Frugal, Cheap and a Cheap Opportunist

For the record, being frugal (a word I hate), means:

  • being a conscious consumer
  • spending your money only on what makes you (and only you) happy
  • making choices with limited impulse buying
  • searching for the best deal for the money and quality you are getting
  • buying quality for what you deem is important
  • having priorities about what’s important in life (a cute new bag or food on the table?)
  • things you buy in the long run cost you LESS

In contrast, being cheap, means:

  • refusing to pay tips or treat others when you go out to eat for various reasons
  • hunting for sales and buying useless items just because they’re cheap
  • spending time, money and gas to chase a buck (no optimization)
  • choosing the cheapest option, ALL THE TIME
  • compromising your sanity by counting toilet paper squares, stepping on different tiles each day, etc
  • being afraid to spend anything and sacrificing yourself
  • things in the long run cost you MORE

When I said that my one sibling was cheap, it got me thinking the other day that he wasn’t really cheap in the sense of that definition above.

He was on WHOLE OTHER level.

You see, there’s being cheap in everything and for everything, including yourself.

This is where you refuse to even go out to eat in a restaurant because you feel physically ill to spend $15 to buy some food, drink watered down beer and then to have to leave a $3 tip afterwards.

And when you do go out to eat, you order water ALL the time, refuse to split the bill with friends evenly (which I also think is stupid), but you literally count every single penny of what everyone ate, with taxes, and their portion of the tip.

At home, you count toilet paper squares to try and see if you could maximize the usage of a single toilet paper roll, you refuse to buy chocolate or candy, and just mix sugar with cocoa powder in a pot to trick your kids, and you buy everything you eat or own at deeply discounted prices, like $0.25 for a shirt at a yard sale is the highest you’d ever spend for a top.

That, is cheap.

But I’d like to say that my brother who I always considered cheap (no, not Mr. Jones), is actually a cheap opportunist.

It is WORSE than being cheap.

And he spends money, believe me. But he refuses to spend it on anyone else but himself (including family). He will spend thousands of dollars on a new gaming or computer system, buy the best clothes, shoes and everything that he thinks is a good deal and good quality… but only if it’s for him.

Case in point:

I went back to visit my brother briefly before seeing my sister, and I dropped by his new apartment and it got late in the night so I said I wanted to grab a bite to eat before we left.

Here’s the conversation that ensued.

FB’s Brother: So, what do you want to eat?

FB: Well, sushi. I really want some good raw fish and rice.

FB’s Brother: Well we don’t HAVE to eat sushi. How about a steakhouse instead.

FB: Fine, whatever. *belly rumble*

FB’s Brother: There’s a Tony Roma’s around the corner. They have pretty good steaks there.

FB: Let’s go.

I’d like to mention at this point, that I had been there for 6 hours, ONLY chauffeuring him around town to run his errands on a Saturday.

All of this, after travelling on a train for 5 hours to get there, running all around Toronto, and then driving an hour and a half to see him before getting to my sister’s place in another town about an hour and a half away.

We get inside, and we get seated. He orders an iced tea, I get a water and we look over the menus.

FB’s Brother: Ahhh.. steak! What are you getting?

FB: Umm.. I guess the chicken pasta. I don’t feel like a heavy steak. It’s too expensive for $27/steak, especially since I can buy more than 8 oz. for $27 and cook it better by myself at home the way I like it.

See, conscious consumption at work here. I didn’t think the steak was worth it and damn it, I had wanted sushi!

FB’s Brother: Oh.

FB: What?

FB’s Brother: Well, can I get a steak?

FB: *shocked silence*

A little bit of history:

I’ve always pay when I visit my family.

This time, I had assumed we would cover our own halves, our own share, or at the very least, he’d MAN UP as a brother, and seeing as I was going out of my way to visit him, drove his ass around all day, and brought gifts to BOOT, he’d treat me to a $13 chicken pasta dinner and not expect ME to pay the bill.

But every time I go to Toronto, see my parents and my brother happens to be there, I always pay.

In all the times I’ve ever eaten out with my family, I pay, because I like treating them and I can afford it.

But so can my brother.

He isn’t poor on minimum wage or working 3 jobs to make ends meet, he’s making a cool $60,000 a year (twice the salary of an average Canadian family), living in a VERY cheap little town, and socking away 75% of his income every month.

I expected this time around, that we’d go dutch (we each pay our own share), or he’d man up and pony up some dinero to treat his little sister to a meal, considering she wanted sushi and he was really pushing this steakhouse on her.


*steam coming out of ears, more angry than amused, and thoroughly shocked*

FB’s Brother: Oh. Why not!?

FB: For every time we’ve gotten together and been in a family setting and you happened to be there, I paid. For everyone. Every. Single. Time. I usually shell out $150/meal each time I come back!

FB’s Brother: Hey! I’ve paid for them too!

FB: You’ve paid for $3 noodles only for Mom once in a while. You don’t ever offer to pay $150 for the entire family and say, “No, FB/FB’s Other Brother, I’ll take care of the cheque this time.” NEVER.

FB’S Brother: That’s a good point.

FB: You are DAMN RIGHT it’s a good point! I expected that we’d pay our own share, OR you’d at least treat ME for all the times I’ve ever paid for your sorry ass!

(I was boiling mad at this point)

FB’s Brother: I guess I shouldn’t have ordered that iced tea, even with the free refills.

FB: …….

We finish our meals, the cheque comes, and he finally picks it up after waiting for me to, and looks at it.

It’s by this point, I have decided that he WILL pay for me, and is not going to get out of this, and the fact that he made that comment about how he had assumed I’d pay, that he ended up going “wild” and getting a $3 overpriced iced tea and was expecting a juicy steak FOR FREE really made me mad.

It’s like when I come into town, I wear a sign on my forehead saying “TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FREE MEALS I PAY FOR!”

Partly my fault. I was too lenient on him in my efforts to be generous.

But secretly, I’ve been waiting the past 8 meals for him to offer to pay once. Even to OFFER would be nice. And he has never done it.

I just kept waiting and waiting for him to offer, or to at least acknowledge that it was not a given birthright of a youngest sister (especially!) to always pay in the company of elder siblings.

In my culture (not that we’re very traditional to begin with), the oldest siblings, especially brothers, ALWAYS pay for the younger siblings, the way I treat my little sister a lot.

And we don’t kvetch over it. If we can’t afford it, we just don’t go out, or I tell her out right that I can’t afford to cover her as well, and we find another way to make it work.


FB’s Brother: *slides the chequebook across the counter*

FB: Hmm. $45. Not bad for 2 people.

FB’s Brother: Yeah. Not bad at all.

FB: Look, I’m not paying. Bottom line. This is the time that you are going to treat me and that’s it.

FB’s Brother: Look, I’ve paid a lot for dinners too!

FB: Not when I have ever been in town!!! I can’t recall a single time you’ve ever freaking paid. And considering that it’s been the past 8 times that I’ve paid $150/meal with each person, that’s $1200.

FB’s Brother: But you can afford it! That’s like 10 hours of work for you.

FB: Only when I’m on contract. I am not on contract right now. And I’m not saying that I resented paying for everyone those times, but the kicker is that you can afford it too. Maybe not as often, sure, but once in a while. And you can’t just take all the time and not give anything back.

FB’s Brother: ……. Fine. So.. uh.. what do we tip nowadays?

FB: Oh you’ve got to be kidding me. It’s 15% unless you never, ever want to eat in this town or this restaurant AGAIN, and are going to use cash so that they can’t find your name, hunt you down and KICK YOUR CHEAP ASS. So that’s $6.75 as a tip, I’d leave $7.

FB’s Brother: WHAT?!?!?

FB: 15% of $45 is $6.75. I’d leave $7 because she did a good job. If you can’t afford to eat out and leave a tip, DON’T EAT OUT.

FB’s Brother: Why can’t I just leave a $5 bill?

FB: Because that is barely over 10%!!!!

FB’s Brother: *grumbles*….But that’s a very expensive $52 burger. *grumble*

Waitress: So! How are we paying?

FB’s Brother: By credit card. And I’m treating my sister tonight.

FB: How nice. Thank you.

Waitress: Oh that’s nice! What a GREAT brother!

FB: No, it’s nice because the last 8 times we’ve gone out, I’ve paid for him every single time and it’s time for his cheap ass to pay up, so I’m making him.

Waitress: *laughing*

FB: I even got the water so he wouldn’t have to pay for an iced tea. *wink*

Waitress: She’s being a fabulous sister then!

FB’s Brother: When I go out with my friends next week for dinner, I just won’t get anything so I don’t have to pay. I’m already over my budget.

FB: *rolls eyes*

He took the harsh ribbing and shaming in good stride, but a little shaming never hurt anyone into good manners. Works on strangers on buses, works on brothers.

However, he did repeat the entire night after I drove him home, about how he spent $52 on a burger.

Note, I ate the pasta. He got the iced tea, and he wanted appetizers (before he found out I was not paying for a steak or at all), and he got the burger.

He didn’t even SEE that it was $52 being spent on a meal for the both of us. He saw it as an expensive waste of $52 for JUST A BURGER. Not that he was treating his sister, or that it was time for him to reciprocate and be a nice, welcoming host brother.

No everyone, he was being a cheap opportunist.

I’m done with treating him. It makes me mad that I am related to someone so damn cheap (he kind of gets it from my dad I think, but even my dad is more subtle and WILL pay once in a while).

When we go out to eat, or with my parents, I will make it clear, up front that I am only paying for my parents and myself.

He’s lost his privilege of being treated like a decent brother.

And in the end, it didn’t even feel like a treat! More like a fight! I mugged him and made him pay!!!!

Clearly, this is a parasitic relationship that does not know the meaning of ‘give and take’.

Please, if you recognize yourself in the above story, you have to understand that you are a CHEAP OPPORTUNIST, and it is far worse than being CHEAP.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.