04 January 2008

Ultimate Cheapskate Entry

I wrote this comment to the Get Rich Slowly entry for a chance to win a copy of 'The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to Riches' by Jeff Yeager. After reading that Jeff's "business card" was a piece of brown paper bag with his information rubber stamped onto it, I realized this is going to be a tough sell, but worth a shot. Since I wrote it and think it's worth sharing, I thought I'd post it here as well.

"I'm pretty frugal, but not nearly as much as my father.

Growing up, my sister and I would sort through aluminum cans and plastic bottles he brought home from work. He raided all the trash cans in his office building to bring these home. When I was younger, we would bring in about $20 a week through this.

Now he works at a tech company where the soda is free and everyone provides him with their bottles at the end of the day. He even set up a deal with the building manager so that he could be the official recycling point for the entire facility! The machines only provided plastic bottles, so very little sorting was necessary, and each one was worth a nickel. Soon enough he was bringing home two big bags of bottles a night and we were making trips to the recycling center every few days.

Each of us could redeem up to $25 worth of bottles at any one point. He would regularly have us go into the recycling center in different groups and wearing different hooded sweatshirts or coats to disguise the fact that we were getting more than our daily allotment of redemption. I stopped him short of taping a fake mustache onto my face.

He's still redeeming cans and bottles to this day and bringing in at least $75/week to the family through his efforts.

To add to this, he will input the codes under the caps on all the different sodas to their respective websites. After several years of this, I own more than my share of branded clothing, towels, blankets, duffel bags, video games, sports equipment, magazine subscriptions, video game systems and, this Christmas, wireless headphones.

The money I earned through my work with those recyclables throughout my childhood paid for a significant chunk of my college education, saving me from the dreaded student loans.

I've asked him if he would stop like he does on the street to pick up a bottle if it were a nickel instead, but without all the work. He says it's worth much more because he gets more satisfaction out of the work and environmental impact involved in picking up that bottle, but that he would definitely stop for a nickel as well."

This is really just the tip of the iceberg, but considering how much our family has gotten out of it, I couldn't resist to tell the tale of my recycling for money days. Are you or any of your family or friends more frugal than my father? Discuss in the comments, please.

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