Jeff Yeager and his book The Ultimate Cheapskate, and the subsequent world economic downturn, have helped to popularise the concept of living cheaply. I googled “cheapskates” this morning and in less than a second was presented with 294,000 sites.
So, there are many tips out there for those who would like to try the lifestyle, or at least save a little extra cash. The first offering from Google was http://zenhabits.net/2007/08/the-cheapskate-guide-50-tips-for-frugal-living/
It came up with 50 pretty good tips, and the following introduction: “Why live frugally? First, because it allows you to spend less than you earn, and use the difference to pay off debt, save or invest. Or all three. Second, because the less you spend, the less you need to earn. And that means you can choose to work less, or work more but retire early. Or take mini retirements. You have more options with a frugal lifestyle.”
As I read through the tips I realised that I was following many of them, mainly because I’d made some wrong choices in life, had had a few “mini retirements”, and generally hadn’t accumulated a nest egg that enabled me to retire. And now that I had reached the age of retirement I knew that I needed to live frugally and save what I could for the inevitable lean times.
I also knew that I could choose to be depressed about this, or look on the bright side of life. I tend to do the latter; in fact I revel in bucking the trend, being cheerful in the face of adversity, and living the life of a lord without a care in the world.
I have read a couple of books about class distinctions and gathered that those on the bottom rung and those right at the top (particularly British aristocracy) have a lot in common. They often dress like tramps, don’t care what others think, are free with their use of profanity, generally do whatever they feel like and to hell with middle-class morality.
Those in the upwardly mobile middle feel the need to impress those above and below them, wear the right clothes, drive the right cars, live in the right neighbourhoods, go to the right churches, the right places on holiday, suffer through ballet, opera and symphony concerts; spend more than they earn, and generally have a miserable time.
But we tramps and lords enjoy ourselves and don’t give a shit.
Which reminds me, when you do need to “go to the bathroom” as the Americans so quaintly put it, you have some choices. You can fret about choosing a “clean restroom” and endure the embarrassment of humbly asking restaurant owners for permission to use their “facilities”. And sometimes have to blushingly hear that these are “for customers only”. Or, you can march into the poshest place you can find as though you own the joint (I find five-star hotels very satisfactory), allow concierges and uniformed flunkies to bow and scrape you into the building. And bow and scrape you out again after you have made your deposit. The five-star establishments always have toilet paper (with the ends folded to points), hot and cold water, liquid soap, hand lotion, and numerous dry fluffy towels. The only thing they lack is graffiti.
Nowadays hotels are relaxed about the attire of their customers. It wasn’t always so. When I cycled from Cape Town to Durban in 1982, for most overnight stops I pitched my tent in caravan parks. But in the Eastern Cape after East London there were none, and I had to use hotels. When I reached the little town of Butterworth – after toiling up and down numerous huge hills – I was informed that if I wished to eat in the hotel dining room I would have to wear a jacket and tie. They lent me a tie, but I had to find my own jacket. Later, as I ate a sumptuous meal I looked around me, gave a contented sigh, and reflected that I must be the only person in the world dining in a pyjama jacket and tie.
Cheapskates don’t belong to gyms. These things cost a fortune, and make a mint from people who pay for a year or two and only go once or twice. You can get all the exercise you need by cycling to work and the shops (you don’t have to wear Lycra) or going for a brisk daily walk. And if you are keen to have a body like mine (ahem) you can use your ingenuity to do exercises in your bedroom. I used to run, but found that it has drawbacks: I spent a lot replacing shoes every few months, and visiting physiotherapists to repair muscle tears. You also have the hassle of having to change into running shorts and shoes every time. And showering afterwards. Walking is free and you can do it almost anywhere, any time.
My usual walk is through the posh residential area adjoining mine. This afternoon I encountered arum lilies, strelizias or “birds of paradise” which are the official flowers of Los Angeles but come from South Africa, clivias with their orange flowers and perfect leaves (loved by the Japanese), towering stone pines with their distinctive flat tops, English Oaks in full leaf, and London Plane Trees just getting their spring attire. People nod and smile as I go by (they think I’m one of them); even the dogs don’t bark much (I’ve learnt to walk mostly in the middle of the quiet streets so as not to invade their space and seem a threat to them). All this while listening to the latest book borrowed from the Listeners’ Library and copied onto my MP4 player. What’s not to like.
Damon Runyon: “One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to come up to you and show you a nice brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the Jack of Spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not bet this man, for as sure as you are standing there, you are going to end up with an earful of cider.”
“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”
Wineou: A casino is a place where people who don’t understand statistics go to give money to people who do.