Jewish World Review Feb. 27, 2002 / 15 Adar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- I PLEAD guilty but ask for leniency. I'm not fast with a buck…I'm not a big spender. I'm…well… cheap.
There's no question that I'm careful with money. The funny thing is, I'm more careful with small money than with big bucks. I don't know why. I bought an expensive car two years ago, but I'll drive miles out of my way to a gas station that charges three cents a gallon less than one near the house.
There are a wide variety of ways I conserve what I have. Often I save things not to keep from spending money but because it hurts to throw anything away.
My propensity for saving may have come from growing up during the Great Depression but I don't think so. We were practically rich during the Depression. My father made $8,000 a year. We had two cars and a summer cottage on a lake. And anyway, our son has the same inclination to save and he grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth-which he probably saved and keeps in a drawer in his dining room.
There are a wide variety of things I can't throw away. More than once I've gone to the dump with a car loaded with junk to toss and returned home with more than I threw out. Waste bothers me deep down. I love my grandchildren but every time they visit, I have all I can do to remember I'm their grandfather, not their father, and should not yell at them for the half-drunk can of Coke on the kitchen counter. The thought of a carbonated drink that cost 50 cents bubbling slowly away until it's undrinkable cuts me to my penurious quick.
I don't throw away leftovers from dinner, even though it occasionally occurs to me that the plastic bags we store them in may cost more than fresh food. Leftovers actually taste better to me and it might be that my taste buds have found a way to factor in my satisfaction over having saved food and money.
There are some ways I save that you wouldn't like me for. I do not sign my autograph on anything but the books I've written. I don't sign pictures or blank pieces of paper for someone who writes to say they're collecting autographs and want mine because-as they always explain in a form letter they have obviously sent to hundreds of people-I'm such a wonderful and talented person. They usually include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. I throw out the letter and save the envelope, to which I stick my own address label. This is as close as I come to stealing. It's reprehensible, but I can't bring myself to either give autographs or throw away a stamp.
There's no end to my cheapness, really. I switch the rubber floor mats in my car every few months because the one in front of the driver's seat wears out if I don't. I've kept 20 empty coffee cans in case I need one-which is about once a year. I save paper bags. I bought a gadget that squeezes the last drop of toothpaste out of the tube and I believe the rumor that you should get a new toothbrush three times a year was started by the people who make toothbrushes. I bought my present toothbrush in 1983.
I'm a woodworker being crowded out of his shop by scraps of wood too good to throw away but too small to use to make anything. If something comes with an elastic band, I save that. Our attic, our basement, our garage, our closets, our desk drawers and our shed out back overfloweth with things I've saved.