Thursday, December 8, 2011


Dear Cheapskate,

Penelope emailed me again from her house on Cape Cod:

"Dear Mildred, [Should I tell her my name's not Mildred? She's 111 years old. Should I let it go?-cs]

I got your email and your complaints about the weather. First of all, do you think that because I'm old I want to discuss such an inane topic as the  weather? Boring!! Your whining about 45 degree weather is ridiculous. If it were 45 degrees here I'd be so warm and happy. I'd be running over the dunes in my bare feet, laughing, if it were a balmy 45 degrees. It's not 45 degree here on Cape Cod. It's so cold here on Cape Cod that even the whales are shivering. And they're covered with a warm layer of blubber! BLUBBER!!
Speaking of blubber, I've noticed some of the youngsters, like "Bobcat" Jenkins, who's only 85 years old, and his niece, "Frostbit" (she only has four toes but that's another story involving a stowaway situation back in 1963) Jenkins, are what you wussies call "plus-sized" and what I call F-A-T fat. I call a whale a whale and I call fat, fat. Call it like it is, I say. Face the truth. If you're fat, you're fat. You're not "svelte-challenged", you're FAT.
I have an extremely simple, cheap, way to lose weight.  Here it is:
Don't eat!
Just don't eat, you pig. (I don't mean you personally, Mildred. I know you can still fit into the woolen skivvies you wore rowing across Pawtucket Lake when you raced with the P-Town crew team in high school. You always were such a pretty one!) [Wow! Thanks, Penelope! Now I'm sure she has me mixed up with someone else.-cs]
Bobcat and Frostbit and the other members of the Blubber Club (Ha! I made that up, about the Blubber Club!! hahahaha!) are always spending money on prepared "diet" meals and going to meetings and paying money for "diet" pills. But guess what. They're still fat! And poorer from spending all that money. 
Just don't eat.
It saves time: No going to the grocery store, no cooking, no sitting at the table eating, no cleaning the dishes, no going to meetings.
It saves money: No buying anything. No buying food except maybe some carrots or celery.
Another thing you could do is get a tapeworm to live inside your gut. People these days are so uptight about parasites. Bodies are already full of parasites anyway so why not get a useful one that you invited? [I have to say that I officially don't recommend this. Not my idea.-cs]
It's so cheap and easy to be thin. Leave the blubber on the whales.
I hope this was helpful. I'm happy to share my wisdom.


P.S. Are you going to come and visit?"

Thanks again, Penelope!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sock It To Me, Baby

Dear Cheapskate,

You get to meet Penelope!!! Penelope has been frugal her whole life and she's been alive since 1900 so she's had many years of cheapskatery. And, yes, she's almost 111 years old. She'll be 111 on 11/11/11. I know you think I'm making this up but I'm not. I would never make up something so phony. I'd say she was 86 and was born on some random date in May to make it sound believable. Everything I tell you about Penelope is true. I suspect that Penelope herself is not an entirely truthful person however, as some of the things she says are too amazing! She emailed me the following from her house on Cape Cod (Yes, she was born before the Model T was invented yet she uses email!!):

"Dear Mildred, [She calls me "Mildred" for some reason.]

Young people don't know how to mend things. Why, when I twenty years old [ She was 20 in 1920!] I danced the Shimmy to the song "Shim-Me-Sha-Ha". Have you heard it? Look it up on YouTube. Ah, those were the days... drinking champagne and dancing all night, going home with a different boy every Saturday, watching them fight over you. Nowadays they call the cops if you so much as punch someone in the gut, but then, oh, then, the fights over us girls! Wonderful!! Wonderful fights! Broken noses everywhere.

Anyway, when I was twenty, just a few years before everyone from the shoeshine boy to the milkman became a millionaire in the stock market...That reminds me. There are so many uses for shoe polish!! I'll tell you some day! Anyway, before then, when everyone was still poor, a girl had to re-use and re-purpose her dancing dresses and especially her stockings. This involved a lot of mending and sewing.

Here's a tip: draw a line up the back of your leg or draw a fishnet pattern all over you legs if you can't afford stockings. It looks like you're wearing stockings! But it's just drawn on!!!  Don't use a wax pencil and then go dancing. Trust me. Messy! Very messy. Yuck.

Young people these days. I swear. Your toe pops out of your sock and what do you do? You throw it out! [Penelope must mean that young people throw out their socks, not that they throw out their toes.] You just go buy a new one. Nonsense!

Here's how to darn your darn sock. Hhahahahahahahahaha! Get it?

1) Get an old light bulb. Not one of these new-fangled twirly compacted ones, but a nornal light bulb.

2) Stick a sock in it! Hahahahahahahah! Actually, stick the light bulb in the sock.

3) Get a needle and thread and sew up the hole in the sock using the light bulb as a form.

So easy! Even you whippersnappers with your prissy unscathed knuckles can do it. "

Wow. Thanks, Penelope! I hope you'll email me about all the great uses for shoe polish. I can't wait!

Cheapskate, do you mend things or do you just throw them out and buy new ones?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

101 Uses For A Brick

Dear Cheapskate,

Whoops! Did I say one hundred and one uses for a brick? I meant to say one. One use for a brick. I can tell you of one way to use a brick. Not one hundred and one ways to use a brick. I must have been thinking of college, you know, where "Econ 101" or "Math 101" really means "Econ 1" or "Math 1". One. Only one. One way to use a brick.

It's been cold here in California. Relatively cold, anyway. Hovering around 44 degrees inside my house and colder outside. Stop laughing! I know it's, like, minus 40 degrees in Montana with a blizzard and two feet of ice on the road, and that your spit freezes solid before it hits the ground. You'd be waltzing around in your bikini if only you were lucky enough to have  a balmy 44 degree day. Still, for us wimps, a 44 degree temperature in the house, day after day, is wearing, even if our spit is still wet when it hits the ground. (And we spit on the ground all the time!)

Cheapskate, I know what you're thinking. But what about the the cat? Forget the spit. What about the poor stray cat named Thompson who lives outdoors? Is he shivering in the cold and rain? Is he wet and bedraggled, hunkered down under the neighbor's barbeque, his ears hung in sorrow, questioning the meaning of life and miserably waiting for Spring?
Cheapskate, I'm way ahead of you. First, I made a little house for Thompson (yes, a "cat house") out of a bookshelf and a tarp. Then I added a heating pad, which plugged into an extension cord, which ran across the wet porch exposed to the elements and to hungry, gnawing possums, then crimped under the door, and finally plugged into an outlet in the kitchen.

Because of the whole pesky electrocution/fire hazard problem I needed a non-electric warming system.
The sock filled with microwaved rice didn't work.
The thing at the pet store cost forty bucks so I didn't buy it.
The cat didn't like the emergency foil disaster blanket. (I thought cats liked crinkly things?)
Then I remembered the soapstones. Growing up in Connecticut where it really does get C-O-L-D, even colder than in California, mom would heat up a soapstone for each person. We'd wrap the hot stone in a cloth and put it between our icy cold bedsheets to keep our toes warm all night.
I didn't have a soapstone to heat up for Thompson but I had a brick! Turns out a brick doesn't have nearly the specific heat capacity of soapstone but so what???

1) Clean off a brick.
2) Put it in the oven while you're baking a casserole. (It's cheaper to share the use of the oven than to heat it up for the casseole then again for the bricks. And who doesn't want a casserole imbued with a brick flavor?)
3) Wrap the brick in a clean rag.
4) Place it somewhere you need heat, like in the cat house or at the foot of your bed.
5) Don't be a retard and burn yourself or your clothes, your house, your pet...

Wait, I think I can come up with 101 uses for a brick! Yes, I'm sure I can!

1. Heat storage device.
2. Part of a garden path.
3. Tie a threatening note to it and throw it through a window.
4. Tie a love letter to it and throw it through a window.
5. Tie a gift to it, (maybe a nice tie?) and throw it through a window.
6. Take the love letters you have received, tie them to the brick, and sink them in the Bay.
7. Put it in a puddle. Step on the brick to avoid stepping in the puddle.
8. Scrub away your calluses.
9. Use instead of sand paper to remove paint.
10. Do you wake up at night to find that your goose down comforter has fallen off the bed? Tie a brick to each end of the comforter to hold it in place.
11. Use it to smush slugs.
12. Carry one in each hand while you go for a walk to beef up your arms.
13. Lift and repeat to beef up your arms.
14. Use the corner like a piece of chalk to draw artwork on the sidewalk.
15. Use the corner like a piece of chalk to draw arrows on the sidewalk so you will remember your way home. (Hansel and Gretel should have done this instead of the bread crumbs thing.)
16. Throw it at pigeons to knock one down for dinner.
17. Sit on one when driving if you need a boost.
18. Pretend to talk on it like a cell phone. Say, in a snooty voice, "What, you're still using an iPhone? That old thing?"
19. Scrape off some to make a red powder and apply it to your face as rouge.
20. Add water to the powder and use as ink to write tragic poems on the dungeon wall.
21. Put it on the top of your head and walk without it falling off. This will improve your posture.
22. Use it to break open walnuts.
23. Use it as a hammer when you can't find your hammer.
24. Put it on end and lean it against the house. Stand on the end - you may have enough of a boost to be able to see into the window. (I did this yesterday. Why? you ask. Why??????)
24. Use it to press down the pie crust dough when you can't find the rolling pin.
25. Dip it in paint and press to the walls for a decorative (custom!) paint effect.
26. Put it in the toilet tank to displace water and cut down on the volume of water used per flush.
27. Put a couple in the refrigerator to displace air and to work as a thermal mass to reduce power usage.
28. Use it to prop up the couch where that leg broke when you were moving that time.
29. Plug up the hole in the floor that goes straight to the basement.
30. Dangle one from a thin string over the front door. Act like you don't notice it and make people linger underneath it as you chat unconcernedly. Watch them nervously back away from your house.
31. Start an "all-brick" band! Two bricks bang together to form cymbals, bricks of different sizes make a xylopohne, bricks scraped against each other make that "washboard" sound, etc.
32. Drill a hole through a brick and blow to make a flute-like, or didgeridoo-like sound. (Then join the band in #31.)
33. Cover up mouse holes in the baseboard.
34. Press flowers between the pages of a book and set the brick on top to increase the pressure.
35. Stand on the roof and throw them down at bad guys, like my neighbor - she knows who she is.
36. Place one on the loose roof shingle to keep it from blowing away.
37. Bang one on a piece of a metal downspout to make music. Join the band in #31.
38. Smear brick with a paste of flour and water and bake to make a square tortilla. Save energy and combine baking with #1. Declare them "Brick Baked Torillas" and sell at a fancy store for big bucks.
39. Place spoonfuls of cookie dough on the brick and use as a mini cookie sheet.
40. Tie a piece of rope to the brick and throw it over a wall you wish to scale. Grab onto the rope. The weight of the brick on the other side will help to hoist you over the wall.
41. Loudly clap two bricks together to scare away bears.
42. Strap a brick to the bottom of each foot for use as shoes when you have to walk across a bed of hot coals.
43. Strap a brick to the bottom of each foot for use as shoes when you have to walk across a bed of nails.
44. Strap a brick to the bottom of each foot for use as shoes when you have to walk across a stretch of hot asphalt.
45. Strap a brick to the bottom of each foot for use as shoes when you have to walk across an Oakland sidewalk covered with chewing gum and shards of glass.
46. File your fingernails with the side of a brick. Hint: Move your nails across the brick, don't move the brick across the nails.

More to come... Can you add a few?