Cheap must be in the genes (AND jeans)

You may recall my post several days ago about the shame I endure for the sake of a good bargain.  (Click here if you missed your chance to laugh at me and feel better about yourself.)  Well, it turns out that my “frugal” characteristic is a product of both nature and nurture.  It runs in the family.  My mom still rinses out Ziploc bags so she can reuse them.  And the only time I ever wore brand names growing up is if they had acid spills on them and we could buy them as “seconds” at some sketchy bargain basement.  Don’t get me started on the refilling of brand-name cereal boxes with generic tasteless substitutes and thinking we wouldn’t notice.

Well, my younger brother Greg lives in Tennessee and each year their newspaper hosts a Cheapest of the Cheap competition.  He’s been a finalist for the last three years.  This year, the cheap effort that won him honor was to avoid the cost of tennis lessons by posting videos of himself playing tennis on youtube.com and soliciting free advice.  Well, apparently all the stars posing as blue-light specials aligned themselves correctly in the universe because he won!  What did he win at a Cheapest of the Cheap celebration?, you might ask.  Well, get this.  He WON A THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!  (Okay, so it was really $999.99, but still!)

Here is a link to the newspaper article honoring him for his extraordinary cheapness:

Bad economy brings out the cheapest of the cheap: Check out the 50 top money-saving tips from this year’s contest

And here he is ladies, straight from his high-falootin’ newspaper photo shoot.  (Sorry, he’s taken. Wink, wink, Melinda!)

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So congratulations, Greg.  I know you’ll probably need most of that money for tennis lessons, but if you’re feeling generous. . .  I could really use a new pair of jeans that don’t have a cow poop pattern on one leg, and mom might benefit from a Costco-sized box of Ziploc bags.  Just a thought.

I bet you folks have some awesome cheap stories.  You sure won’t win a thousand bucks here, but share your wisdom as a public service.  What money saving strategies work for you (or did you have to endure as a child)?

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17 thoughts on “Cheap must be in the genes (AND jeans)

  1. My aforementioned homemade underwear, which I wore through my college years. My mother found a giant wad (yes, wad is the right word) of lingerie elastic at a garage sale which lasted her several decades of sewing girls’ underwear. Mother also sews boxers for the boys with material she finds at garage sales and thrift stores. My mother also collects Cool Whip containers, small jars, paper and plastic bags.

  2. That is great! I will go check out the link in just a sec.

    The one thing I could think of actually happened with my husband. His mom would buy a gallon of milk, have them drink half of it, and then reconstitute powdered milk and fill the rest of the gallon. So it was half real milk, half powdered milk. She thought they wouldn’t notice. Yes, they did. It scarred my husband for life.

  3. Wow. Well, my mom wouldn’t buy ANYTHING unless it was not only on sale, but she had a coupon for it. Unless it was produce. and the it was only when it was on sale. I guess that’s not really very interesting, but it was a fun game for her. made for really, really long shopping trips with mom…

    At one point in her coupon fanaticism, she boosted me into a giant recycling bin to collect the coupons from others’ discarded Sunday newspapers. I have been claustrophobic ever since, with a side of a fear of being hauled away in a garbage bin.

  4. My dad was pretty cheap which wasnt that big of a deal, but what drove me nuts was that he always bragged about it. “See these slippers? I got ’em on sale for $5. And the bathrobe was only $2 on clearance.” Great, Dad. Now, why are you wandering around outside the house in your pj’s?

  5. Powdered Milk, and deer meat. Sometimes used together to create something tasty. I milked cows – you would think we would have had beef and real milk.
    Nope.

  6. Oh my gosh!!! I thought MY mother was the only one who washed out ziploc bags! We had so many money saving techniques. There was the ever popular powdered milk (light milk), mum made her own cereal, she ground her own wheat, etc. I’m starting to think my mum is a closet hippie.

  7. That’s AWESOME. Go Greg!
    I’m sure there are many things I do that drive my kids crazy. I never buy Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, so my kids like the cheap stuff and when we eat at friend’s houses that have Kraft, my kids think it tastes funny.

  8. I DO wash out (generic) ziploc bags. I shop only the clearance tags at second hand stores (2 days ago, I got a pair of Banana Republic pants and a piano lamp for 99 cents each!) and I’m proud of it! I’m also currently collecting any paper scraps to remake my own paper (although this is a gift for my mom for mother’s day- she’s always wanted to make her own paper). Still, cheap eh? Um, I get lunch for myself and kids at Costco by cruising the samples… the list goes on and on- this was really my kind of post!

  9. My FIL is the cheap king. He cuts paper plates in half, dilutes anything that is liquid with water, and always carries McDonald’s ketchup packets with him.

    Love your brother’s idea! Congrats to him!

  10. Washing out ziplocs is not only thrifty, it’s a little more environmentally friendly. My parents were the ultimate in cheap- they raised a lot of their own food and meat. We always had plenty of beef and pork, tons of fresh milk, butter, and eggs, and a cellar full of canned veggies. We rarely ate out- even as a teenager I thought of McDonalds as fine dining. Most of our clothes were second hand, except a package of socks, a new pair of $7 sneakers, and a package of underwear for back to school each fall. We all learned to play the piano because my parents had an upright that we pounded on- no lessons.
    Anyway, they were cheap- but hard workers. You have to be to raise 6 kids on a teachers salary.

  11. I hoard McDonald’s straws in my car. They’re the best! So when the meteors eventually take out Vegas, I’ll have something with which to drink my diet Coke as we flee for our lives. Lot’s wife might have enjoyed a very different fate if she had hoarded McDonald’s straws.

    And your brother is a genius.

  12. I read the whole 6-page article and thoroughly enjoyed it. Did you read about the guy who made a tool to refill his travel-sized toothpastes? WEIRD, but genius.

    Then I clicked to read the rest of the winning entries and started to be wearied from the cheapness of it all. And saw some familiar things: a teacher who collects milk jug lids to use as tokens and teaching tools — my grandma did that. And kept a lot of other junk. And I’m thinking those lids would be the perfect size for a baby to choke on, so I think I’ll throw mine out. But I did inherit that instinct to keep containers and other refuse, and I do keep kid-sized shoeboxes and use them for lots of storage purposes (like to put my girls’ socks in in their drawers.) And it used to pain me to throw out laundry soap scoops — surely there was a use for them — but my current laundry soap dispenses directly into the soap tray and has saved me from further pangs.

  13. Imagine showing up at lunch in elementary school and sitting at a table with the “cool” girls. They all pull out their perfect turkey and cheddar sandwiches on wonder white bread. It goes well with their Capri-Suns and fruit roll ups. And you reach in and pull out two leftover pancakes from breakfast (homemade blender wheat pancakes, of course) with natural peanut butter and jelly smeared in between in an attempt at a sandwich. And to drink? Pineapple juice in a small aluminum can that tasted all tinny. For dessert? A couple of dried apricots. I totally identified with that lunch time scene from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” As an adult I have a little more empathy for my mom. She had to feed 8-10 kids breakfast and have school lunches ready to go. Why not save a few bucks on bread and just use the leftover pancakes, right? But in school I was so embarrassed!

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