By Maddy Fitzgerald
There’s a fine line between being frugal and just plain cheap. The residents of Utah Valley are familiar with this line, crossing over it and back again daily.
Utah Valley is a land rich with food, business and recreational options, all offering something in exchange for cash. People want goods, but not often without their coupons, groupons and punch cards. Wanting to cut a good deal is pretty universal, but people in Utah County seem especially eager to save a buck.
Matt Bennett, founder of Utah Valley Magazine, has been surprised at the fierce frugality in Utah Valley. Utah Valley’s reputation is one of being more frugal than Salt Lake County, despite its entrepreneurial success and an obvious affluence, Bennett said.
College students are known for being cheap and Utah County is full of them, perhaps explaining this reputation. Between BYU and UVU, the valley hosts more than 57,000 students, who are looking for deals and freebies anywhere they can find them. There’s even a Twitter account, @BYUfood, devoted entirely to notifying its followers of free food on campus.
Students are also seen trying to save more than a buck or two when it comes down to paying for college education. Giselle Hoyos, a junior from Topeka, Kan., works in Student Services and helps sort out financial aid and tuition. Working with students in this regard has alerted Hoyos to a common expectation of free education.
“A lot of people come in about Pell grants,” Hoyos said. “They feel like they deserve that money from the government, even though we’re paying tens of thousands of dollars less for tuition than any other private school. It’s crazy how entitled people feel to that money when other college students around the country will be paying off student loans for the next two decades.”
Local business owners claim it’s not just college students hounding for deals. Ashley Wakefield, owner of the Awful Waffle, pegs older women — grandma types — as those who act most entitled to special deals.
“People are obvious about looking for the best deals they can get,” Wakefield said. “Customers are pretty strategic in trying to combine coupons and special promotions. I’m always surprised they won’t scrounge in their couch to find an extra 50 cents for strawberry topping.”
Eighty-eight percent of Utah County residents are LDS, reported the Deseret News in 2003. This percentage makes Utah County the most LDS-saturated area in the state, offering another explanation for the valley’s frugal reputation. People from out of state claim Mormons are cheap, paying less for everything from wedding receptions to babysitting wages. This reputation exists for Mormons in Utah and other states alike.
Brooke Adams, a high school junior from El Segundo, Calif., earns considerably less money babysitting for families in her ward than those in her neighborhood.
“When I babysit for nonmembers, I can expect $10 or higher an hour,” Adams said. “Babysitting for nonmembers, regardless of how many kids in the family, usually means $6 an hour.”