4.16.2009

Saving String

<-- Incognito Tightwad

Don't you just love a good tightwad? They're those relatives that when you go over to their house for dinner, you find yourself peeking around and exploring when they're not looking. There's a drawer full of coupons, rubber bands and twisty-ties, another one full of spices and tea (organized alphabetically, it appears), and another one that doesn't open but if you pull it a little bit you can see a ball of string.

String? Where does anyone even find string? When's the last time you saw a ball of string? What would you do with string if you had any?

I asked one of my most tightwad relatives what he used string for and he said, "I don't know." He didn't act like it was a bad thing to have it, just in case. Is this relative a tightwad or a hoarder? Tightwads are good and they share; you're always coming home with something you didn't know you needed, like a basket with bunny decorations. Hoarders, on the other hand, are on Dr. Phil.

Tightwads have one thing in common: they're obsessed with money. They are. Listen to their conversations; that's all they talk about. They could be obsessed with living life without thinking about money, because they have so much but they don't brag about that.

They brag about how much they saved driving across town, to get gas. They brag about how many coupons they used when they spent all afternoon shopping at three or ten stores. They show you the $1 chairs they found at a garage sale they happened upon in the bad part of town. Who needs a balanced life when you are on an endless quest to pick up cheap chairs? You're only as good as your last steal of a deal.

Prove me wrong, but I have this idea that tightwads aren't poor at all. My relatives certainly aren't. I think they wouldn't be poor even if they weren't tightwads, because they are good people with good jobs who don't get divorced and have to pay alimony, and because they never, ever sell low or buy high. They are already better than the rest of us; they don't even have to brag about their cheap chairs.

They don't know this, though. They love to share their tricks to their success, even if they don't realize that all the driving across town for cheap gas doesn't balance out the costs of divorce or selling in a bad market. You can't tell them, though, because they don't have this experience. They're too stable to go through crap like that.

If you dare complain about not having enough money to a tightwad, you'll get suggestions. Here's a list of suggestions I recently received, along with my justifications and comments that I wish I could say outloud to my tightwad relatives. They wouldn't listen, though. They're right: they have more money. And more cheap-ass chairs.

1. Reuse fabric softener sheets.

Great suggestion except I've never once bought fabric softener sheets. If I had money for things like that, I'd have money enough to use hot water when I do the laundry.

2. Use newspapers for cleaning windows.

You got rich by buying newspapers?

3. Reuse rubber bands, envelopes and paper clips.

There you go with the rubber bands again. You know you're a tightwad if you get just a little thrill when you see a rubber band. You're a big tightwad if you have a drawer full and you're still picking them up off the sidewalk. If you have more than ten, stop!

My relatives, when further elaborating on the envelope reuse, tell me this is how you reuse envelopes: "Carefully pull off the address stickers and add your own, or cross out their addresses and replace with yours."

Since I can't remember the last time I used an envelope, I guess I hadn't noticed how precious they'd become. Otherwise, why are you going to all this trouble? Can't you buy a box of them for like, a dollar? That is, if you need one? And, being a tightwad, couldn't you make your own, like with an old piece of paper?

Next time I'm shopping, I'm picking up a box of cheap-ass envelopes, paper clips, and maybe I'll spring for a box of rubber bands, too, if I can find a place that actually sells them. For just a few dollars, I'll be prepared the next time I need a great housewarming gift for my favorite tightwad relative. After complaining about what a spendthrift I am, they'll love me forever. They really will.

4. Save bread crumbs for meat loaf.

You can afford meat? If I had the guts to retort back, I'd say, "I haven't bought meat for months. You can just skip that whole food group and save enough money for a couple of lattes at Peet's."

If you're a tightwad, you probably had a heart attack at the thought of going to Peet's. Sorry.

5. Use old socks for cleaning rags.

If you saw my husband's old socks, you'd put rubber gloves on to throw them into the trash. He buys socks about once every decade and wears them only on special occasions (like a snowstorm). Since I'm washing them in cold water to save about $3 on my electricity bill, they wouldn't clean much anyway.

6. Save old Tupperware to store soap, cotton balls, or lotions.

If you're such a tightwad, what are you doing with "old" Tupperware? If it's still usable, why aren't you using it? And you buy cotton balls and you call yourself a tightwad? You can't make them out of old newspapers or socks?

7. When you're down to your last ounce of body spray, add water and use this as a room spray.

Why do you need to spray a room when there's a perfectly good window to open? If you need body spray, maybe what you really need is a good shower. Maybe somebody would tell you this but we're all scared of giving you suggestions. You might tell us we're going to die broke because we can't wean ourselves off of basic cable. Please don't tell me how to use an antenna again, please.

8. Use old cookie cutters for Christmas tree decorations.

Why not be a true tightwad and say, "Bah! Humbug!" to a tree. You can make one with old grass clippings, saved from your summer lawn and spray-painted green, right?

9. Save Halloween candy in the freezer. Use for decorating the gingerbread house.

This seems like a lot of work when you can eat the Halloween candy for dinner. You'll save time shopping, cooking, doing dishes, and much of anything else afterward too, as you'll be groaning on the couch with a stomach ache.

10. Make new pickles by putting sliced cucumbers into the old pickle juice jar.

Oh that's why things taste weird at your house!