Cheapskate Championships: Where Frugality Triumphs

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By the author of the FREE online course Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture

Dear Frugalites, I am continuing my mission to *ahem* reclaim the word “cheapskate,” which I think has been getting too much bad press for years. Well, probably since its origin in the United States sometime in the late 1800’s.  Let’s talk about what I like to call the Cheapskate Championships.

In this article, I will be sharing some stories of cheapskate redemption, where the very person who called me “cheap” or objected to my frugal practices ended up adopting them at a later time.  I hope that these will get you putting your own Frugalite thinking caps on to remember some instances like these from your own lives, too!

Christmas “Cheapness”: It’s Catching!

One Christmas many years ago (like thirty years ago, plus!), I decided to make handmade candles as gifts. This was before the internet, so I recall that I had to do quite a bit of paper-based research and visit the local craft shop multiple times to come up with my plan.  I decided to make candles in the cans that frozen orange juice concentrate came in. If you’re young, I’m not actually sure that these still exist. At the time, this seemed like a particularly good idea because they were made of two metal ends on a reinforced paper tube (more on that a bit later!).

As I wanted these gifts to be extra special, I spared no expense, buying multiple dyes for the wax so that I could make candles that were not just one color but many! To accomplish this, I melted wax, dyed it, and poured it numerous times, creating not quite a rainbow effect but something similar. I remember saving my orange juice cans for some time. I think I made at least a half dozen of these pillar candles.

To get the candle out, all I had to do was peel off the paper tube part and voila! A beautiful multi-coloured candle emerged….after polishing with a stocking and some baby oil, the candle was smooth and (so I thought) quite beautiful. 

Christmas day arrived with much excitement, as I waited for my mother and sister and brother to open their gifts. I honestly do not remember my mother and brother’s responses, which I can assume in retrospect were probably supportive and positive. However, my sister glared at the offending candle in her hand and loudly declared, “This is CHEAP!!!” 

At the time, being pretty young, I didn’t have any mature perspective about holding different values, and some people not caring as much for handmade gifts. Honestly, it stung! I was also shocked that someone could consider a gift that had literally taken hours and hours (and hours!) of loving work could be cheap in any way whatsoever. 

Fast forward a couple of decades (yes, it did take some time, Dear Frugalites!) and what is my sister giving for Christmas every year? A pint jar of her own homemade jam, wrapped in a new tea towel and tied with a reusable bow. 

So, even though I don’t think I can claim 100% responsibility for that transformation, I can’t help but think that my candles had some impact on her current gift choices. That kind of redemption is worth waiting for!

Hey, ummm, That Looks a Lot Like MY Car!

I have a very good friend out here in the rural area where I live who always swore by his pickup truck. He LOVED his truck. He would never get rid of it. He wouldn’t exactly tease me about my car, but he would make a big point when I needed his help with a truck-related errand, like a big dump run.

However, a couple of factors came into play: gas prices went through the roof, and all of a sudden, his previously reliable truck started developing all kinds of very, very expensive problems. This was painful to witness: his truck was costing him an arm and a leg.  One day, my friend announced that he was getting a new vehicle. Well, new to him, not brand new, thank goodness.

Was I ever shocked when I saw his new car. Hmmmm. It looked a lot like, well…mine! And what was my friend now raving about? Oh yes, the same gas savings that I had been bragging about for a couple of years. 

Did I tell my friend “I told you so”? Heck, no! When my previous car, Rosie the Golden Rocket had finally died, this wonderful friend was the friend who drove me (in his truck) to a city around two hours away to pick up my new car. “Lucky,” as I call it, is a carefully selected five-speed Corolla that I got for a song. But I do think it’s, um, a funny coincidence, shall we say, that my friend and I now drive matching subcompact five-speed cars.

A Proud Cheapskate Champion!

Sometimes, it can take years for the cheapness to catch on. In what areas are you most effective in your own thrifty ways? Do you have your own conversion story you can share with us, where someone who had teased you or criticized your cheapness eventually came around?

Please gloat with us in the comments section. Don’t worry.  We won’t tell them.

About Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, “Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture.” Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

Colette

Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, "Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture." Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

6 thoughts on “Cheapskate Championships: Where Frugality Triumphs”

  1. Mary from Texas

    I crochet dish cloths from cotton yarn and often give them as gifts. A family member said “At least it keeps you busy.” on receiving several as gifts. Several years later she asked for some more since the originals had worn out from constant use.

    1. Hi Mary, Ha ha ha ha! Your story had me laughing out loud, and that made my day! Ya, you sure won the Cheapskate Championships on that one! I personally LOVE those crocheted dish cloths and don’t have a source for them. Your family member will be counting herself lucky from now on! Good for you!

  2. Your sister was downright rude IMHO. And perhaps “less educated” on what went into making the candle.
    My dad was anti foreign car – until he saw the proof in the pudding with the ones I had. I give a slight pass – he grew up in the hey day of well made American cars – aka before greed took over.
    While not all could be deemed inexpensive, the better half comes up with gag gifts every Xmas that have use and/or can be consumed with a little creativity or adventure.
    Cheap to me is getting an item free – think the open an account and get a toaster era – when said giver could well afford another gift or at least buying a toaster.
    While I wouldn’t say we’ve ever been strapped for cash, we’ve had some more frugal than other years. The intent of a gift is most important – no monetary score keeping allowed. I think the research, thought, and effort you put into the candles was from your heart.

    1. Hi Selena, Thank you for your thoughtful reply and reflections. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to look more deeply into my stories. I wish you a wonderfully frugal year in 2024!

  3. Some of the following I just know about but could use if I wanted to or needed to. Others I do use:

    Doing laundry in cold water has multiple advantages. Clothes last longer (some are even being sold with a printed requirement to wash them ONLY in cold water. There is a slight savings in not having to pay to heat such water. Besides the ALL brand of detergent at Walmart, there are instructions online on how to make your own cold water detergent.

    One of the enormous fears many Americans have in our era is the possibility of needing to file for bankruptcy because of medical bills that are simply overwhelming.Three possible remedies come to mind. 1. If a person keeps a passport current and handy … traveling to any of several other countries that actively patients via “medical tourism” where the pricing is much less and where there’s a wide range of long tested remedies that have been run out of the US by the Big Pharma coalition fighting to destroy competition for over a century. 2. For a small fraction of US people eligible for veteran’s benefits …the veterans’ hospital network across the US provides free medical care (limited per the US medical schooling system) and even free to-and-from transportation to those who for medical reasons have no business trying to drive. 3. Hospitals in the US are notorious for over-billing because of procedures billed but not performed, errors in billing documents too complex for the average person to understand, etc, etc. As a result a small industry has arisen which can either teach you how to negotiate such bills downward or do that negotiation for you.

    As the cost of housing in the US has gone “through the roof” (double meaning intended) in many places there is an increasing part of the population becoming homeless. Here is an excellent video describing some 15 ways to keep a roof over one’s head once traditional housing becomes financially out of reach:

    15 Ways to LIVE RENT FREE or Drastically Reduce HOUSING in 2023

    per this 15:11 minute video, from Timothy Ward on Mar 21, 2023

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_m36Aavfp4

    Plus 1,160 Comments.

    Back to much smaller scale cost-saving methods:

    Most of the businesses I need to regularly visit are within walking distance … including a couple of grocers to which I can bring along a 2-wheel folding airline luggage cart with a huge duffel bag. The cart is rated for up to 150 pound loads. The exercise is good for me in contrast to firing up my truck for such short distances insufficient to bring the engine up to full temperature.

    These most people carry smart phones which are full of apps notorious for spyware and hacker targeting. A few people have stuck to the older simpler flip phones. I’m more hard-headed than that. I use only a wired desk phone plus my PC which fit my needs.

    I recently learned of this ESaver Watt, an Elon Musk invention based on Tesla technology:

    powerwattwise.com and a support email address via support@powerwattwise.com

    Priced around $50 or so, it seems to be able to cut one’s monthly power bill by a lot after a one-time purchase, a simple plug-in, and no continuing billing for the device.

    Since the legal protection for debit card transactions has improved a bit … it’s more convenient to purchase by debit card or pay some bills by electronic check over the phone. For online transactions some really impressive protection against hacker/scammer nastyness … privacy.com let’s you create substitute charge card numbers and data ONLY for one (or many) vendors as you so choose. Such substitute card numbers can be limited per your instructions on the size of such transactions, etc. That way if a scammer ever learns of the data on your substitute charge card(s) it will do him/her no good. It’s also a convenient way to kill those automatic renewals on subscriptions you no longer want.

    Of course one way to avoid some of those subscriptions in the first place is to use your local library. Anytime a book of interest to you is not owned by your local library, as long as it is six months or more past the publisher’s date it is fair game to request a free (or nearly free) inter-library loan … a system that’s been in operation in the US since before 1900. There are only a few exceptions: some reference books, some antique books, and some extremely high value books don’t blend into that loan system. One way to research books is run a search for them on gettextbooks.com to get an idea of the global market for them, the range of values for them, and their rarity.

    This is the inexpensive way to get a look at books of interest to either take notes, or not, and decide whether it’s worthwhile to you to purchase one. BTW, if there are titles of interest that are available in Kindle electronic editions, you don’t have to pay for the Kindle device if you don’t mind reading such titles online (at the cheaper Kindle price). Just log into read.amazon.com where you can log in to your Amazon account where you can read online any of the Kindle titles you’ve purchased.

    For printed books there is another way to exploit the interlibrary loan process. There is a global community of people who either buy a reasonably priced book scanner or DIY make one themselves for home use. That way one can make a copy (to keep) during the short few weeks an inter-library loaned book is available. Because there is no intent to sell such homemade copies … there’s no ethical problem or violation of copyright laws. Here’s a list of some of the retail book scanners available:

    https://www.redferret.net/10-wallet-friendly-home-book-scanners-how-to-digitize-your-book-and-mag-collection-without-breaking-the-bank/

    and here’s the community of people doing DIY book scanning:

    https://diybookscanner.org/

    I view the art of cheapskatery/being economical/etc as not only a matter of cutting costs whenever reasonable but also cutting the risk of losses — which some of the discussion above addresses.

    –Lewis

    1. Hi Lewis, This is a great list with quite a variety of suggestions. I think this idea of first attempting to negotiate a medical bill down sounds promising. I use electronic subscription services through our local library and am constantly amazed at the range of music, movies, audiobooks, and electronic books I can access….all for free! As you may be aware, I’m one of those using the old flip phone. I looked into a wired desk phone for my eco-cabin, but found out I could make virtually no local calls in our rural area (which the phone company could provide no map to help me try and understand) and the charge for unlimited long distance was outrageous. I wish you well on your frugal journey this year. Thank you for taking the time to always share with the Frugalite community!

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