People often think that because I'm cheap, I don't really enjoy life. In fact, it's just the opposite. Because I don't need to spend a lot of money to enjoy life, I don't need to spend a lot of time getting a lot of money. But, you do need to know how to get the most enjoyment with the fewest bucks, and that's what this section is about.

Love Means Never Having to Say You're Cheap

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Not to detract from the romance of it all, but Valentine's Day is the commercial demon-seed of holidays. At least if you're a romantic who also happens to be a cheapskate, like me. The pressure these days to write a love note with your checkbook is palpable, and unfortunate.

People are shocked to learn that a spending-challenged guy like me has been married to the same wonderful woman for 24 years; or, as she says with that sly wink I've always adored, "almost three and half good years. Not all at once, mind you."

You might wonder if there are any Valentine's Days included in that total, since it's rumored to take the jaws-of-life to extract my wallet from my back pocket. As my poooor wife said last year on my least favorite holiday, "Jeff, I know you never promised me a rose garden, but another Chia Pet?"

["Panty Roses" available at the Dollar Store, pictured at right, combine two great gifts for a buck: A silk rose which contains a surprise - and adjustable - rose colored thong! "That's amor`e for a-less`e!" says the Ultimate Cheapskate.]


Strategically positioned between Christmas and Tax Day - the two Black Holes of outgoing cash flow (Can you hear the sucking sound?) - Valentine's Day was obviously engineered by marketers as a release valve to siphon off that thin film of personal earnings that's just beginning to gather above the red tide of our yearend holiday debt, on or about February 14th each year. But there I go again, dampening the esprit d'amore of our lover's holiday. Forgive me for accidentally pouring salt peter in your $60 box of Godiva chocolates.

Those of us with a spending phobia need to be at the top of our game when it comes time to shop for our sweethearts, determined to show our love without resorting to that most meaningless of all human gestures: Using money and stuff as a substitute for how we really feel and what we really want to say. We need to sharpen our thrift-craft like the tip of Cupid's arrow. Some pointers for the frugal at heart:

- What a difference a day makes: Consider abandoning the Gregorian Lunar Calendar and adopting the Cheapskate Lucre Calendar. All gift-giving holidays are celebrated one day after the date indicated on the traditional calendar. By celebrating Valentine's Day on February 15th, for example, heart-shaped boxes of candy are 75% off and long stemmed roses ($110 a dozen the day before) are often given away for free before being recycled into $1 bags of potpourri at the Dollar Store.

- Friends don't let friends pay retail: Avoid shopping at boutiques (which is French for "small stores with big prices") and women's apparel stores with names that contain any of the following words: chic, Rio, petite, haute, Milan, designer, palm, London, galleria, Rome, promenade, couture, fusion, Paris, or depot (unless, of course, it's proceeded by the word "home"). As a general rule of thumb, only shop for women's apparel and other gift items at stores that also sell and install radial tires, like Costco and Sam's Club; why settle for a pricey panty-of-the-month club when you can get panties-by-the-pound?

- Recycle, reduce, reuse: Remember, it's only re-gifting if you believe it's re-gifting or, in the case of intimate apparel, if it's been worn for more than one night. And not only does love grow deeper with age, but at some golden point in your relationship you can start gift wrapping things the other person has forgotten about in their closet and giving them to him/her again; you know it's the right size and they liked it at least well enough to buy it the first time around.


Last but not least, remember that it's the thought - not the price tag - that counts when gift giving, and thoughtfulness costs absolutely nothing. Need proof? As American spending on Valentine's Day topped the $14 billion mark last year, it ironically crossed paths with another skyrocketing trajectory of U.S. spending: marriage counseling also became a $14 billion annual industry that same year.

Need more proof? This year my sweetheart says she wants Chia Garfield; but only if I can find it at the Dollar General. God I love that woman.

# # #

posted by Jeff Yeager at 7:40 AM


Blogger drosehngs1 said...

Hi Jeff,
Just found you thru Michelle Singletary's column today. You are very funny; can't wait to buy your book! I've tried and failed at frugality many times, but think I might have success if I approach it in a new way. Frugal people usually get under my skin-probably because they seem to do it so easily and naturally. Spending is in my blood, so it's TRULY a challenge for me to stop. I hope your book can help someone who feels no pain when wasting money. We know the value of money intellectually but don't feel it much. It's a problem. Actually now that I think of it, my issues are probably a reaction to my father-when I was a kid, leaving a light on was a HUGE deal. Anyway, thanks for the laughs and inspiration to stop shooting myself in the foot to keep rebelling against his stinginess back then (he was generous in some ways.) Oh! I see what I've done-I've associated frugality (a good thing) with poor parenting (a bad thing.) They are different!

February 3, 2008 12:22 PM  
Blogger KarenL said...

If you are living well and have chosen your partner wisely, EVERY DAY is Valentine's Day, and Valentine's Day is just another day in February.
But you and Denise already knew that, right?

February 8, 2008 5:41 PM  
Blogger Jeff Yeager said...

Karenl -
Rats! Does that mean I can't give Denise a $1 Panty-Rose on Thursday??

February 9, 2008 11:11 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Hi Jeff,

Kat from DC here. Just read the article featuring you in today's WPost's Sunday Source, and I think your philosophy is awesome!

Your advice about housing ("Buy a house you like when you're relatively young, pay it off as soon as possible and skip this senseless upgrading to bigger, better housing") particularly resonated - I'm 26, so now's a great time to hear it.

Now, if only my man (who dreams of a 52-inch big screen) will get on board the sustainable frugality train...

March 2, 2008 10:02 AM  
Blogger kimann79 said...

Hi Jeff. I just got your book from the library and hubbie and I are looking foward to living a cheapskates life. Every year he design a card for me for Valentine's day. Each year it is more beautiful than the last and I anticipate it more than any box of chocolates or vase of flowers. (Although, I do have a soft spot for expensive chocolate but I buy it myself and hide it so my Hersey's loving Husband doesn't waste it on his unsophisticated tastebuds.) The cards are romantic and creative and I keep every one of them. It takes him hours to make and that is so much better than him running into a store and grabbing the first thing he sees at the last minute.

May 1, 2008 11:41 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Hilarious post. You know, it really is the thought that counts. You make some great points here.

May 13, 2008 11:04 AM  
Blogger Dixiebitch said...

Let's face it, folks, Valentines Day is just one day--I prefer that my Redneck show me he loves me EVERY day, and he does that by getting up and going to work, providing the money that I then work very hard to help him hang onto. My two sisters in law do the opposite--they prefer their men buy them crap for VD and then hand over their paychecks to spend on more crap that is overpriced. One brother in law says he just signs every other paycheck over to Wal-Mart. I have 12 dogs on my 10 acres, and I had one sister in law ask how I could afford to feed my animals so well. I told her, "I don't spend every dime my husband makes on useless junk."

I dunno WHY she doesn't like me....


June 27, 2008 1:35 PM  
Blogger riverwitch said...

Hey Jeff! If I want my husband to be my valentine it will cost me $50! And you think YOU are a cheapskate! HA!

January 8, 2009 2:05 PM  

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