Thursday, June 23, 2011

My father the cheapskate

I came across this post, about an extremely frugal father, and it reminded me of my own dad. Here are some things about my dad that - even as a kid, mind you - I could tell were a bit cheapskate-y.

For a great stretch of my formative years, my dad used the same lunch sack to take to work every single day. In a related characteristic of frugality, my dad took a lunch to work every single day.

Our family drove a huge red and white "shoebox on wheels" van for a long time beyond the point when it was socially acceptable (if it ever was socially acceptable). I remember riding in that van as a child on some lonely stretch of highway in California (?) when the odometer turned over to 100,000 miles and my parents gave a little "hooray!" from the front seat. Man, that van was HIDEOUS.



My dad gets really excited if he can get clothes for free. I remember him telling my grandma (his mom) once about how every item of clothing he was wearing at that moment was free or really cheap.

My dad has this orange backpack and it is really, really old. Like the original post I linked to above mentions, please be clear that my dad had a job that paid him money to live, and I'm sure he could have afforded a new backpack at some point. He just chose not to afford it.

In my adult years, I've spent some time traveling with my dad and he is on his best frugal behavior even when on the road. He will go without meals for absurd stretches of time if it means he doesn't have to eat at an expensive restaurant. As long as he has trail mix/Snickers/Peanut M&Ms, he can survive indefinitely.

My dad rides his bike to work most of the time, even when it's cold/wet/raining/dark outside.

Finally - well, just go read this. My dad is on a quest to obtain boxes of Wheat Chex at the lowest possible price. Again, this is a man with a paycheck. Maybe Wheat Chex tastes better when it's almost free.

Anyway, this is coming off more like a Father's Day post than a cheapskate exhibitionist post, but so be it. Sunday (the actual Father's Day) was a regular old day of the week here, no holiday about it, so I think that's enough excuse for being late, am I right?

14 comments:

Susanne said...

What a good dad who doesn't seem consumed by having stuff just for the sake of having stuff! I imagine he used the money he didn't spend on himself on taking care of his wife and children and donating money to helping others less fortunate. I don't really find that odd except that maybe too few people care enough about others to deny themselves a new lunch sack or backpack or expensive meal. (And I know I'm assuming your dad had good reasons and he didn't just happen to like that red and white van, orange backpack and clothes for cheap.)

I enjoyed learning about your dad!

Scotty P said...

Doesn't he drive a BMW? How did that happen?

Liz Johnson said...

Does your dad watch "Extreme Couponing?" I've heard it's intense.

I love it. And I love that van. I hope my children are someday embarrassed by my ridiculously old van.

Amanda said...

Like, the same brown paper bag over and over again? Because that is dedication.

Crys said...

He sounds like an environmentalist as well, a perfect Oregon soul. Loved the pictures Bridget!

Alyson P. said...

I remember the same or a similar conversation with your dad explaining how much his outfit cost! It was so unbelievable that it's stuck in my mind. The total was something like $2 for everything including his shoes! I can see your daughters telling similar stories about you one day. (What was it that you were still wearing from high school?) "My mom wore the same swimsuit for 30 years!"

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Let's see--the lunch sack. Yes he kept each sack going until it fell apart. And he would rather eat a sack lunch at his work desk and retire sooner, than eat lunch out to the tune of a couple thousand bucks a year (which is a significant amount over 35+ years of working).

Believe me, that red/white van was a huge step up from our '66 Chevy Impala station wagon that we drove until it had @ 160,000 miles on it!

The orange backpack he bought as a BYU student circa 1973. The replacement backpack was a gift from his sister Sandi about 2005 (otherwise he'd still be using the old one). . .

We're eagerly awaiting the next Wheat Chex sale/coupon extravaganza!

I guess the BMW is a reward for skimping on many other things over the years (and it was bought in Germany to save 10%, which then paid for our trip there).

Bridget said...

Scotty, the BMW was a big deal for me as a kid - well, teenager by that point. It was such an anomaly. It was the first nice thing I remember owning as a family and in my naivete maybe I thought that's what he'd spent the last 20 years saving up for :).

Yes, Amanda, literally the same brown lunch sack, day after day!

Alyson, you may have been there for that conversation...or it may be the stuff of Walker legend.

One item that should be added to this list is that one of his favorite restaurants is Chuck Wagon. My dad can eat so much that it's a great deal for him to eat there. I think Chuck Wagon loses money every time my dad walks in their door.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! You've inspired me to reveal a similar anecdote about my dad. My mom once confiscated some of his shirts because they had developed holes in the armpits. She put them in the scrap bin to use as dusting rags. He dug them out to wear again.

Hannah

Annabelle said...

Hi, thanks for linking to my article! It's been really fun to hear about so many other frugal dads... nice to know that he was part of a greater movement of insane frugality.

Kitty Crazy! said...

I have an even cheaper person story. I worked with a very nice man for about 15 years but he was exceedingly penurious, although he did have a lunch box. He kept an empty can of Fanta Orange soda at his desk and would sneak to the drinking fountain and fill it occasionally so people would think he had bought a soda once in a while. He had that can for all the years I knew him.

Schmidt Family said...

I just stumbled onto your blog today. I couldn't resist commenting. My dad is the same way. I also grew up with a "box" van. A Dodge Ram!! Different blues. My parents just now bought a new van after that thing had almost 300,000 miles, the sliding door keept falling off, the back door's hinge is rusted and almost falling off. The heater and air conditioner have been gone for years. The lights on the dashboard quit. My dad also has two pairs of jeans that are covered in patches of cartoon characters from snoopy to bugs bunny(he made the patches himself). Every time a hole shows up in any of his clothes he patches it with some kind of patch. He didn't want to get a DVD player when they where first coming out because our VHS played just fine. I have so many stories of my dad being "cheap". I think its kind of neat though.

Julee said...

The BMW was not the only splurge. How could you forget about the Eagle Talon? That car was the envy of all of Blair's friends!

JosephJ said...

And thus it goes. Lots of dads are economizers. Or economisers? Do you think it has anything to do with being the breadwinner and seeing it disappear (by the spouse) before they get time to spend it? My sweetie is much more likely to splurge than I am, too... within budget of course. And I can't bear to throw something out if it still has function left (forget about fashion). Bargain hunting is just plain fun! It's a decent way to invest a bit of work to enjoy in some areas a higher standard of living.

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