Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I Could Have Been Rich, I Tell ‘Ya (A Phat History Lesson)

Pop has been after me for a long time to write a story about how I passed up the opportunity to be rich. Here it is.

When I was 17 my grandfather had offered to tell me how to retire by the time I was 30. Now being 17 and not wanting to listen to anyone, I turned down the free advice. Before everyone tells me how stupid I am, I need to tell you about the nuances that set my grandfather apart from the rest of the world. To say that he pinches pennies is an understatement. I think he’s pinched so hard he’s made Lincoln cry a few times. The best way I can communicate to you how bad it has gotten is to give you true stories of his miserly ways. (Most of these things still go on today. I’m so lucky to still have grandparents at my age.)

My grandfather will open the windows on the west side of the house in the morning, close the windows at 11:00, and as soon as the sun gets over the top of the house, he’ll open the windows on the east side of the house.

His thermostat is set at 78. He sets a thermometer on the front porch (the side that faces the east) in the evening, so that he’ll know when the outside temperature reaches 78 degrees. As soon as the thermometer hits 78, he’ll go and turn off the air conditioner. He does the same thing in the morning (with the thermometer on the back porch on the west side of the house) to know when to turn on the air conditioner.

He has run out of gas before. Not because his gas gauge was broken, but because he had a price in his mind as to what he would pay for gas and would not stop until he saw the price advertised at the gas station.

He once spent two hours deciding on what type of mechanical pencil he was going to buy. He looked at the price of the mechanical pencils, the amount of lead that came with it, and the price of the refills. After two hours of comparing the two types of mechanical pencils they had at the store, he ended up buying a box of wooden pencils, which he uses until they are physically impossible to grasp.

There are 3 types of pens at my grandparent’s house: pens that still write, pens that only write some times, and pens that can only make a ¼ inch line before they stop working. The later two pens are used to help keep score for card games. To make sure he gets the optimum use out of pens he will write so small he can’t read his own writing.

He has over 3000 golf tees, and yet still searches the tee box for broken ones that are long enough to use. He also has about the same amount of golf balls he has segregated into golf balls used for water holes, golf balls that might get lost out of bounds, and good golf balls used for open fairways and greens.

In the car, when it is hot, he will turn on the air conditioning full blast for a few second and as soon as the air coming out of the vents is cool, he’ll turn it to vent till it starts to get hot, all while driving 5 miles under the speed limit.

Last month’s utility bill was $135, his next goal is to have a bill that is $110. 6 people live in his house. God help them all.

These are only a few of the things that he has done to stretch his money. I guess in the end it’s working well. Between his new home in Madison, his time share in Boone, and his condo in Isle of Palms he seems to live a good life. Plus I will never have a day when I can’t blog about something he’s done.


At 10:28 AM, Blogger PoP said...

It is all true, So help me God. Ok so if you don't act like him you would retire at 35. Tell them about the tree frogs.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger PoP said...

I could write a book. but all these things he does realy don't save him a penny. He has broken more windows from the constant opening and closing and has had to have the car towed several times

At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on Phat Tony, tell us the truth, not this James Carvelle spun version.


At 12:21 PM, Blogger mary said...

and oh the garage door is a whole other story. my poppa is so strick on stuff. and its so funny because he gets so ill if things aren't going his way. poor pop and grammy i don't see how they do it.

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

This so reminds me of my grand parents and my wifes grandparents. I think it has to do with when they grew up and when they raised their families. They were pretty hard times then.

Great Story Doc!

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Insolublog said...

I am not quite tuned in to the time scale here, but could this be a byproduct of the Great Depression and WWII? My grandparents on my fathers side were quite frugal. My father claimed it was these events which formed their behavior.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger Dr. Phat Tony said...

Strange enough my grandmother grew up poor but does show the frugality like my grandfather who grew up wealthy.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger a4g said...

My MIL is so... frugal, that she gives the little pads of paper that realtors leave on your doorstep as gifts.

I swear.

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Uber said...

lol Good stuff, Doc. To be read more than once.

Once witnessed my mother haggle over an antique shelf. The seller, not knowing it was an antique, was going to spray paint it so it would be worth 30 bucks. Knowing the true worth, she haggled him down to 15 bucks AND made him include that can of spray paint that she didn't even want. haha I hid.

Change the genre and write that book, pop. It's too amusing to not. ;)

At 7:50 PM, Blogger The Conservative UAW Guy said...

I can tell you are already rich, Doc.

Rich in family

Yeah. It shows.
You are rich, indeed, Doc.
Rich, indeed...

At 10:30 PM, Anonymous linda said...

That was a really good story and you are lucky to still have grandparents!

At 4:38 AM, Blogger PoP said...

Your version is quite a bit different than the one I remember,but I am a feeble nearly blind old almost rich man. I listened. and I didn't have to be a penny pincher to do it.

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous kittycatlane said...

I'm married to a man who could be your Grandfather at a younger age. He takes catsup bottles out of the garbage, adds water and turns them upside down, because, he can still get onnnne last use out of it. When I buy 2 ply Toilet Tissue, he wants to split the layers, so it's one ply, he always seems to know the exact amount of pennies, or dollars that have been wasted by what's in the garbage.(Look at this, .02 of tomato sauce wasted) He was raised in a very well to do family, go figure.
I'm enjoying your comments.


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