My Dad Is a Cheapskate


Vol. 17 •Issue 12 • Page 8
Outside the Lines

My Dad Is a Cheapskate

I come from a long line of cheapskates. Our family crest looks like a brand new dollar bill clutched tightly in a fist.

I recently decided that it was time I put myself on a budget. OK, you can stop laughing. I am serious. I need to get my finances under control, which means cutting back on the shopping (sorry Nordstrom’s), saving more and sticking to a weekly budget.

The first thing I did after making this pledge was to buy a book that would offer me advice. I bought NOT BUYING IT, My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine. I’m probably the only person who spends money on learning how not to spend money.

My dad would be horrified at this purchase. You see, I come from a long line of cheapskates. Our family crest looks like a brand new dollar bill clutched tightly in a fist. In fact, I’m surprised my father’s picture isn’t printed on the dollar bill instead of good old George. He is a tightwad. But somehow the family frugal gene didn’t make it into my DNA. I love to shop, and I enjoy calculating exactly how much money I save when I shop. A dress half off isn’t shopping–it’s saving! My dad does not agree. I remember growing up and having conversations with dad like this one:

“Dad, guess what? A boy asked me to the prom, and I found the perfect dress at Hudson’s. It’s $80. Dad I just love the dress, can I buy it?”

“$80 for a dress? Do you know how many people could eat in China on $80? My first car was a 1929 Model T Ford that cost $45. I didn’t know what $80 was until I was a grown man. Your mother and I rented our first apartment for $50 a month. In fact back then I didn’t even make $50 a week.”

Anytime I asked my dad for money I got his personal financial history speech, so I settled in on the couch waiting until he caught up to present day.

“Milk cost 19 cents…we went into the woods and found dinner…$80 for a dress, that’s ridiculous.”

Other tidbits of cheapskate dad are:

  • “Why do you need roller skates when you have a perfectly good pair of sneakers? Just pretend you are skating. Kids today don’t use their imagination enough. When I was a kid we didn’t even know about skates. We would just tape old rusty wheels to our shoes and hope for the best.” What the heck? I never understood that one.
  • “Stop running through the house. You will fall down and crack open your skull. Do you know what an accident like that would cost? Do you think we are made of money? Do you know what doctors charge?” (My sister married one, so I think we get a discount now; that should make him happy.)
  • “Allowance? How about I allow you to eat and sleep here.”
  • “Do you know what the difference is between my barber and your hair salon? About $50. Go get me the scissors and I will cut your hair. When I was a kid…” I know dad, when you were a kid they didn’t have hair.

    Yep, that’s my dad and to his credit he built a business, invested his money and gave us kids a great life. He taught us the value of a dollar so I can calculate the price per ounce on items at the supermarket and give the “Price is Right” contestants a good thrashing! But my dad still thinks money just flies through my hands. He thinks some of the things I do with money are absolutely crazy. For example, I actually purchase the newspaper instead of trying to read the headlines through the glass, I use a $20 bill for popcorn and soda at a movie instead of sneaking in my own, and I buy hardback books from the bookstore instead of waiting my turn on the reserve list at the library. I buy water in bottles instead of using water out of the tap, I don’t always turn off all the lights, and I leave the television on as background noise for the dogs. Poor dad, that last one almost puts him in the cardiac danger zone.

    My shrink once told me that stinginess derives from a fear of loss and likely dates back to a childhood traumatic incident (like being denied a prom dress). I would have asked the good head doctor to elaborate longer on this topic but thanks to dad, I realized he was costing me about $5 per minute.

    Later this week when I call my dad, the conversation will most likely go like this:

    “Hi dad, it’s Cyndi. How are you today?”

    “How do you expect me to be? Gas is more than $3 at the station around the corner. I have to go all the way to Stuart to find it for $2.98. What’s it over your way? Maybe your mother and I can drive over and fill up there.”

    “Dad, that’s ridiculous. You aren’t going to drive 4 hours just to fill up your tank. By the time you drive home it would be empty again.”

    “Is it over $3 your way?”

    “I don’t know, I filled up last week. How can you be at the gas station so much? You and mom never go anywhere, and when you do it’s in the golf cart.”

    “You don’t know the price of gas? Well that’s just like you to throw your money around. Just throw it out the window. You might as well be paving your driveway with gold.”

    Yep that’s me, the driveway gold paver. I am still the irresponsible child in my dad’s eyes. Oh, and the $80 prom dress…he told me to offer the sales lady $40. That’s a whole separate column. See you next month.

    Cyndi Thomas is vice president for Comforce Staffing Services Coding Division. She can be reached at cthomas@comforce.com.

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