The Limits of CheapExcerpted from The Book of Zines
Roth created Living Cheap News
because he felt the penny pinching tips offered by the standard
bearer Tightwad Gazette were too complicated. "Most of my
friends were members of two-income families," he says. "While
we wanted to save money, spending a lot of time at it made for
a false economy." This editor's note is taken from a 1994
ince launching this newsletter,
Ive learned different people have different standards of
what is truly cheap and what is merely amateur cheap. I want
to explore the limits of cheap. One of my readers who uses a
one-cubic-foot refrigerator, a hot plate, and lives without a
car in a tiny apartment tells me I am not really cheap because
I have a 17-cubic-foot refrigerator, a stove, a microwave, a
car and a four-bedroom townhouse.
Another reader in West Virginia
is homeless by choice because he doesnt believe in paying
for a place to live. I have read about one man who jacks his
old Volkswagen off the ground at night to save wear and tear
on his tires and another who times his bowel movements so they
only happen while he is at work (saving him toilet paperand
no, the article did not say what he does on weekends).
These people have made the
choice to be on the fringes of frugality. Their choice does not
affect anyone else, and, while they are far more frugal than
I am, I applaud their efforts.
But every once in a while
I hear from people I cannot applaud. In fact, I often feel like
washing my hands after reading their letters. These are people
who are cheap at the expense of others. Some dont tip in
restaurants because of some principle, hurting waiters and waitresses.
If people do not believe in tipping, they should not eat out.
Others make toll calls when they know people are not home, leave
a message on the victims answering machine and taking advantage
of the returned call. One woman, upset at having to send a dollar
and a stamp for a sample copy of Living Cheap News, informed
me she was a true tightwad, and as a true tightwad it was her
duty to get as many things as possible without paying for them.
If anyone believes I support
this perverted noblesse oblige, let's set the record straight.
I believe in a win-win approach to life. Taking advantage of
everybody and everything is win-lose. In the long run, as these
people accumulate "free" things that take up space
and complicate their lives, their win-lose approach will leave
them empty. For example, I recently won a fairly expensive prize
that I couldnt use from a store in my neighborhood. It
was free, so I took it. Eventually I found someone who could
use it, but it took some effort to get this "prize"
out of my life. Even free things are not bargains if you dont