Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Ten Signs That You're Taking Tightwaddery Too Far

Okay, okay, we've all been hearing the words “credit crunch”, “slowdown” and “recession” a lot lately. No-one's denying that economising is necessary in the current economic climate, and we're all researching, picking up new ways to do just that. Why not? It's a smart move, an evolutionary move: S.M. Soiffer has referred to activities such as garage sales as “survival strategies”1, even. But you know, sometimes tightwadding can be taken just that step too far... Here are a few of the giveaway signs that you're turning from Tightwad Tina to Scrooging Shirley!

Sign Number 1

You don't just sell off unwanted presents. Don't we all do that now anyway? You're assessing gifts as you rip off the wrapping, wondering what they'll bring on an auction site once you've got 'em listed – and you just can't wait! You've got the format, the reserve price and the postage and packing estimate all worked out before you've finished thanking and hugging the poor giver.

Sign Number 2

Nothing is sacred. You haven't sold any deeply cherished personal mementoes... yet. But you keep looking at them, and thinking about it. And it's not as if you're even really flat broke! But if you sell the book your other half wrote a sentimental inscription in after your third date, he's going to seriously consider putting you on Ebay.

Sign Number 3

You know the price of everything and... okay, okay, you just know the price of everything, pretty much. You know where value soap is ten cents cheaper than, well, the other place for value soap. You know which vintage romance novel authors are worth picking up from the thrift store and selling off at a profit to bodice-ripper junkies. You know which airline to try for a budget flight for your honeymoon and you know which stores are tricky about internet coupons. Oh, and you talk about it. A lot.

It's all good. But if the first thing that comes to mind when your eye lands on an object is, 'I wonder how much I could get for that?', well...

Sign Number 4

You go foraging for wild food. Wait, that's not it. Nor is the hunting and fishing thing. Nor is the roadkill thing. That's all cool. Can you save some for the rest of us?

You go foraging in your neighbours' gardens, that's the thing! Stop it already! Or at least ask for permission first!

Sign Number 5

You eat a lot of beans. Beans and oats. Beans and barley. Oats and beans and barley grow... and we eat them, yeah, yeah, join the club. But you're eating so many, you're single-handedly skewing the commodities market. Maybe you should be investing accordingly.

Sign Number 6

Your pets are on notice: no freeloaders! What mice have you caught for me lately?

Maybe the hamster's wheel could be hooked up to generate electricity? They're all on economy rations, at least. Just don't try to feed the cat beans. You'll wind up in the emergency room with claw marks half an inch deep.

Sign Number 7

Ditto for the kids. That finger painting might fly on Etsy. How about a limited print run? They say artistic genius shows up at an early age – look at Picasso.

Sign Number 8

Or if you haven't got kids, it's worth taking your neighbours' awful brats to the cinema to qualify for the family discount. It really is. Almost.

Sign Number 9

You have so many coupons at the checkout – so many. There was that one time late at night with a new girl on the till, when they had to pay you to take your shopping away. In fact they brought in new rules to stop it happening again. There are little notices stuck up at all the checkouts. They have your picture on them. How does it feel to be famous?

Sign Number 10

You're not too proud to wear hand-me-downs from rich friends and relatives. Nor are your kids. But none of you get the chance, because those babies hit the auction site listings quicker than a digital camera can flash.

You examine those cast-offs pretty darn closely, though. Anything not saleable gets dumpstered out the window on the way home. Damn cheapskate friends! They can afford Armani, yet they shop at Walmart?

There, you've read the signs. Now take heed! Beware the warnings, because the next step is becoming the funny lady breathing heavily at yard sales and getting in physical fights when someone else spots the Mickey Mouse vintage phone first. She looks like she's having fun, though... That's some impressive judo knowledge for a lady that age... I guess she must be a WWF enthusiast too... That's one big grin on her face as she holds it aloft in triumph... and...

Can someone call 911?

1: Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 12, No. 4, 397-421 (1984)