Squirreling Gone Wild #34: Punished for Being Frugal

If you see a shiny new penny on the ground, what would you do? Pick it up, right?

Since frugality has its merits (and I’ll put picking up coins into the frugal category), I would do it.  Many people would. After all, it’s there for the taking! Never mind that time is money, and the economic value of picking up pennies isn’t exactly a slam dunk.  If it’s right in front of you, just take the free money and move on.

Well, I may have been “punished” for not exactly following my advice on when not to be frugal.  If you recall from that post, within the 6 situations I mentioned was a theme surrounding the idea of not sacrificing health for money.  I noted food as well as health care specifically, as 2 of the 6 situations.  So despite some the antics from the Squirreling Gone Wild series that I’ve shared, I actually do believe it’s important to not go to far just to save a few dollars.  Or pennies.

Or, in my case, penny.  That’s right, I inadvertently made a trade-off with health, just for a penny.

So there it was…a semi-shiny penny sitting in the parking lot of the local library.  Actually there was another one that was more dull right by it, but I never tried for it. Anyway, I just walked out when I stumbled upon the coin.  Immediately, I made a quick lunge for the coin, not even completely stopping my stride.  That’s when I felt a slight twinge in my back.

Now, I have had a few bouts of back soreness and worse over the years, so this was very mild compared to those episodes.  Actaully, it was really an tiny aggravation of recent back soreness (which I felt a little bit in the morning anyway), so I don’t want to make it seem like picking up a coin was the source.  But anybody who has had such issues in the past should know that you just have to make some good decisions, such as bending at the knees when picking something up.  Not that you’re going to necessarily get hurt otherwise, but it’s just one of those little things that we do to avoid any unnecessary issues.

It did freeze me for a few moments, but I made it to my car without a problem and then went home and stretched out my legs and back – having learned from past experience.  Things got back to normal later.  No long-term damage, so don’t worry. :)

But still, why deal with any consequences just for something that’s not that important! It could have been anything – this happened to me once when quickly bending to simply check tire pressure on a cold morning, and the result was quite a bit worse than this.  However, it just seemed like maybe some type of “justice” being served upon me this particular time, given that it was a coin involved, and that I’ve penny pinched in quite a few instances.

Moral of the story: a little extra money isn’t always worth it.

Apparently I needed to be reminded :)

My Questions for You:

Have you ever gone too far to save (or make) a little money, or do you know anyone that has?

What was the situation?

Squirreling Gone Wild: The Frugal Olympics

With the world’s attention on the Olympics later this summer, many people will admire the amazing abilities and accomplishments of those who

Run after those pennies!

are able to compete atthe highest level in their sport. It takes a rare combination of talent, hard work, and desire in order to reach the pinnacle of success.

Perhaps we can follow the lead of the world’s best athletes, and apply those principles to personal finance.  One way would be to try to become a frugal athlete, as we train to be the best we can be when it comes to saving. We can all get better, right?

Well, we most certainly can get beter – at least most of us, anyway.  Of course, to reach the heights of ability, we would have to compete against the best of the best.  What I’m referring to is the Olympics of saving money.

These “competitors” are the ones who find way to take saving money to the next level.  The most hard-core examples of saving money that I’ve encountered are profiled here in the Squirreling Gone Wild series.  These are situations that I’ve seen where people have taken some extreme measures to save money.  There have been 33 editions of the series to date, and admittedly, I’ve been the subject of a few of the posts :)

With that in mind, I went through the posts to date, and revisited some of the approaches people took to save a few dollars…or pennies in some cases:)  After a difficult review, I’ve found three extreme frugality practitioners that can be declared the medal winners in the Frugal Olympics!

Here they are, counting down to the top spot:

3rd Place – Bronze Medal:  The Bird Brain.  This guy didn’t want to spend money on a pet, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, he went so far as talking about buying his kids an old pet bird so it would die soon and he wouldn’t have to spend money on recurring food costs. You can read the full story to get an idea of how excessively (shamefully?) frugal this guy’s mind was.

2nd Place – Silver Medal: The Crafty WaitressOn a business trip I had taken, a waitress tried to secure a better than 50% tip on a bill that was less than $10.  Her first tactic was to bring me 2 $5 bills as change after I gave her a $20 bill for a check that totaled $9.83. With her second tactic, she tried to play the delay game by telling me it would take her quite a while to break one of the $5 bills into singles.  I handled the situation, as you can read.

1st Place – Gold Medal: Take a Penny for Free GasThis guy, back in the day, took one cent from the “take a penny” jar every time he went to the gas station. He deliberately filled up to one penny over a whole dollar amount, then paid cash. Except, of course, for the penny he took from the jar on purpose. His reasoning was that eventually this would get him to a free gallon of gas, after all his incremental efforts.  That’s about as “extreme frugal” as you can get!

So there you go. These are the medal winners in the “Frugal Olympics”:

There were two others that merit special mention, but couldn’t make the top 3.  One was my own frugal excess in the drive through discount, where I regularly picked up loose change while getting coffee at the drive through.  You can might find enough money under the window to add up to a decent discount! The other one was The Extractor, who was truly a gold-medal talent, but I have to disqualify this one as I was the one who was the victim of the extraction! You can read that one to see the painful details :)

My Questions for You:

Which of the Squirreling Gone Wild situations were the most notable examples of extreme frugality to you?

Would you pick other “medal” winners from what you’ve read of the other editions of SGW?

What is the most extreme example of frugality that you have personally ever seen or heard of?

 

Squirreling Gone Wild #33: The Phantom Tip

What a devilish thing to do!

Having lunch with coworkers can be a worthwhile use of your time, depending on the circumstances. It’s often fun to get to know people just for the sake of meeting new people, and sometimes friendships can be forged over time spent having lunch together. Other times, you might choose to have lunch for networking purposes. Yet other times, you might go because you simply have to and have no real choice in the matter.

The latter was a situation I faced when I was just starting out working after college. Now, I did make some friends there that I’m still in touch with many years later. We had lots of laughs through our times as new, entry level people.  Of course, that was balanced by dealing with a higher than average number of interesting characters as well, who we just had to deal with. This type of person played a role in what I’ll share as another Squirreling Gone Wild story.

The Lunch

This was back in the late 1990s, which seems like it might as well be the stone ages. I say that because when a group of people was going to lunch, there wasn’t an email sent to the group. Rather, people walked from one cube/office to another to spread the word about a Friday departmental lunch. Well, since it was Friday already, that meant that you pretty much had to drop whatever lunch plans you had (including a lunch you may have brought) because there were some senior people going. You just had to show up – at least that was the strong feeling that many of us seemed to have.

So, I went with the group. We went to some local restaurant, probably a chain restaurant, and had a long lunch together as a group. There must have been at least 12 to 15 people, possibly more. It’s been a while so I don’t recall exact numbers, but suffice to say the group was large.

The group was a mix of people at different levels of responsibility, as I alluded to earlier. This meant entry level people, some experienced people, as well as some more senior people.

How Everyone Usually Paid

Usually, there were not individual bills for each person. Restaurants didn’t seem to like to do that, which makes sense as it makes it time consuming and a hassle for them (and other customers too). So typically, one bill would come to the group, and the most senior person would manage the process. This might mean that she (or he) would either:

  1. Go through and tell each person what they owed; or
  2. Just take the bill and divide it by the number of people there.

Either way, as I said, one senior management member handled it. Everything was done via cash.

How Everyone Paid This Time

This particular time, there was one senior person there who had a negative reputation. I never worked for her, but had been told that she was not a particularly nice individual. People spoke about her being selfish, taking credit for others’ work, ill tempered, and things of the like. Like I said, I never worked with her or interacted with her much at all, but saw her walking the hallways with a sneer permanently affixed to her face.

Anyway, at this particular lunch, she told everyone to give her the cash for their share, and then she would take care of it. Okay, nothing unusual there. However, she said she would just take the cash and pay by credit card. She never really asked if anyone cared.

And frankly, it shouldn’t be a big deal to do it that way. I’ve done that with a group that before, where I handled the bill, so I certainly didn’t have an issue with it. However, I do have an issue with what she actually did.

She had told everyone to add extra for the tip – but asked for only about 10%. It’s been a number of years, but I recall her then saying that the waitress was making enough as it is with a big group, so why pay a high percentage when we didn’t have to. I thought that was weird and unfair, and assumed that a tip would be the same. In some places, in fact, a mandatory percentage is applied to large groups.

Anyway, once she actually collected everyone’s share – including tip – she paid by credit card.

Here’s the problem: she never paid a tip.

That’s right – she collected everyone’s money, asked for enough to cover a tip, and then charged the amount on the bill while neglecting to add a tip.

The way I see it, that’s simply ice cold.

Now, I didn’t actually see her sign the bill and put zero or a dash on the tip line. Rather, I was told this by someone who sat next to her and was a reliable person who also didn’t work with that lady. In other words, she was credible with axe to grind with that lady.

Can you imagine? With a lunch group that size, she pocketed enough to get a free meal of her own. As I think of it, her behavior totally reminds of me of these infamous people I ran into years later, and ceased to dine with again. Yuck!

I have to say, it made me believe all the negatives that were said about her!

My Questions for You:

How do you handle paying the bill when having lunch with coworkers?

Have you ever seen anyone play any games when it comes to tipping at restaurants?

What’s the shadiest thing you’ve seen or heard of someone doing when it comes to paying a restaurant bill or leaving a tip?

 

Save Money on Dental Care: How Much Pain Can You Handle?

Dental Pain

How much is avoiding dental pain worth to you?

The cost of dental work can be quite high for many people. For those who do not have insurance, it can be outrageously costly. Even if you do have insurance, dental care can be expensive anyway.

Regardless, it’s something that’s important and we need to take care of our teeth for many reasons. Dental health has been shown to impact our overall health in numerous ways.

With that in mind, I’m facing a dental procedure that needs to get done. I need to get a wisdom tooth removed, which is not something anyone would look forward to. However, it has to happen, so I might as well get the time scheduled and get it over with. The only thing I thought I had to decide was when to make the actual appointment, but I found out that I have a new decision to make: how much to spend on pain relief for wisdom tooth removal!

Frankly, I haven’t really considered this type of decision before. Usually I’ll just deal with the medical care that I have to get, and will put my health above money – within reason of course. If things are truly optional, that’s obviously different. But if I absolutely need medical care or medicine, I’ve just gone ahead with it in the past. What’s the point of saving money if it impacts your health?

As I noted, this procedure must be done, so of course I won’t try to save by avoiding it. However, there are different prices for pain relief for this dental procedure. After getting an initial consultation, the office got back to me with the following 3 options for removing the wisdom tooth.

Local Injection

This apparently involves a shot (or shots) to the mouth and areas near the tooth. The idea would be to numb the area so I don’t feel as much pain as the tooth gets extracted.

Pain Relief: 3rd best out of the 3 options

Cost: $76 – least expensive of the 3 options

Gas (Nitrous Oxide)

This option, from what I understand, is intended to relieve your anxiety so that you really aren’t too bothered during the procedure. Thus, you may not notice the pain quite as much while the tooth is being extracted.

Pain Relief: 2nd best out of the 3 options

Cost: $115 – 2nd most expensive of the 3 options

IV Sedation

In this case, you are actually sedated. You’ll be out of it, and won’t be noticing what’s going on. Essentially, its like you’re asleep.

Pain Relief: best out of the 3 options

Cost: $338 – most expensive out of the 3 options

With all this information provided to me, the first thought that came to mind was this: “give me a shot, get that sucker out of there, and let me save some money!”  Then, I paused and thought about it for a moment.  Do I really want to do that?

The difference between a local injection and the gas is $39. That’s not much, all things considered, for something like this. So, I’m eliminating local injection as an option. The difference between gas and IV sedation, however, is $223.  That’s a little bit more noteworthy. I’m probably going to go with either nitrous oxide, or IV sedation for this treatment.

The decision: is $223 worth spending for a little more pain relief?

It’s money vs. pain? I wonder how many people even think of money in a case like this? I’m guessing there are people on both sides of the spectrum. Some might want pain relief no matter what, and there might be some tough characters that will save a buck at any cost. The things people will do to save money!

This also serves as a reminder of how important it is to have insurance and some financial resources. Some folks have no options.

But for those that do, I wonder how many would tough it out and go with the cheapest options. For some, losing money can be quite painful! :)

My Questions for You:

Which choice of the 3 would you go for?

Do you think of money in cases like this, or do you just want comfort at any reasonable price?

Have you ever faced a decision on any health care decision that was impacted by cost?

 

 

Hara Hachi Bu and Money: The 80% Solution

Financial Diet: Spending Until 80% Full

Fitness has been one of my goals for this year (as it probably is for many people, in a lot of years), but this time I’ve put forth more effort into it. Aside from the most important part – taking action – I’ve done a little more reading on ways to improve health.

Of course, as I say here periodically, health and money are interrelated. Improve one, and you can help the other.  Now in this case, I thought I’d actually do something a bit different. Here,  I thought of applying a health-related principle to money. That concept: Hara Hachi Bu.

From what I’ve learned, Hara Hachi Bu is an Okinawan approach to regulating eating. The idea is that one should eat until reaching the point of being 80% full. The result? People eat less, don’t gain unnecessary weight, and have better health. It’s been said that Okinawa has an exceptionally high percentage of centenarians compared to the rest of the world. Eating fewer calories, when paired with an active lifestyle, might really help longevity and the ability to live a healthy life to 100.

It got me thinking – why not apply the 80% concept to our spending?

If calorie restriction and eating until 80% full might play a role in longevity, maybe spending 80% of what we think we need can play a role in longevity of our savings as well. If we spend less, we can increase our income minus expense gap. This increased savings, with time, proper investing, and the power of compounding, can result in a substantially increased net worth and financial security. This extended life of our savings can help us live a higher quality of life for a longer period of time.

Now, I don’t think this is just a matter of taking a high level of spending and bringing it down by 20%. Rather, I’m talking about taking what would be a reasonable budget made by financially responsible people, and living on 80% of it.

This could entail spending (and living on) less as follows:

  • Housing – moving to a less expensive area or living in a smaller home
  • Cars – driving an older used car, or for a family getting rid of a second car
  • Food – cutting out dining outside, and going the extra mile to make frugal dining choices

It’s almost like thinking about what you need to live comfortably, and then spending at 80% of that level. Maybe we can get used to that, just like the body gets used to living on less calories when stopping at 80% full.

Update: Just so everyone knows what I mean by 80%, I’m referring to 80% of current expenses. I’m not referring to spending 80% of income and saving 20%. Rather, I mean take whatever your expense level is and multiply it by 0.8. For example, if a family earns $100,000 and spends $80,000, they’re saving $20,000. By applying this Hara Hachi Bu concept, the family would take the $80,000 expenses, multiply by 80%, and spend the resulting amount instead: $64,000. In this case, savings as a percentage of incomes goes up from 20% to 36%!

My Questions for You

What do you think of the idea of living on 80% of an otherwise reasonable expense level?

Do you think that doing this could extend the life of your savings and substantially grow your net worth?

Much like the Hara Hachi Bu rule, do you think that this approach is one that would require a higher level of discipline than many of us are accustomed to?

Unlimited Food plus College Students = Financial Mess

This little financial mess kind of seems like it could have been preventable – college students taking advantage of unlimited food. No pun intended, but it’s almost like a recipe for disaster!

I recently heard about this story where college kids at a school in Vermont were taking advantage of an all-you-can-eat dining hall plan. It seems as though there was no extra money paid for additional servings of food. Now, how one defines the term ‘taking advantage’ can be open to interpretation.

One might look at it innocently, meaning that college kids might just eat way more than they should. This can certainly happen, and I’ve seen it happen to some degree. Once, to ridiculous extremes.

Money Conscious Friend From College

Way back when I was in college (undergrad), I lived in a dorm during my freshman year, before venturing out into apartment and fraternity land.  In the dorm, we could get 3 meals a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We could go through the line once, which meant just one of each hot entree, side, etc.  Once we had the meal card swiped, we walked into the cafeteria to get drinks and some other very basic side items. These ranged from cold cereal and junk bagels in the morning, to plain bread at lunch and dinner. These additional items were unlimited. This wouldn’t pose a problem for people, since those were low-cost to the school and not too interesting to the students.

Well, I had a friend in the dorm who viewed this ‘unlimited’ option with bagels, cereal, etc as being a free for all. He simply wanted to get the most of his money, as he was paying for college himself through a lot of hard work and prior summer jobs.  What he did, in the morning, was drink several glasses of whole milk, eat a couple of bagels, a couple of bowls of cereal, etc.  Again, all about getting the biggest return on his prepaid food investment. And keep in mind, these weren’t the real 1 per person ‘entrees’ that were provided in the main line.

What was the result of his gluttony? After one month, he gained almost 20 pounds. All because he wanted to get the most out of his money.

Most people weren’t motivated by all you can eat of the afterthought food, but this guy was.  What was funny was the story he told about driving back home after that month to see his high school girlfriend who was then a Senior.  He said that she opened the door, and her big smile quickly disappeared as she looked him up and down. Her first words: “You’ve changed.”.

Oops!

The Vermont Free for All Story

What’s interesting about this recent story in the news is that the university in Vermont apparently offered all you can eat, unlimited food – period.  It’s all you can eat, and kids can even go back to get special to go meals later in the day after gorging on the unlimited meal in the dining hall.  If they stuff themselves with 2,000 calories a meal, so be it. It’s all included in the unlimited plan, apparently!

Well, it seems as though students took advantage of this in a big way. To the extent of carrying food out of the dining hall.  Yes, even bringing in tupperware containers to take food out and back with them to their rooms. Even things like salt and pepper shakers were missing.

Running out of food apparently wasn’t a part of the plan for the dining hall though.

Oops, again.

So, what was a next step: banning backpacks from cafeterias! Apparently, they had to resort to doing this to try to stop the kids from maximizing return on investment through this arbitrage opportunity.

It’s No Surprise, Right?

The problem, as it seems, is that students seemed take advantage of the unlimited food. It’s that something for nothing urge once again! Or, maybe better put, it’s the idea of getting maximum return on investment.

The thing is, it seems like wouldn’t be a surprise that eventually, college kids would find a way to take advantage of a situation like that.  If you offer somebody a potential ‘abitrage opportunity’, they just might take advantage of it.

What would I have done? Well, I might have been tempted to take some food out the cafeteria too, if it was truly unlimited like at the school in Vermont. I mean, when we’re talking about college students with very little money, it just happens. Right or not, some squirreling gone wild would happen!

As an adult, I’ve learned that just because you pay for unlimited quantities of something, it’s possible to go way overboard in taking advantage of the situation. Take what you need without causing long-term damage :)

My Questions for You

Do you think this is an obvious recipe for disaster, giving college students an all you can eat plan like that?

What would you have done in that environment? Would you have snuck some extra food out of there?

Have you ever gone overboard in an all-you can eat environment, simply because you had a chance to make the most of your money spent?

Squirreling Gone Wild #29: Pet Expenses and The Bird Brain

Pets can be expensive, no question about it.  When budgeting for household expenses, it’s often necessary to include a fair amount allocated for pet needs.  While many people naturally accept and factor pets into the budget, some others resist and even resent the amount they can cost.

The annoyance at pet expenses makes you wonder why some of those people bought a pet in the first place, but hey, to each their own, right?  Well, a recent story I saw on vet costs reminded me of a discussuion I had with guy I worked with some years ago. He was irritated about how much money he had to spend on pets for his family. Yeah, I know…on the surface he sounds like a reach charmer of a guy:) I almost can’t believe I forgot about this, so I’ve got to share it here as the 29th edition of Squirreling Gone Wild.

Backstory

As a backdrop, the guy was a cost-conscious co-worker.  I was younger, so I didn’t quite get his hangups then, but I totally understand now how he’d be watching expenses as he had a family.  That part I get, and think was perfectly reasonable.

Anyway, at lunch one day – with a group of us – he was complaining about the costs of taking his dog to the vet, and how these bills really added up. He didn’t want the dog at all in the first place, since he felt that they’re expensive and he would have rather saved the money instead since he had a family to care for. Again, I totally get that. I know some hard-core dog lovers might not, but I do understand.

Now, I have never owned a dog. With allergies in the family, we didn’t buy a dog when I was growing up – and I haven’t purchased on since. So, I was just curious how expensive the dog really was for him. He continued on about vet costs, but also talked about how the dog added wear and tear to their home, consumed a lot of expensive dog food, and so on. Fair enough, I got the picture. Even though it was a small and older dog (don’t remember what breed), it was costly. He also made it sound like he was pretty much made to buy the pet by his wife. The words I still remember his saying were “That damn dog”.

Bottom line: he couldn’t stop thinking about how much money that dog was costing him.

The Scheme

He then proceeded to talk about how his kids wanted to buy a parakeet. As he mentioned that, I recall an eye roll. Obviously, he had enough of spending money on pets.

Then, he smirked as he told us what he would do if he was forced to buy this pet as well: buy an old bird.

His reasoning was that if he got an older parakeet, it would die sooner and he would have to spend less money on it over it’s lifetime. A baby parakeet would mean a longer life, more seed, upkeep, etc. I don’t know if he realized that parakeets aren’t exactly a big source of vet bills!

Anyway, we were all chuckling and shaking our heads, saying things to the effect of “Come on, man!”

Now, when I was a young child, we did have a couple of parakeets as pets at home, so I remembered how to tell an younger bird from an older one. The way I was told is to look at the forehead of the bird, and see if it has bars (lines). If it has bars, it’s a younger bird that’s just a few months old. If it has no bars, and has a solid color, it’s a more mature bird. Maybe not old, but at probably older than a 3 months old.

With that knowledge, I actually shared that information with him and the group. At first, I could tell his reaction was mild amusement as he looked at me: “This guy had a parakeet when he was a kid. Who knew?”

Then, I could see the lightbulb turn on. His eyes got bigger, and he pointed at me saying “That’s it!. If I have to get a bird, I’ll get one with no lines on it’s head, so at least there’s a chance that it’s old!” He laughed as he said it.

Get the picture? He was talking about buying the kids an old pet that would die soon so that he wouldn’t have to spend too much on it for too long.

To be fair, I have no idea if he actually bought an old bird or bought any bird at all. I never heard about the topic again, and never asked. Maybe it was all hot air.

But it was a crazy and shameful idea on how save money!

Note: I’m sure you realize this, but I don’t condone intentionally tricking family members or that guy’s plan. Just in case you’re new here:)

My Questions for You:

Have you ever let the cost of a pet deter you or influence your purchasing decision?

If you do have pets, how much do they cost you?

 

Squirreling Gone Wild #27: The Loyalty Card Workaround Plan

Do you ever use any customer loyalty cards, at restaurants or other businesses?

I’m usually not too involved with such cards, but I do keep a few around. When I visit a place, and see one, I’ll pick it up as long as I think there’s an opportunity to go back again.

Recently, I found what an old friend of mine liked to call an “arbitrage opportunity”.  This story will be the 27th edition of the Squirreling Gone Wild series.

Background

I found a place in the area which offered a customer loyalty card that awarded a free sandwich after 7 purchases.  The place itself offered a quality, quick lunch,  and was close enough to where I’ve been working.  So, since I figured I’d go there again, I took the loyalty card that was offered to me.

As I took it, I was a bit preoccupied, so I didn’t really pay attention to what the guy behind the counter was saying about getting me “started” with stamp on the card.  Later, when I looked at the card, I realized what he meant was that he was giving me a card with a stamp on it already and he followed up by adding a stamp for my purchase. So, that was 2 stamps for one visit, on the first visit.  Nice. But, I didn’t think much about it after that.

The next visit, I was in line as he made that same offer to the customer ahead of me. I barely noticed, and wasn’t preoccupied with this loyalty card, but just remembered that I had the same experience. So, I remembered to pull out the loyalty card when I ordered.

First, he asked if I would like a loyalty card, and I said no thanks – I already had one. So, after I paid, he stamped the card.

The Discovery

As I was eating my sandwich, the thought entered my mind: had I not said anything, I would’ve gotten a new pre-stamped card plus another stamp for the purchase. That would have been 2 stamps for this transaction as well. Instead, I spoke up and said I already had a card, and got only one stamp out of this transaction.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 2 visits and 3 stamps thus far.

After I figured this out, I made a few more visits. The next time, I walked in and made sure I stood in line with the same guy there. Fortunately, he was working. Not sure if he even recognized me, but he again asked me if I wanted a loyalty card.

This time, I said “Yes”.  I repeated that same thing the next time I was in as well.  He never asked me I had a card, just if I wanted a loyalty card.

The Result

At this point, after those four visits, I was ready to try out my plan.  I walked in, and didn’t see that same guy there. No worries, let’s give this a try.

So, I ordered my lunch, and wasn’t even asked about the lunch card. No big deal, as I didn’t care. Rather, I pulled out the 3 cards that I had collected. Remember:

  • Card #1 = 3 stamps from Visits 1 and 2.
  • Card #2 = 2 stamps from Visit 3
  • Card #3 = 2 stamps from visit 4

Total stamps: 7.  This is what was needed for a free lunch. Unfortunately, the stamps were on different cards.

Never mind that. I asked the lady if I could combine the 3 separate cards since there were 7 stamps in total.

She paused, thought about it, and said “yeah, sure”. And just like that, my sandwich was free!

The Benefit

Normally, 7 visits equaled 7 stamps. That’s what it should have taken to get the free sandwich.

With the stamp-happy guy, it would have been 6 visits for the 7 stamps. 2 stamps the first visit, one for each subsequent visit.

With the plan I hatched, it turned out to be 4 visits for 7 stamps.

Net result: 2 fewer visits for a sandwich. All due to some creative thinking.

OK, OK.  This isn’t a big accomplishment. In fact, I probably didn’t act my age in this one instance, and was perhaps scheming like a broke college kid here:) I know that.  Maybe it’s even along the lines of the guy I know who used delight in saving pennies at the gas station

It’s all good though, and in fun. The bottom line is, it’s just the thrill of using your brain to creatively think of ways to save, while simply asking for the discount.  It’s fun! Again, it never hurts to ask. 

My Questions for You:

Do you ever think of creative ways to save, such as the plan above.

Do you ever get a thrill out of small savings opportunities, even if minor such as this example?

Frugal Trophies

If you’re reading a personal finance blog, you just might be someone who really likes getting value for money spent.  Perhaps this also includes buying things and using them for a long time, getting as much out them as possible without spending money on replacements.

Maybe, just maybe, you take particular pride in something specific you’ve bought for a deal and ended up getting a ton of use from it.  I’ll go ahead and call such things “Frugal Trophies”.

I thought of the concept of a frugal trophy when discussing some furniture I own and use. This furniture is actually a dining table set I bought brand new 17 years ago, before moving into an apartment for the 1st time.  The table set contains a table and 4 chairs. At the time, it was in style, and actually quite comfortable – and a pretty good deal as well! These days…well, it’s probably way, way out of style.  It’s a white/gray table, with chairs that are cushioned and have a back rest that is flexible and leans back. They’re comfortable to me, though I’m not sure they’d be too visually appealing to many others:)

Here’s a picture of one of the chairs:

This chair is so outdated, but what a deal it was!

It just hit me this weekend that this table set is not in tune with 2011, much less 2001. When I bought in the mid 1990′s, it was probably a little bit 80′s in style despite being brand new.

Something tells me that many folks couldn’t deal with having such set as a dining table. Frankly, I’d like us to get something new, and have considered spending on things at different points in the last 5 years.

However, this is a frugal trophy! It’s almost a point of pride, knowing that I’ve dealt with this table set for many years without succumbing to a new one.  There’s a history here, and the table and chairs have been there for different stages of my life.  At this point, I want to keep it all!

Don’t get me wrong, I do spend on things I want to spend on. Plus, I realize that sometimes we go through frugal fatigue. Experiences, travel, most importantly kids are areas where I’m likely to splurge a lot. But for many other things, I’m not too keen on spending if I don’t have to. Big surprise there:)

Anyway, I’ve had this thing for so long. It was a good buy then, and it’s cool to know that the investment from way back in the day is still providing value!

Yep…it’s a frugal trophy.

If I think about it enough, there are a few other things that have probably reached that status:) The one that comes to mind is the car I drove to over $220,000 miles. Yeah, I did get rid of it though. But that table….it’s still here!

My Question for You:

Do you own anything that you’ve kept for a long time and gotten way more than your money’s worth? In other words, do you have any frugal trophies?