Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cheap Date

As usual, winter is taking a chunk out of our budget. We’ve been trying to cut back on just about everything in order to pay our heating bill and keep the feed tractors full of diesel fuel. This is when I realize the most valuable things I learned in college had nothing to do with the biomechanics of anterior cruciate ligament injuries or the proper technique for taping an ankle sprain.

In college, we learned you can survive for thirteen days on twenty-four dollars and seven cents. To subsist on a diet of hamburger, ramen noodles and that case of French fries your roommate’s boyfriend snagged when the frozen food truck hit black ice on the interstate. That you can’t turn the thermostat in a single wide trailer below sixty-two degrees in the winter without the pipes freezing (and when the pipes do freeze, certain females will call in sick rather than go to work without washing their hair). We learned exactly how far a pickup could go on empty.

At my penny-pinching best, though, I couldn’t start one side of Rooster. He took frugality to the point of near death.

When you first met him, he seemed as normal as most cowboys, if quite a bit more entertaining. It wasn’t until college rodeo season started that his true nature began to emerge. Diesel engines were just starting to get a toe-hold in the pickup market back then, so Rooster drove a gas guzzler, pulling a twenty foot stock trailer with at least five horses in the back, four guys crammed into the cab and a couple more stuffed up in the gooseneck to split the fuel. In other words, just like the rest of us.

Our first clue that he might be operating on a slightly different wavelength was on the drive home from Cody, Wyoming. Rooster pointed the rig down a particularly steep and winding hill…and turned off the engine.

“Saves on gas,” he declared, as he wrestled a few tons of metal and horseflesh and screaming passengers to the bottom without the benefit of power steering. Or brakes.

By the end of the season, the number of people lining up to jump in with Rooster had dwindled. Even his girlfriend was beginning to have doubts, but by virtue of attending a different college, she never had to travel with him. Then one weekend he came to Bozeman and they went to an event at the Montana State University fieldhouse.

The fieldhouse is situated on the brink of a small hill, with the main parking lot on the upper level. As you pull out and head toward town, you’re going down an incline. On this particular evening the parking lots were packed. When everyone tried to leave at once, the usual stop and go traffic jam resulted.

There they sat, idling away precious fuel. Finally, Rooster couldn’t stand it any more. He switched off the pickup and turned to his girlfriend.

“Hop out."

“What? You can’t leave the pickup in the middle of the street.”

“We’re not.”

Nothing she could say would change his mind, including pointing out that it was her pickup and her gas. With several hundred people looking on, they got out and pushed that pickup twenty feet at a time, down the street to the stop sign at the bottom of the hill. Rooster was downright proud of himself. He figured he saved at least half a gallon of gas.

The relationship, however, was beyond salvage.


Gary Corby said...

Are you sure Rooster wasn't Scottish?

Anonymous said...

Okay, Rooster was cheap.

When I was in college, I got $200/month. From that came rent, phone, utilities, gas, food, entertainment (i.e. booze), laundry...you name it, I had to pay for it. I learned how to get by on very little. my favorite was chicken pot pies, 4 for $1.00!

Linda G. said...

Way back when DH and I bought our first house, the week before the mortgage payment was due was always a culinarily, um, creative time. (I was a poor grad student and he worked in theater, and we thought we could afford a house? Ha!) One of our staples was the blue-box mac 'n cheese casserole -- just make the (then) 3-for-a-dollar box of gooey goodness, add a can of generic tuna fish and a bag of frozen mixed veggies, and voila! Dinner (and sometimes lunch and breakfast) is served. It always got us through a couple of days, especially if supplemented with generic peanut butter on bread from the day-old bin at the local bakery.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Mac and cheese! How could I forget? But I can't do tuna in it. Sorry but, eeuw. I am not a tuna casserole fan. Plus my parents kept me pretty well stocked up with homegrown hamburger, so my version always had beef.

The first month I lived in South Dakota I had all my moving costs plus rent plus the deposit on my apartment. I bought a loaf of bread and a big package of bologna and ate sandwiches until I got my first paycheck.

Linda G. said...

We couldn't afford hamburger. ;)

DeadlyAccurate said...

I ate a lot of fried rice in college. A 50 lb. bag of rice goes a long way. Add some veggies, a diced chicken breast, and a scrambled egg and soy sauce, and you have a nice filling meal. (We did always buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, though. It was worth the extra cost, and we simply reduced the amount we ate rather than deboning chickens). We also worked at food places, too, so getting free pizza or Chinese food made our food bill stretch.

Bobbie said...

When my brother was in college, he worked the night shift at 7-11 to support himself. He'd buy a hotdog bun for 10 cents, load it w/ketchup and mustard, and call it dinner. My husband is frugal as well, but nothing like his parents, who keep the greeting cards they give each other and recycle them through the years to give to each other *again* (crossing out his name to put in hers and vice versa, of course).

Crystal Posey said...

When we first relocated to where we live now, we were unaware of how hard it was to find a job. Our church housed us in a large open building. No walls and peeling paint. The Husband finally got a job at the local tv station making only $60/week. We had a one child full time, one every other weekend, and I was pregnant. We had to have gas money to drive 45 minutes to the doctor every two weeks (I was near the end of the pregnancy). We were given and two eye, electrical campers stove thingy. I don't know what you call them, but they work great. We ate more chicken sandwiches than I care to remember. They were Tyson's and looked like this: http://www.kaboodle.com/hi/img/b/0/0/62/2/AAAAC8BXBgsAAAAAAGIu1g.jpg

Cheap, easy, and we ate them at least every other night, sometimes more. But it worked.

Linda G. said...

Oh, I just remembered another college favorite: beat an egg and add it to Ramen noodles (or Oodles of Noodles, or whatever brand is cheapest in a given week). Makes a passable egg drop soup. Quick and easy, too.

Jean said...

We did the ramen noodle thing too. But instead of as soup, we'd drain the water, add about half a slice of cheese and a little ground beef if we had it.

Peanut butter toast made a nice meal too.

Hubby used to get the boil-in-a-bag things that were 4 for a dollar too. Serve over toast and dinner was done.

Anonymous said...

Rooster's thriftiness may have been a genetic inheritance.