I Need A Dollar

My lovely friend Ruthie told me this story.

It’s Sunday morning and Ruthie is having brunch. She’s just been shopping with her friend and the pair is soaking up the sun, sipping skinny lattes and admiring their freshly manicured nails. The waitress arrives with two plates of deliciousness. Poached eggs on rye bread. There’s thick hollandaise sauce on top and a bed of spinach leaves beneath. Oh, and extra mushrooms for Ruthie. On the side.

The pair eats up, then sit back. And that’s when a destitute old man materialises at Ruthie’s side. He just stands there for a minute and then mutters at her incoherently. Ruthie is a little shocked but recovers quickly and, not unkindly, she asks, “What was that?”

He mutters again. He is hairy and he wafts of old shoes. His clothes are grey. His skin is grey.

“Pardon?” she says.

Again he mumbles, but this time Ruthie deciphers one word. Mushrooms.

Her friend pipes in, “I think he wants your mushrooms.”

Ruthie looks down at three sautéed mushrooms sitting on a side dish.

Now, Ruthie is a very caring lass. She loves people and loves making people happy. Part of her wants to grant the poor man this one little request. But it’s difficult. Does she give him the whole plate? Does she pour them into his hand? Will he just grab the fork? That would be a little weird. And what would people think? A homeless man eating from her plate in the street. Maybe she could just give him money…

Before Ruthie can act, the waitress hurries over and asks him to move on. Then she stands with her hands on her hips, a cloth hanging from her pocket, and the man saunters away.

“Sorry ladies, he always does that.”

She clears the table and wipes it down. Ruthie watches the man proceed to an adjacent cafe and repeat the entire scene with another pair of unsuspecting patrons.

When Ruthie tells this yarn, it is pretty funny. I laughed so hard. But the truth is, there’s actually nothing amusing about it at all. We live a life of excess and waste while other people are standing right there in front of us, starving and desperate.

Anyway. Let’s keep this light-hearted…

It got me thinking about some of the crazy things I’ve done when I was tight for cash, namely at university. Here are a few.

  • Nicking toilet paper.

Buying toilet paper is literally throwing your money down the drain. Think about it. And the good stuff ain’t cheap. So I would pinch it. Whenever I saw a spare roll on the back of a toilet, it would go straight into my backpack. When I got home, I’d add it to the pile in the bathroom. Too easy.

Tip: Staff toilets usually stock better quality paper. Sometimes even 3 ply. Sometimes even individually wrapped rolls. 

There are added benefits. Having a spare roll of toilet paper on hand is incredibly handy. If you do adopt this cost cutting technique, I promise you’ll be surprised by the number of times you whip out a roll and crack it open before you even get home. Of course, it’s always a godsend when you end up in another lavatory with no paper. Or when you have a runny nose. But it’s also useful for unexpected spills and messes and dirty things. And those times you want to play Egyptian mummies with your mates. Or when you want to decorate your friends’ cars. Or as an impromptu streamer during celebrations (especially effective when thrown from height). A toilet roll is also a great projectile when that nerd asks question after question during the last class on a Friday and everyone wants him/her to shut the hell up so everyone can go home. You can also light a roll to help start a fire when you are cold.

The little cardboard tube inside a roll is also valuable for myriad other reasons that I will not go into right now.

  • BYO coffee.

I never bought coffee when I was out. I drank cheap, powdered instant. I even stooped so low as to buy International Roast. I carried it around with me in little sachets, like it were a drug. Which, in fact, it is. I would also carry a thermos of hot water and make myself afresh cuppa between classes. Don’t scoff. BYO coffee saved me buckets loads of cash.

  • Cheap accommodation.

I lived in a share room during first year uni. On the plus side, my rent was practically nil. On the down side, so was my quality of life. I am an introvert and often crave time alone to regroup and reenergise. So, life on campus was pretty intense and having someone right there in my room made it, at times, unbearable. Plus, my very first roommate was crazy. Seriously crazy. I think there were some big issues. Anyway, I resorted to taking long walks or chilling in the library. But yeah, point is, I saved money bitches.

  • Using a bike instead of a car.
  • Going to Coles really late at night when they were practically giving bread away for free.
  • Raiding my parent’s pantry for non-perishables whenever I went home.

My friends saved money in other ways. One guy ate a can of tuna and a packet of instant noodles, in that order, for lunch and dinner every single day. Others would get blind drunk before going out so they didn’t have to buy booze at the pub. Second year students sold their essays to first years. One chick got flirty with the local baker and got free croissants all the time. Everyone shopped at Vinnies.

I even had one friend who went to church every Sunday, just to get a feed. He would rock up for the last hymn, normally hung over, and then tuck into all the home baked goodies on offer for morning tea. All the little old church ladies loved him. They would hug him and ask how his week has been.

This last one’s a little weird. One girl stole wine glasses from the pub. She would take the last mouthful, then pop the glass in her handbag. She lined her entire window sill with a collection of mix matched glasses, each with a great story behind it.

Some people might call me a tight ass but I like to think of it as frugal. Either way, I’m sure I’m not the only cheapskate out there. How do/did YOU save some pennies?

[Feature picture courtesy of tumblr]

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