diary of a cheapskate

I am a cheapskate. Not Frugal or Careful with Money. Totally, unabashedly cheap.

I was raised to be this way. My dad wouldn’t deny it; he started a Christmas tradition a number of years back that he dubbed Dad’s Crappy Gifts, and he told us repeatedly that he wanted it to be “his legacy,” so I don’t feel too bad sharing it for all of you kind people (and anyone who Googles “crappy gifts”) to see. It goes like this: everyone is in charge of finding, purchasing, and wrapping 8 to 1,100 gifts that cost less than $5. The gifts should not be “good gifts” (read: something anyone would ever want) and you should leave the price tags on, especially if you got a really good deal. Sometimes the gift can be of the practical nature, like upholstery cleaner or a rubber band ball, but if all of your gifts are practical, you are cheating. One year, my brother bought eight lottery tickets, which everyone but Dad thought was a genius idea. Dad said there was too good a chance that someone would win, therefore making the gift less than crappy. The best crappy gift to date was given by my brother-in-law Tony, who, much to my father’s chagrin, isn’t even blood. Tony wrapped up a live goldfish and called it “The Gift of Responsibility.” Man, was that crappy.

You can’t really even blame my dad, though. Being cheap is in his genetic makeup. We invited my grandmother over one year for Dad’s Crappy Gifts. One of the things she opened was a tiny funnel, which is to be used for funneling tiny amounts of things into tiny containers (I really can’t think of an example of what one might use that sort of funnel for, making it extremely, excruciatingly crappy). Grandma opened it and had no idea what it was. She certainly would never have a use for it. She probably couldn’t even see it, as her eyes are failing her. Anyway, at the end of the night, she made sure she took the funnel with her. My dad told her to leave it, that it would just take up space in her little apartment, but she was adamant.

“Why do you want it?” Dad asked.

She looked at him as if he were the crazy one. “Well, I don’t have one,” she said.

So there you go: the cheapskatishness runs deep.

It can pose many different problems. (I order things I don’t really want in restaurants because they’re the cheapest options, I buy things on sale that don’t fit well because it’s only five bucks! Have you ever seen jeans for five dollars? You couldn’t even buy the fabric, etc., etc. My most recent problem involved organizing the junk drawer in the kitchen. (Yes, we definitely have multiple junk drawers for junk in different rooms. Don’t judge.)

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It was filled to bursting with packets of condiments from various restaurants. Now, I’m not embarrassed about the fact that I save these packets. This is an aspect of my cheaposity that makes total and complete sense to me. I feel like you’re getting screwed if you throw away or refuse things that people are trying to GIVE YOU FOR FREE. I’m also the person who will take all the tiny free soaps, shampoos, conditioners, mouthwashes, showercaps, and individual-sized coffee and tea from hotel rooms. If I feel I’ve overpaid for a hotel room, I will call down to the front desk and ask that they send me more of these items. Plus a toothbrush. And toothpaste. Bastards.

So I had a dilemma with the junk drawer. I had all this ketchup and I couldn’t throw it out. Luckily, I caught a story on the news a few nights prior that helped me solve my problem. It was a story on The Cheapest Man in the World. I have no idea if he was actually The Cheapest Man in the World, but he’d buy the cheapest toilet paper at the grocery store, then bring it home and de-ply the two-ply so that it was only one-ply. So I think yes, he probably was. I resonated with the guy. They kept showing examples of how cheap he was and, barring the toilet paper example, I kept nodding in agreement. And then they came to ketchup.

“I haven’t bought a bottle of ketchup in ten years!” he said. And they showed him squeezing individual ketchup packets into his ketchup bottle. It was a light bulb moment.

So that’s the story of how my ketchup bottle went from this:

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To this:

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All in the space of one nap.

I know.

You’re totally unimpressed.

The ketchup bottle hardly got fuller, and I totally destroyed the “No High Fructose Corn Syrup” claim on the front of my ketchup bottle. Plus, I have no idea the shelf life of ketchup, and whether I will give myself the ebola virus from consuming ketchup that’s expired. In fact, I will probably end up throwing that particular ketchup away, especially if it tastes weird or if friends start declining invitations to barbecue with us, or start bringing their own condiments. Some might also argue that I wasted a perfectly good naptime, which is an excellent argument. But, though it was a small accomplishment, I got one drawer clean, and I threw away all the spicy mustard and horseradish and stuff that Scott and I would never eat anyway.

(I will pause for applause here.)

There could be a bright side. As Mr. Cheapest Man in the World says, he really enjoys having a “mixture of all his favorite brands” of ketchup, so maybe this will become a habit for me. Maybe not.

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29 thoughts on “diary of a cheapskate

  1. This whole thing leaves me feeling… itchy. I’m going to go throw something away on your behalf to cleanse myself after reading this post.

    • I know. I’m not even sure how you’re friends with me. It takes an extraordinary amount of grace from someone with the opposite compulsion. You should remember that there’s a bit of grace on my part, too; I cleaned chickens in your gutter.

  2. Oh my goodness. I love this and I love you. I cannot support this ketchup debacle, but I think it is hilarious. Let us not forget bringing our habit of stuffing our shirts full of nutra grain bars in London so we wouldn’t have to buy snacks, lunch, or dinner. Or any food. Ever. Peanut butter sandwiches in Oxford, anyone?

  3. This brought to mind my dilemma of the red pepper packets from Costco pizza. The cheese, we use, the red pepper, not so much! But I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the huge pile of packets in my pantry. So one day I opened them and poured them into my bottle of red pepper flakes that was still almost full, because we hardly ever use it… Then I threw away the rest! I was so proud of myself.

    • Oh yes, red pepper flakes. That is like gold in our house. I am proud of you, too. And I’m glad someone un-crazy can relate. I’ll probably have to dump my ketchup bottle. I realize that.

    • Well, now I know what to do when I again have a large stash of red pepper flake packets… I’ll mail them to you!

  4. Oh, this post is amazing! The gift of responsibility and the wasted nap. I’ve never even considered putting ketchup packets (that I save as well) into a bottle of ketchup. Awesome!!!

    • Well, judging from these comments, I’d say don’t consider it. (All the fancy people seem to think it’s a little over the top.) 😉

  5. Did you get a similar crappy gift mini funnel to help you replenish condiments? I think the funniest thing about this for me was that you say you really can’t think of a use for such a funnel. Nice story. And I’m stealing the goldfish idea.

    • Andy– You’re totally overestimating the size of the funnel. It might work for refilling those tiny personal salt shakers, but only with extra-fine salt!

  6. Tony’s goldfish does still rule, but Vonnie’s moth balls were a close second! If I remember right….the goldfish died making it a really crappy gift……..

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  8. Katie, brilliant. I fully support this practice, and think you should so NOT throw out that ketchup. I feel almost certain it won’t kill you and your family — or even make you ill! I also take everything I can from hotel rooms and save little packets of things. When Doug goes on long work trips, I have him stockpile ALL of the free things the hotel gives him, collecting them in bag. He dumps the bag out in front of me when he gets back, and I gasp like someone just gave me a great gift. Sick? Maybe. I’ve even unwrapped several little 3-packs of Q-tips and added them to the bigger Q-tip container in the bathroom. A feel a kinship with you and your ketchup project.

    • I’m really happy you’re in my camp, Shell. I needed some support. So glad you commented 🙂 (Alas, I already threw the ketchup out!)

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