Here's a tale of Extreme Frugality from my aunt. This is a true story. It's long, but very funny, and a great example of a real-life penny pincher.
My husband likes quantity and sales. Stuff like this happens all the time.
For example, we just moved, and in the process I ran across an old receipt from Wal-Mart. It's a receipt for 366 pair of panty hose. Yes, that's right: 366 pair of panty hose. Also on the receipt are batteries, motor oil, and oil filters. After seven years, I still have enough new nylons left to last me until January 2007. They were purchased in July 1999.
More recently, Pop found a bargain at Wal-Mart the week after Christmas. Fruitcake regularly $2.99 was on sale for $1.00 a loaf. The more you buy, the more you save. Pop saved $106.00. He bought 53 fruitcakes, all that was left in the store. He spent $53.00.
But that wasn't his best purchase.
Some time ago, the local supermarket ran a sale on two-liter bottles of Sierra Mist: two for a dollar, a pretty good price. Pop believes in sales. If you can save fifty cents on one bottle, then you can save $8.00 on sixteen bottles, so sixteen bottles he did buy.
On each bottle was a coupon good for 55 cents toward the purchase of another bottle. That would cover the sale price of another two-liter bottle plus the deposit. We cut off all the coupons. The next time in town, Pop made a stop at the store and sure enough the pop was still on sale. Taking in fifteen coupons (he had lost one), Pop returned with fifteen two-liter bottles of Sierra Mist.
Thinking he had a good deal, he stood in the parking lot and cut off the coupons from the just purchased fifteen bottles. He returned to the store and got another fifteen bottles. I was shopping down the street and came to the pickup as he was loading the last fifteen bottles. I offered to go into the store and get eight more bottles for him. (I was too embarrassed to get another fifteen.) He cut off the coupons and in I went. I also purchased some soup and coffee so I wouldn't look too greedy.
At home, Pop figured he paid $8.80 for the first sixteen bottles plus deposit. The rest he got for free, so that means 54 two-liter bottles of pop for $8.80. If you figure the money he gets back when he returns the bottles, it come out to $6.10 for 54 two-liter bottle of pop.
End of story?
I'm afraid not.
The next day Pop decided to return sixteen coupons to see if he could get some more pop. This time he came out to the pickup and said, “You won't believe this. The coupon is for two two-liter bottles of pop.” Looking closely at the coupon, it plainly said: Good for your next purchase of two two-liter bottles of Sierra Mist.
It seems the clerk today had kindly pointed this out to Pop. So, for $4.40, Pop got sixteen more bottles of pop. It took him awhile to digest this and to figure out why the clerks didn't notice this the last time he was in there. He was very deep in thought about this, as we took off for home. Halfway back, Pop sat up with a start: “I forgot to put the pop in the back of the pickup! Now what do I do?”
“It surely won't be there,” he fretted. “It is only $4.40. I'm not going back.” By this time I was laughing so hard I could barely answer him, but I managed to say that in Portland it would not be there, but in Boise, well maybe?
He turned around, and back we went. There was no cart full of pop in the parking lot. However, inside the store at customer service sat a cart with sixteen bottles of Sierra Mist. Pop brought them out and loaded them in the pickup, We drive back the twelve miles to Nyssa and on home.
Pop's comment about the whole episode was, “Is this how it is going to be from now on? [re: getting forgetful] Wow, Wow I think I am going to quit cutting coupons.”
He still ended up with 70 two-liter bottles of pop for $10.50 and if you subtract the deposit return on the last sixteen he will have $9.70 invested in the pop plus some extra miles (which we won't count).
What on earth anyone would do with seventy bottles of pop? This is an old Mennonite couple with nine children, fifty grandchildren, and a sprinkling of great-grandchildren. That's a lot of mouths to feed at family gatherings. That soda didn't last long. (And you can be sure I'm serving Sierra Mist when I host the family reunion next month.)
If you have a funny story about penny pinching, send it in! Share it with other Get Rich Slowly readers.
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he's managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.