Sunday, December 6, 2009

Guest Cheapskate: Fashion!

Dear Cheapskate,

Today I have a treat for you. The fabulously frugal Michelle is writing the post. Yes, that Michelle! I know!

Missive from Michelle:

"For those of you who read magazines where they go over what the model is wearing and how incredibly much each item costs, here is a little something for you.

This is our friend Ellen wearing one of her many beautifully coordinated outfits.

New down jacket: LL Bean, $5 at Goodwill, wool scarf: $4 Goodwill, pants: $5 (Juicy Couture - normally $100!) Goodwill, matching jacket: $5 (at a different Goodwill!!!), shoes: new, Northface outlet, $25. Who needs to Christmas shop at regular stores!"

Thank you, Michelle!!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not: Toast

Dear Cheapskate,

Don't throw away food!

I usually eat less than a whole piece of toast for breakfast. But I never throw away the leftover bit!! I put it back into the bread bag and re-toast it the next day. It's still delicious.

If, for some unlikely, tragic reason, it is no longer delicious, I still don't thow it away! I put it outside for the birds; then I plop Beaubeau by the window to watch the show!! Beaubeau loves watching birds!

A lesser Cheapskate might throw away this quarter piece of bread, thus wasting a quarter loaf of bread, thus wasting a quarter the cost of the loaf of bread, this wasting 50 cents (depending on the cost of the loaf of bread).

50 Cents per loaf x 26 loaves per year
TOTAL SAVINGS: $13 (or more!!!)

Sometimes I eat only half a piece of toast, increasing my savings ever more!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Things Not To Buy: Aluminum Foil

Dear Cheapskate,

Never, ever, buy aluminium foil.

Cheapskate, don't look so sad. We'll figure something out for your Martian costume, and for the antenna on your TV. (I'm glad you don't have cable! Good for you! Cable's a total waste of money and you shouldn't be wasting your time watching TV anyway.)

You can easily live without aluminum foil. I have never purchased aluminum foil, except for that one time in 1987, when I mistakenly thought it would work as a weight loss device. (Don't ask.)

I know, it's handy to use to cover your chicken while it's cooking. Use a lid! Or, better yet, don't eat chicken - it's expensive. And have you heard about how they raise and engineer chickens these days? Yikes. Cruel.

I haven't bought aluminum foil in so long, I don't even know what you might need it for. Cover things with lids or other pans. Cook things right on the pan, not on a layer of aluminum foil.

I do have a piece of aluminum foil in my kitchen drawer. Someone brought me a gift of food, wrapped in aluminum foil. I washed off the foil and kept it! If I think of a reason to use it, I'll use it, then wash it again!!

Save money! Save the environment! Never buy aluminum foil.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Things Not To Buy: Paper Towels

Dear Cheapskate,

Another simple rule for you:

Rule: Never, ever, buy paper towels.

Every time you eliminate an item from you repertoire of things to purchase, not only do you save money, you save trips to the store, relieve yourself of things to carry home, reduce your garbage (and thus get a lighter trash can to carry), and help the environment!

Plus you can sneer at the other suckers who have paper towels in their grcery carts!

Paper towels: Who needs 'em? I mean, humans sruvived for all but the last fifty years, just fine, without paper towels.

Oh, wah, wah. No, you don't need paper towels, not even for drying your lettuce.

Use cloth towels in the kitchen, even for drying your lettuce. I have about twenty kitchen towels. Some of them are threadbare or have holes, but these are the best ones for drying lettuce! Use them for wiping things, drying things, everything you would use paper towels for.

Ok, I, myself, have often been tempted to buy just one, one!, roll of paper towels for the purpuse of washing windows. The windows were sooo dirty and it made my cloth towels filthy!
I resisted tempation and I didn't buy paper towels. Instead I bought a squeegee at the dollar store. For a dollar! It's a great squeegee! It has a spongy side and a squeegee side! It works great for windows. And who wouldn't want to say the word "squeegee" as often as possible!!!

If you want to treat yourself to the paper towel experience, you can do so for free!! Whenever you go to the food court at Costco, or a place that offers free paper napkins, grab a few! Even if you don't buy the food court stuff. (Never buy the food court stuff! See upcoming post on not buying snacks.) Then you can luxuriate, on special occasions such as washing a mirror, with a paper-towel-like wipe!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hummingbird Food

Dear Cheapskate,

In my never ending quest to provide entertainment for Beaubeau, I lured some birds to the window for him to watch. It's like TV for cats, only better! Hummingbirds. I got some hummingbird feeders on freecycle and then I went to buy some hummingbird food at the pet store. It's expensive!! $5.99 for 2 liters of red liquid. I read the ingredients: Sugar, red food coloring, and water - for $5.99!!! $5.99 for sugar, red dye, and water???? I could make this at home for practically free!!

Hummingbird Food
Dissolve 1/4 cup sugar in 1 cup water
(I figured the hummingbirds would be ok without the poisonous red food coloring.)

That's it!!

2 Liters Hummingbird Food From Store: $5.99
2 Liters Hummingbird Food From Home: 40 cents

The hummingbirds guzzle this stuff!! And I don't blame them! Yay, sugar! The little sugar addicts drink a liter a week. That's 52 liters per year!

Savings per year: $290.68

But what about Beaubeau???

Beaubeau lounges at the window basking in the sun while the hummingbirds flit around right in front of his face!! Beaubeau looks up ever so slightly and says, "Oh, another hummningbird."

I got a cutting of pineapple sage from freecycle and it grew into this big plant! When the hummingbirds aren't too drunk on sugar water, they drink/eat/guzzle/sip/snort the pineapple sage. They're so cute!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Suggestions from a Brilliant Cheapskate

Dear Cheapskate,

One of our esteemed fellow cheapskates has sent several amazingly cheap tips!! She is a genius!!

Here are her tips:

1) "I'm not sure if this is too cheap or what, my husband thinks it is, but after we've squeezed out as much toothpaste from a tube as we can, I cut the bottom of the tube off, scrape what I can off from the bottom inch or so, cut a bit more off, etc, etc, until I've cut most of the tube off and am scraping paste off from inside the funnel-part and neck. You can get at least 5-10 additional brushings out, depending on how flat you've squeezed the tube. Maybe more if you don't use a flat object to squeeze paste to the top. My extremely cheap suggestion."

2) "Another tip - if you don't eat organic, have you checked out ethnic stores? I've been meaning to check out the Indian places on San Pablo and University in Berkeley, I hear spices are very reasonable there."

3) "I have a money saving tip for you re: fleas and cats. Several years ago, a vet at school told me that Advantage (NOT Advantix or Advantage Multi) for dogs was exactly the same as Advantage for cats, just put in different sized tubes. You just need a syringe (no needle). Ever since, I have never paid the cat dosing price for our three cats. I buy Advantage for large dogs (the bigger the better), pull out a tube, shake well, squirt a little on a piece of waxed paper or foil, something you can throw away, and suck up a dose in a syringe. If you get too much out, you can put it back in the tube. For cats and kittens under 9lb, it's 0.4ml, for cats over 9lb, it's 0.8ml. Then you hunt down little Fluffy, darn her flea-ridden hide, pin her down, and apply as normal. - works with Frontline, too (diff. doses) if that's your poison of choice. I personally won't go more than two months between doses during the warm months once the cats get fleas, I have small, delicious, and tender-skinned children. And an equally unamused larger delicious and tender-skinned husband. I buy a mondo pack for mondo dogs ($65 online at Fosters Smith, no idea where I got it last time), and it will last me easily a year. Same 6 pack for cats would cost just about the same amount and only last me a couple doses. If you only have one cat, it would last you a very long time even if you dosed every month."

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things Not To Buy: Juice

Dear Cheapskate,

Have you read the nutritional information on the back of the juice bottle? Any kind of juice? It's mostly sugar. Just empty, cavity-inducing, fattening calories. I never buy juice and I save money. Drink tap water instead! Tap water is pretty much free!! And it's definitely delicious! Put some in the refrigerator to make it even more delicious. Yum. Nice, cold tap water.

If you have three kids and buy a gallon of organic apple juice and a half gallon of fresh squeezed orange juice per week, that's, like, $14 per week. That's $728 per year!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pets: Fleas

Dear Cheapskate,

Did you happen to own a dog in the 1970's? Were you overwhelmed with fleas? Did you do the best you could and arm your dog with a flea collar and a flea-shampoo bath? Did the fleas fill the carpet and jump so high, en masse, that you had to walk across your room high in the air, by stepping from a chair to a wobbly desk to a chair to the bed, to avoid the floor where an ocean of vicious fleas awaited your delicious leg blood? Would you vacuum them up but it didn't help much? Never mind your poor, dear, miserable, itching, scratching pet?

Now there's this miracle flea liquid you apply to your pet once a month! Just a few drops between your pet's shoulder blades a mere once a month and there are no fleas! Personally, after my experience with the untrainable, undefeatable, fleas of the 1970's, I was willing to pay any price for these fabulous anti-flea drops. WAS willing to. It's, like, twenty bucks a pop. Worth it? Yes.

But I wondered: How can I save some money here?

I happened to talk to a vet (a veterinarian, not a veteran) who told me that indoor cats can get by with the treatments every two months. Hallelujah! I save $10 per month, or $120 per year!!

Then I wondered: What if I give this to my cat every four months?
So I did! No fleas! I save $15 per month, or $180 per year!

Then, my friend told me he never puts the drops on his indoor cat. But he lives in an apartment on the fourth floor in the city. Cockroaches, yes. Fleas, no.

My cat, Beaubeau, lives on the first floor and sits by a lot of open windows, tempting the fleas with all his soft, thick, great-for-hiding-in, fur.

Maybe Beaubeau can hold off the fleas for five months! Six! I'll save even more money!

Here's what I'm wondering: Why don't they put this stuff on kids who have lice?

Friday, September 25, 2009


Dear Cheapskate,

I recently spent part of a Saturday afternoon at the makeup counter at Macy's. I know! I can't believe I went to Macy's either! But my spendy friend wanted to go, and I wanted to spend time with my spendy friend. Going to the makeup counter at Macy's is definitely not an activity for cheapskates, let me tell you.
There were all these hopeful ladies with bad skin, scurrying around the makeup counters, desperate to spend, like, a hundred dollars for one lousy little jar of miracle facial cream! A hundred dollars!

Q: What is the correct amount of money to spend on miracle facial cream?
A: 99 cents.

You can get a huge jar of miracle facial cream at Grocery Outlet for 99 cents.

Q: What is the correct (and free) miracle facial treatment activity for a Saturday afternoon?
A: Exercise! Preferably bike riding because it's the most fun. And wear sunblock.

Stock up on sunblock when they have it at Grocery Outlet. I just bought two bottles for $3.99 each. I saved $16!!! (It would have been $12 each at a regular store.) Woowee! I don't have to worry about my face or my credit card and I can spend my Saturdays bike riding!!

PS Why is it called sun block? It doesn't actually block the sun. It doesn't work that well.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tools: Tree Trimming

Dear Cheapskate,

Do you trim your trees once or twice a year? I do. I use a couple of ingenious trimming tools. There is this awesome tool: It's a saw connected to the end of a long extentable pole! Before I knew about this particular tool, I had a complicated system for tree trimmming involving ladders, rope, a hacksaw, sneakers with good grip, a helmet, and lots of shouting and running away fast.

Is this wonder tool expensive to purchase? Probably. It must be because it's a wonder tool. But I don't even know because I check it out from the Tool Lending Library for free!

I often get tools from the Tool Lending Library. It's connected to the Book Lending Library, so sometimes I check out some books while I'm there, too. It's great!

Tip: Return the tools on time. The overdue fees are large.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Finding Things: Hair Ties

Dear Cheapskate,

Remember that time you were laughing about how people used to save bits of string or save rubber bands from newspapers? In 1973 your dad had that rubber band ball? You were practically doubled over. Well, don't laugh! The tip I'm giving you today is in the realm of such extreme cheapness.

Get our your hankerchief, for you will soon be weeping at my sad, sad story.

My sad story:
When I was growing up, I was too poor to afford fancy coated elastic hair ties. I had use regular old rubber bands saved from newspapers to make a ponytail! Regular old rubber bands pull your hair out and hurt like crazy. So I learned to keep a sharp eye out for abandoned elastic hair ties.

Luckily they're all over the place! Especially in parking lots. To this day I rejoice when I see a nice hair tie lying on the street, free for the taking! Oh, blessed un-pulled-out hair!! This morning I found one while I was riding my bike down Telegraph Ave. Not only is my hair safe from painful pulling, but the hair tie has a happy new life! And I save monney!

You may think it's gross to use a hair tie that has been run over by cars and has maybe been in someone else's greasy ponytail, but so what? It's better than having your hair pulled out by a mean rubber band.

You may think this is not a way to save a lot of money, but listen: If you are this cheap in every aspect of your life, you will save a bundle!!!

Read and learn, Cheapskate, read and learn.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Food: Bananas

Dear Cheapskate,

The cheapest place to buy bananas is Costco. A pack of nine bananas is $1.29, or 14 cents per banana. They are very green though. Will they ripen nicely? It's a gamble.

The next cheapest place to buy bananas is at Trader Joe's. At Trader Joe's a banana will cost you 19 cents, regardless of size.

At Berkely Bowl a medium banana is 25 cents (based on a 69 cents per pound price).

At Grocery Outlet, seven bananas in a bag is $1.99, or 28.4 cents per banana. I know it's hard to believe, but the almighty Grocery Outlet is not always the cheapest!!
You know what else isn't the cheapest at Grocery Outlet? Raisins. Today I could have bought a two pound bag of raisins for $3.99 at Grocery Outlet but I didn't because raisins are only $1.25 per pound at Berkeley Bowl! But this is not a post about raisins, it's a post about bananas. Try to focus on the correct subject, please.

At the Quick Stop gas station, one banana is 75 cents.

Yummy bananas!!!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Food: Meat

Dear Cheapskate,

Here's my suggestion for buying meat:

Never, ever buy meat.

It's ok to eat meat if it's offered to you for free, like at a party, or as part of the free snack at Costco. I just had a delicious free sample of top sirloin at Berkeley Bowl. ($7.99 a pound to purchase - Do Not Purchase!)

One pound of hamburger costs, like, three bucks!!! That plus some vegetables and bread will only make two meals! For about the price of one pound of hamburger you could have twenty hearty bowls of Bean-Lentil soup!!!! For one pound of top sirloin you could have fifty-five bowls of Bean-Lentil soup!!!!

Two dollars - Price of meal with hamburger
18 cents - Price of meal of Bean-Lentil soup

Savings by not eating meat: 91-96%

I'd rather put that dollar eighty-two into the bank and lentils into my stomach!

There are all those pesky environmental conerns, too. It takes 500 gallons of water and three acres of land to make one lousy pound of hamburger. (Ok, I made those numbers up. It's something like that. Look it up.)

How many green beans could you grow with three acres of land and 500 gallons of water? A LOT!!!! Way more than a pound!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Food: Super Cheap Soup

Dear Cheapskate,

I hope you are hungry. Very hungry. Because I have a huge, cheap meal for you. I, myself, am stuffed, and I have plenty leftover! You'll be stuffed, too.

Bean-Lentil Soup
1 cup dry red beans - 50 cents
Soak them in water overnight

In a skillet cook up (with or without a little oil):
2 onions, chopped up - 40 cents
lots of tomatoes from garden, chopped up - 0 cents
1 red bell pepper, chopped up - 50 cents
1 thing of garlic, chopped up - 20 cents

Dump the above, plus 1 cup dry lentils, plus 4 cups water, plus

spices - 20 cents
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp salt

into a big pot and simmer for an hour.


For $1.80 (or less - I overestimated the costs) you'll have soooo much Bean-Lentil soup! Like, ten giant bowls of the stuff! That's 18 cents per meal! That's ten meals for one person. That's five meals for two people! Or if you're like me, that's two meals for one person, who then is sick of beans and lentils, and then there's a meal for two, and then one meal in a tupperware as a "lovely gift" to a friend, and then three meals into the freezer for next week after a little break from Bean-Lentil soup.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Clothing: Thrift Stores

Dear Cheapskate,

I just bought my whole winter wardrobe! My whole winter wardrobe, plus a cap, plus two Christmas presents!! I did blow almost my whole daily budget in one fell swoop - I spent $9.
I should tell you that I am very lucky in a particular way. Lucky in a way that makes it easy for me to get all the clothing I need for free or almost free. I am lucky to have a special talent:

I am blessed with my own sense of style.

This means that I can wear whatever I want. And what I want to wear is clothes that are comfortable and cheap.

Rule: Never, ever pay more than $5 for an article of clothing.

I have not had new clothes for a very long time. I scored at the thrift store today. I got a Gap cotton turtleneck, which appears to be unused, for $3. I got an Express velour hoodie, so new the tags are still on (!) for $3. I got three brand new caps for $1 each! I only need one cap but I think I can unload the other two on my kids as Christmas presesnts! They'll think I spent twelve bucks!!! Ha Ha!(Actually, they won't think that because 1) they know I wouldn't spend $12 on a cap and 2) they read this blog.)

Tip: If you rarely buy clothes, it will be that much more exciting when you do. I am very excited about my new clothes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Next Sunday, at this particular wonderful thrift store, all the clothes will be one dollar!!!! Woo wee baby!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bean Counting

Dear Cheapskate,

For you, I wasted 59 cents. For you! Ok, really for me, so I could prove a point and feel smug. My dear Cheapskate, sometimes you tell me you're frugal because you ate a can of beans in lieu of meat. I am not impressed. You can do so much better. I will tell you how. It's simple.

Buy dry beans, not canned.

Here's what I did:

I bought a 16 ounce can of cooked black beans for 59 cents. (Wasteful.)
I bought a 16 ounce bag of dry black beans for 99 cents. (Not wasteful.)

I counted the beans in the can, one by one!!! There were 427 cooked beans in the "59 cents" can.
I counted out 427 dry beans. After that, I felt silly counting beans so I didn't actually count all the beans remaining in the bag of dry beans. I can tell you that 427 dry beans is not even 1/8th of the bag!!! That's around 12 cents for the same number of beans in the "59 cents" can!! The bag of dry beans is still practically full even with 427 beans removed!! Wow! There are lot of beans in that bag. Bean heaven.

You save over 80% by buying dry beans instead of canned beans!! That's a bundle! Imagine saving 80% on everything you spend money on!!

That's like getting five cans of beans for the price of one!! It's like getting four cans of beans free! A whole family could be stuffed with dry beans (I suggest cooking them before eating) for only 59 cents.

When you buy the beans in a can, you're paying someone four times the cost of the beans just to cook them! And put them in a can.

Dry beans are the way to go. What a bargain. Don't get me started on split peas and lentils!!

PS If you're the green type, dry beans must be the superior choice - no cans to manufacture, transport, and recycle.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Freecycle: Given

Dear Cheapskate,

Here are some things I've given recently:

Fireplace Stuff. This came with my house and after not using it for a year, I am sure I can part with it.

Chocolate Chip Cookies. My addiction. Offering these on freecycle was a big hit! I met some cool people. These two nice brothers came over by bicycle and had cookies on my porch. (And took a bag home with them.) They tipped me off to the free garden soil at the ecolgy center!

Bike shorts. By coincidence the person who asked for them was the person who gave me the pantyhose!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Plants: Cuttings

Dear Cheapskate,

You don't have to pay for plants! You just take a cutting from another plant, stick it in the dirt, give it plenty of water, and voilĂ ! New plant. I have done this succesfully now with lots of plants. Some of the cuttings died, but some of them are growing like gangbusters! (Whatever gangbusters are?)

I have done this with potato vines, tomatoes, aloe vera, and some other succulents I don't know the name of. If you're not sure it'll work, just try it anyway. What have you got to lose?

Tip: Keep the cuttings wet for at least a few weeks until they take root. Once they start to grow, you've succeeded!

Tip: If you covet your neighbor's plant, just go over and ask if you can take a cutting!! Not only will you have the plant, you'll be kissing up to your neighbor - she'll be flattered that you admire her plants and will like you more!

Then do what I do: Laugh as you stroll through the plants section at Home Depot.
"Hahahaha! Nice try plants! Nice try looking all enticing with your pretty green leaves and oxygen but I don't need to buy you - I grow my own! Hahahaha!"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Food: Mueslix

Dear Cheapskate,

Do you eat Mueslix? I do. It's superior in both taste and nutrition to granola, but at $4.39 per pound it's pricey. Have you looked carefully at the ingredients? It's mostly oatmeal. And raisins. I don't even like raisins! So I mix my own. It's much cheaper and even tastier!*

Here's my recipe:

1 pound rolled oats @ $1.15 per pound
1 pound barley flakes @ $1.39 per pound
1 pound rye flakes @ $1.39 per pound
1 pound date pieces @ $2.29 per pound (I have a sweet tooth)
1/2 pound shredded coconut @ $2.19 per pound
1/2 pound almonds @ $3.33 per pound @ Costco

Cost per pound: $1.80

This is less than half the cost of buying the Mueslix pre-mixed with yucky raisins!!!

You save 59%!!!!


*Do they still make Applejacks? Nothing is as tasty as Applejacks. Except maybe Captain Crunch. Or having a bowl of chocolate chips for breakfast. Having a bowl of choclate chips for breakfast would be good.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Finding Things: Bowls

Dear Cheapskate,

I was walking down the street yesterday when I saw a carboard box on the sidewalk. One of those wonderful cardboard boxes full of giveaway stuff! I always take a peek, even when I'm in a hurry. I can't help it.

I had been wanting some little bowls. Little bowls for my dainty portions of salad and mueslix. (See upcoming post on DIY mueslix! It will be exciting!)

There they were! My new bowls!! One is a Batman bowl and one is a Simba bowl. Who wouldn't want to eat out of a Batman bowl or a Simba bowl? Why are are grown-up bowls so boring, anyway?


Saturday, August 22, 2009

When your Slab fails you

My dear fellow Cheapskate,

Last night I had a stunning, world-view-shattering experience! I am still reeling from the shock. Forgive me if I mumble as I have not fully regained my faculties. Here's what I learned:

My trusty 1990 Honda Civic might possibly not last forever!!!

I know!! I couldn't believe it either! Who knew??

Here's what happened:
I dropped off my two spendy kids at the movies. (The third, my favorite, thrifty, after-my-own-heart kid, decided to stay home to save the ten bucks...)
Then my car wouldn't start! Because I'm a cheapskate, I have cheap roadside assistance insurance, and I had to wait three hours for a tow truck!!
Three hours is a lot of time to sit in one's car and ponder.

I read the owner's manual cover to cover. I learned how to change the fuses, something I've been meaning to do. If I get some fuses the windows might open again!

It got too dark to read about how to change the tires, so I tried to take a nap but the cops came and tried to intimidate me with their powerful flashlights. (Why do they have "BERKELEY" emblazoned on their vests in two foot high letters? Is it so if they accidentally wander into Oakland we'll know which team they're on?)
So, no nap. Instead, my mind was abuzz. How could I avoid this miserable situation in the future? The answer was obvious: Dye my hair blue, get a jumpsuit with the name "Katt" (my nom de car mechanic) embroidered over the breast pocket, enroll at Wyotech, and become a car mechanic. Ooor, don't own a car. No car, no car problems, no car pollution, no car expenses! I noted my mileage and made some calculations.

Monthly car expenses:
Registration: $2
Gas: $32
Insurance: $25
Average Repairs: $39
TOTAL: $98

That's, like, $1,200 per year!!!

Do I really need a car? Does anyone need a car? Does anyone really need much of anything? It's handy to have a car, but I would survive without one.

Conclusion: Keep this one until it can no longer be resuscitated. Then - no car.

UPDATE: I got to ride in a tow truck!!! How cool is that????!!???

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Going Out to Eat

Dear Cheapskate,

I'm going to give it to you straight. One word on going out to eat:


Listen, Cheapskate, stop with the excuses. And for heaven's sake, is that a tear? If you want to save money, you simply can't go out to eat. At all. Ever. Not even for a burrito. And no, not even for a McDonald's hamburger. Not even when they're two for a dollar.

There are some situations where you may feel compelled or obliagated to go out to eat. Do not succumb. You don't have to. I have some helpful suggestions for getting out of going out to eat.

1) It's a date.
If someone invites you out to dinner, and even if they are going to pay, tell them you'd prefer to have the cash. Offer to cook them a home-cooked meal of lentils and garden green beans in exchange for the cost of going out to eat. If you're like me, you'll need to unload some green beans anyway. Or show up for the dinner with a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. If this person is worthy of you, they will understand.

2) The "Yay, it's so-and-so's birthday work lunch."
I once had one of those mindless jobs - sitting in a beige cubicle staring at a computer monitor. Every so often I felt obligated to go to one of these lunches. If you must go, don't eat. If necessary, say you have a stomach ache. If you eat even one bite of bread from the bread basket you will be expected to pay a full share of the meal. Do not eat even one bite. Don't order a drink because this will have the same effect of reqiuring you to pay for a full share of the tab. When it's your birthday, don't tell anyone. If they find out anyway, tell them you have a stomach ache and can't go out to eat.

3) You're away from home and hungry.
Tough. It probably won't kill you to be hungry. I mean, people fast on purpose for their health so do you think missing just one meal is going to hurt? Carry a couple of apples in your backpack for emergencies like these. Plan ahead and bring a peanut butter sandwich. An added plus: You will enjoy your dinner even more if you skipped lunch.

I wouldn't own a house now if I had blown money going out to eat. Think about why you are saving money and this will help motivate you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pets: Cat Grass

Dear Cheapskate,

Have you ever spent $3.99 on one of those little pots of lush green cat grass at the pet store? You thought, boy, my faithful cat would love to munch on that cat grass. And really, money is no object here, because what is money compared to the happiness of my precious pet? Then you saw, next to the little pots of cat grass, little bags of cat grass seeds for sale? You thought, I could save money growing my own cat grass, which will make me happy, and my cat will be happy, too! We'll both be happy!

You can indeed grow your own cat grass!! But not by buying those seeds you saw at the pet store. Oh, no. I have a much better idea.

My dear Cheapskate, I have a fantastically cheap idea for you today.

I did what you did. I went to the pet store. I saw that cat grass. I saw those seeds. I saw the price of those seeds ($2.95 for one ounce of seeds!), and I thought - what kinds of seeds are these exactly? What is cat grass, really?
I read the label: barley, oats, wheat.

Barley, oats, wheat??!!?? This is what this fancy, special, mysterious, cat grass is made of? For $2.95 per ounce? That's, like, $47.20 per pound! (As a highly motivated cheapskate, I have learned to do such calculations quickly in my head. You will, too. I promise.) Can't I buy oatmeal from the bin at the grocery store for $1.25 per pound? Don't they have whole grains there, too, in those bins? Cat grassy grains like barley, oats, and wheat???

I rode my bicycle as fast as I could to Berkeley Bowl (a very cool grocery store) and I ran to the bins section. (Wear sneakers for optimal running.) I bought 32 cents worth of whole oats, 43 cents worth of wheat berries, and 39 cents worth of whole barley. (I also had the free cheese sample while I was there.)

I planted a little pot using a fraction of my seed supply, watered it every day, and voilĂ ! It grew! It grew into beautiful, tall, green, delicious (according to Beaubeau - I didn't taste it myself) cat grass. And I'm not even good at growing things!!!

I know you can't believe it - all that cat grass for $1.14. But wait, there's more. This was a year ago and I'm still using that same supply of seeds and there are still a lot of seeds in those little baggies! That $1.14 worth of grain grows a LOT of cat grass!

Tip: As soon as one pot of cat grass is tall and ready to give to your cat, plant seeds in a second pot. When the fist batch is eaten or has turned brown, the second will be ready.

At the pet store: $3.99 every two weeks for cat grass. That's $103.74 per year.
Plant edible grains: $1.14 for (eternity?) a year.
Savings: $102.60 per year!!!!

And think of all the time you saved not going to the pet store, and the money you saved because you weren't at the pet store so you weren't tempted to buy a bunch of junk you didn't need while you were there!

And you grew your own grass!! How cool is that???? You farmer, you.

PS The pot and dirt were free. I'll tell you how to get free stuff like pots and dirt in another post. I know you can't wait!!!!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Dear Cheapskate,

I thought up a brand new cheapskate thing today! I'm so proud of myself. I'm talking about Q-Tips. This is the sort of disposable item that I don't usually buy - I would never buy paper towels or paper napkins, for example. But Q-tips are indispensable, for me, for removing eye makeup.
How often do you use only one tip and then chuck the whole thing into the garbage when there's still a perfectly good tip left on the other end? A perfectly good tip wasting away in that nasty bathroom garbage bin. (Note I have refrained from describing particular items in said bathroom garbage bin. Use your imagination.) That's my $$$, earned doing soul sucking tasks for the man, being tossed thoughtlessly away. I'll keep those soft cottony tips, thank you.

The Tip on Q-Tips: Cut them in half!

That's right. By cutting them in half so that there is only one wonderful cottony tip per stick, you throw away only used tips, and you DOUBLE your money.

Calculation: $10 for a giant two-pack at Costco, purchased once every two years. Savings: $10 over two years. I save $5 per year!! Ok, reality check, that's not a lot of money. That's 1.37 cents per day. But I'm a CHEAPSKATE. I want that $5. I'll pay that $5 down on my house, or waste in on chocolate, or whatever.

My dear Cheapskate, stop! I can hear you snickering.
"Right, like, saving 1.37 cents a day is going to enable me to quit my job. Ha ha," you're saying.
Here is your very important lesson: You must change your thinking. You must never say, "Oh, that only costs 1.37 cents per day." You must always concentrate on the money you are saving. Every time you use a cut-in-half-Q-Tip think about how you are saving $5, or 50%!

Never spend money you earned by working. Our goal is to save save save and get that money working FOR you!

Next challenge: Come up with a free, home-made, Q-Tip substitute.

Dear Aspiring Cheapskate, I am bursting with ideas for you! I have so much to tell you about vegetables, cat grass, split peas, earthquake retrofits, transportation, home ownership, Bay Area bridges, CHOCOLATE kisses, and oh, so much more.

I know you can't wait. There is so much to come. I'm only getting started.