Gensheimer: How to be a cheapskate

By Alie Gensheimer

You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I am the cheapest person alive. I take after my granny. While she and I tend to dress fashionably, dine at fine restaurants and frequent the symphony, we always find a way to save money, thanks to that cheap gene somewhere in our DNA.

Having spent years practicing, my granny and I bring a new meaning to the word “cheap.” No longer does it involve missing out on all the finer things in life. Rather, you can live lavishly and find little ways to beat the system and conserve money, simply by learning where to spend and where to save.

Take these helpful hints from us veteran cheapskates, and you will learn to live like kings and queens. Well, almost.

When it comes to traveling, don’t skimp on the entire experience. Sure, you should fly Southwest and rent a compact car, but don’t, by any means, feel the need to lodge at a Motel 6.

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Granny and I took a spring break trip to Pheonix a couple of years ago and stayed in one of the most inexpensive rooms at a lush, five-star resort, the Biltmore. Despite the low room bill, the room was still luxurious, complete with thick bath towels, bathrobes and marble floors. The best part about staying at the Biltmore, though, was being able to use the seven pools and dine at the high-end restaurants.

Of course, when it came to dining at an expensive resort, Granny and I knew how to save a few bucks. First, we split an entrée — a simple way to minimize the tab.

However, be sure to search the menu for a split plate charge, a high fee to divvy the dish on two separate plates.

If this is the case, don’t inform your waiter that you’re splitting the meal. Instead, just dive in with two forks. Order a side salad and split a dessert to make sure you don’t leave hungry.

At breakfast at the Biltmore, one order of coffee comes with a full pot and one mug. Two orders still come with only one pot of coffee, albeit two mugs. By the second day, Granny and I figured that we were getting charged double for the same amount of coffee when we each ordered it for breakfast. Therefore, only one of us ordered coffee and we shared the mug. Simple.

Yes, the rest of our family found this hilarious, but we were quite proud of ourselves. Why would we pay for two coffees when we would get the same amount by ordering one? Now I assume things don’t work this way at every high-end dining institution, but these are tips to keep in mind.

When Granny and I see a buffet, we think “jackpot.” Granny usually eyes a few items on the buffet but also finds at least one menu item potentially palatable. Hence, I order the buffet and can bring her the select dishes she wants from it, and she can still order off the menu — and needless to say, buffets are all you can eat.

When we’re not eating while on vacation, we often go to the movie theater. But frequenting the movies can rack up quite the bill, despite the senior, student and matinee discounts. And movie concessions? We should be getting a meal for those kinds of prices. For that reason, and because we’re health conscious, we bring our own popcorn.

Granny’s specialty, which she has passed on to me, is to pop her own popcorn on the stove with the smallest amount of oil and a pinch of salt. She pours it into a brown lunch bag and supplements it with a can of Coke and some Dots candy.

Not only does this save us thousands of calories and grams of fat from the salt and butter drenched on movie theater popcorn, but also hundreds of dollars over the years.

Lastly, if you’re not satisfied with your service, meal, etc. speak up! As long as you are not satisfied, there is always a chance for receiving a free dessert, a coupon or anything else with the word “complimentary” in front of it. Remember that an unhappy customer often becomes a satisfied cheapskate.

E-mail Alie at [email protected]