o c t o b e r 2 0 1 6 A L I V E E A S T B A Y 33 Looking back, I assume my dad was so frugal because he grew up during the Great Depression. For those of you clueless millennial kids, the Great Depression took place between 1929 and the late 1930s. It was a cosmic combination of Black Monday (the stock market crash of 1987) intersecting with the mortgage fall out of 2008 (Think -The Big Short meets Too Big to Fail), but much worse. Somehow my dad always seemed like he was preparing for the Great Depression, Part II. I truly didn't know the depths of my father's frugalness until I became an adult. Before that, I just assumed what he told me was the actual truth when it came to monitoring our household expenses. The following is an example of what we experienced… My dad frequently asked for price checks at the Dollar Store. My dad would never pay for a Mt. Diablo campsite permit, so during the summers we crashed overnight at Osage Park. He told me the baseball dugouts were chain link caves. Fortunately for us, the goose hunting was plentiful. My dad was passionate about finding a good deal, which explains his Christmas shopping excursions to every garage sale in town. When we were little kids, instead of taking us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, he took us to the Dreager's fish and fresh meat department. While I thought it was natural for the majestic Swordfish to sleep on a bed of ice, I did wonder why the Halibut was breaded. Instead of taking us to the Oakland Zoo, we would visit the local SPCA. I was seven before I learned that our Terrier wasn't an aardvark. My dad used to brag that we had waterfront property, but that was only when our septic tank would back up. The only time we went swimming during the summer was when we took a dip in the lake at Oak Hill Park. Going to the drive-in meant sitting in our lawn chairs while watching the neighbors TV through their plate glass window and eating un-popped popcorn from their bird feeder. My dad wanted me to learn an instrument and convinced me, after years of practice, that the kazoo was an integral part of every orchestra. Our "vacation" was a new disk for our Viewfinder. When we went to the park, the ducks would throw bread at us. Kids from third world countries sent us money. Our black and white TV had two channels: On and Off, and I was his remote control. My baseball cleats were actually tennis shoes with nails hammered through the soles. Going out to dinner always included the phrase, "Do you want fries with that?" Instead of getting a chemistry set for my birthday, my dad just gave me a set of test tube shot glasses from Chili's and a Bunsen burner in the shape of a Bic lighter. When I asked for Nike tennis shoes, what I got was a pair of Keds with the “swoosh” drawn on with a Sharpie. At my mother's annual company holiday party, we were the Adopt-a-Family. My dad routinely “borrowed” office supplies from his work… and he was self-employed. If my dad had been at the Last Supper, he would have asked for separate checks. I once asked my dad to borrow $50.00. His response was, “40.00? I haven’t got $30.00. What do you need $20.00 for?” It goes without saying that as an adult I appreciate my father’s life lessons about the value of a dollar. I may be a little freer spending than the old man, but it's not like I have tech stock IPO earnings to throw around on crazy purchases. If I desire a good or service, I instinctively price shop looking for a bargain. I’m not afraid to negotiate for the most favorable terms. It's not even beneath me to pretend I don't speak or understand English. This Halloween, I'm thinking of rocking a new paper bag costume— sassy magazine columnist. I’ll be party-hopping. Instead of paying $0.10 for paper bags at Safeway, I plan to use my recycled grocery bags to reduce my carbon footprint and save the planet. I'll be the guy wearing the Trader Joes/Bev Mo/Goodwill canvas bags. Make sure you have plenty of Twix and Milky Way on hand at your party as I plan to stock up. I'll also take a carton of milk, a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs if you really want to treat me right. As I learned from my dad, they won't say yes if you don't ask them. Apparently frugality is hereditary.
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