member retrieved one of our last batch of Lodge pens from the closet he found the ink had dried up. “I guess these are ten years old, so I shouldn’t expect them to work” he said.

Several years before, when I first joined the Order, we had nearly the same conversation, including the need for new shirts and hats. We all agreed that having a shirt to wear around the community and at events would be helpful. We decided on polo shirts and created a design. Then, at the meeting where we were going to vote on the purchase, a grizzled long time member appeared. His mission that evening was to chide us for wanting to spend the Lodge’s money on something personal for each member, such as the shirts. He said a line that many of us are all too familiar with – “That’s not our money to spend. We didn’t earn it, our former members did. We shouldn’t spend it.”

At the most basic level, he’s right. We didn’t earn that money and I could see how he viewed our planned purchase as personal and frivolous. He had single handedly taken the wind out of sails and the motion to purchase the items never came to the floor.

After the meeting, I approached him and asked him about his stance. I let him know that I agreed with him in concept, but asked him at what point did the money become ours? Was it ours when we brought in new members? Was it ours when we raised it ourselves? Or was it ours when the Lodge folded and the money was shipped back to Grand Lodge? Of course, he didn’t like my questions. But, my brash, young self didn’t care.

Today, I’ve matured on my journey. I’ve learned an important lesson about the difference between being frugal and being cheap. Spending our money wisely on items and services that will improve our Lodge and our member experience is important. What was a luxury to a previous generation is expected today.

As an example, a meal eaten on paper plates doesn’t have the same presence as one served on china. Yes, china costs more, but it creates a better experience. It’s hard to generate a return on investment for it though. Improving the member experience generally leads to happier Brothers and Sisters, which turns into new members; but that takes time and is hard to measure. So, instead, we fall back on being cheap, in order to conserve our resources for something that “really matters.”

That “something” rarely ever comes. Our Lodge goes dark. Our money goes away. We ask what we could, or should, we have done to save the Lodge. We find excuses as to why it closed. We blame society, our members, and our communities. But, rarely do we reflect inward and admit to our selves that we made our Lodge and our experiences cheap instead of frugal.

We now have two options. We can wisely spend the money we have, working to gain members and status in our communities. Or, we can pinch our pennies, and hang on by our dying breath, all the while feeling good that we didn’t spend money that “isn’t ours”. I’d hazard a guess that our forefathers would rather see their Lodge survive or thrive, than their hard earned money be unable to serve the community they loved so dearly.

Be frugal. Don’t be cheap.

7 thoughts on “Being Cheap vs Being Frugal – by Seth Anthony

  1. That is a great story. Lots to think about especially the purchase of promotional items. Is it truly for the “Good of the Order”? Many members fall back on the examples they saw many years ago about spending money and holding onto the funds. In a lot of cases the result was only to see Grand Lodge eagerly receive the accounts when the Lodge closes.

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  2. The Frugal Gourmet was fond of reciting, “Frugal is not cheap.” The former spends as little as is necessary to buy the best possible. The latter buys the cheapest possible to just get by. The end result is an exercise in the obvious.

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  3. There is a symbiosis between beautiful things and quality Lodge life. Those things don’t have to be particularly expensive, but they should be tasteful, and beautiful, and worthy. Having nothing, or (often worse) cheap crap, is demoralizing, embarrassing, and negative. And everyone agrees with that, whether they understand/admit it or not.

    What’s better on the wall of the Lodge or in the dining room: one genuinely admirable piece of art (even a repro of some great old lithograph!) in a proper frame; nothing on the walls at all; or several murky xerox copies pinned up with thumbtacks and spotted with what looks like french fry grease?

    Doesn’t have to be fancy, just the opposite of embarrassing.

    It’s okay to have nice things. It’s a late 20th Century phenomenon of…self-loathing? directionless resentment? unadmitted disinterest?…that we stopped having nice, beautiful, fun, worthy things in our Lodge life. Reverse that!

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  4. I love your article! Personally I consider myself a penny pincher with my finances as being a single mother on one income I have to make sure our money stretches as much as possible. I can see through your eyes how the lodge can take it a bit further. I love the idea of shirts and will be bring it up at our next meeting. I’m hoping to bring a new life into my lodge as I’m the youngest regularly attending member.

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