As a youth he’d collected the pennies from the playground floor and saved them in an old zip-up suitcase that had belonged to his Nan. He loved to sit and count pennies into piles and race toy cars around the wobbling coppery towers.
Snow used to be excellent weather to be miserly in. Kids would build snowman and it gave him the chance to steal the coins they used for the eyes and buttons. Nowadays there were less snowmen and more snow cocks and balls. The kids were getting more vulgar.
Middle age had exacerbated his miserly ways. As a postman he was given a uniform to wear for his deliveries. He didn’t see the need to stop wearing it just because he wasn’t at work. He wasn’t fixed to fashion’s whimsy, he saw no need to spend money on his own clothes when someone else was prepared to stump up for clothing that was perfectly serviceable. If asked, he’d tell you that he quite suited royal blue, it made him look handsome and distinguished.
There was some heart left under that penny-pinching façade. He volunteered two shifts a week in a busy charity shop, but it was an open secret that it was mainly to get first dibs on anything that was donated to the shop. Through this method he got all his books and night time reading for the staff rate of 20p a copy. He’d even sold his television and did away with the necessary licence once he’d realised that a 1000 piece jigsaw took many hours to complete and an adequate diversion between work and bedtime. On top of this pastime material there was an abundance of chipped crockery, used Tupperware, rusty pans, and cloudy, scratched glassware which the shop wasn’t allowed to sell so he took what he wanted to save the charity the bother of landfill. He wasn’t ashamed, in fact quite the reverse; the more he didn’t spend, the more he felt he won at his game.
For a while he’d been a vegetarian as meat went off the menu due to the extra expense. Being a fussy eater this was challenging at first as the only vegetables he liked were potatoes and peas. Once he’d realised that he could make himself eat other foods that he previously dismissed as disgusting then the world was his oyster (well at least a cheaper alternative bi-valve such as a cockle). He’d trawl through the going-off sections of all the major supermarkets, buying bashed tins of mixed beans and odd jars of kosher hot-dog sausage, or those tuna and pineapple vol-au-vents that Asda had put together once and no-one had bought so had sold off at 5p a packet. There were probably still some in the freezer. There were even times when he’d forgo cooking foods to save money on heating foods, so minced beef came from a cold can with a helping of baked beans, also served cold.
He knew the best times to go to a supermarket for a marked-down feast. He loved the expectation at 3.45pm on the Sunday before a bank holiday when the shop would be closing in 15 minutes and would give away steaks for 20p and whole loves of bread for a penny. Like a squirrel burying nuts for the winter, this was the time to stack the freezer with all he could carry for the leaner times ahead. He’d buy family sized apple pies and slice them up to freeze then defrost each slice as necessary.
On the odd time he was invited out to a do where there would be a buffet, he’d take a large Tupperware, hidden in his rucksack, and fill it with chicken drumsticks and sausage rolls. He knew leftover buffet went to waster so he’d squash and pack in as much as possible, living for days on the swag.
Some men needed power, some men needed fame, others booze or drugs or both. But not for him, he was motivated by not spending money, why waste it when you could just as easily not spend it.
When the weather was cold, hours could be spent in public places keeping warm instead of heating the house. There was always something going on in libraries and you could even read their books on comfortable chairs without taking them home. And if he got too many funny looks from over-zealous librarians then he’d head for an art gallery or museum and if it was out of hours, a supermarket. In fact, if you could resist the temptation of what was on offer, an hour or two could easily be wiled away in a large supermarket. In his experience he’d found the pet food aisle and the cereal aisles to be the quietest.
He was always fascinated to see the amount of choice available in supermarkets today. Take stock for instance, did you know that in a typical supermarket there are at least 14 types of beef stock:
- two types of supermarket own, finest and standard
- Knorr simply beef stock
- Knorr rich beef stock pot
- Knorr stock pot beef gel
- Knorr touch of taste concentrated beef bouillon,
- Kallo organic beef stock cubes,
- Kallo just bouillon concentrated beef stock,
- Knorr beef stock cubes,
- Knorr beef stock cubes (low salt),
- Oxo beef stock cubes,
- Oxo beef stock granules, and
- Telma beef stock cubes.
You could go dizzy just thinking about the different cow parts that went in to making all that.
His method of showering meant he switched off the water while lathering. He would handwash his clothes to save on water, powder and electricity. Hot water for the kettle would be measured exactly to what was needed, each mug was filled and emptied into the kettle. Under each tap was placed a jug to catch any errant drips in the night. Nothing was wasted, nothing was discounted in the constant thrift.
His love of counting money had matured to watching it accumulate. No need for piles of pennies any more. He loved to see his bank balance grow steadily and as soon as there was £1,000 in his current account he’d transfer it to another, higher interest account. Just thinking of the build-up of currency in numerous building accounts made him dizzy with glee. All those hundreds and thousands slowly appreciating.
He was so mean that the only pennies he ever spent were in public toilets. Why flush your own toilet, which was on a water meter, when you could flush someone else’s? He could go days without flushing his toilet and would only ever depress the lever after being caught short at home needing a number two. He wasn’t an animal after all.