Words From Wiser: To Be or Not to Be That is the Question…Frugal or Cheap


From Chuck Wiser, 10/7/21, “I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels”

When the thought entered my mind for this edition of “Wiser Words” my mind was like a LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulation of Emitted Radiation) and clearly focused with an objective in mind. I will get to that objective, but already along my path my brain waves started deflecting as a prism does to a beam of light. Refracting it in multiple directions. See, I’ve already started by providing the “Acronyminal” expansion of the currently used noun or verb term “laser”.

As the local Triple Divide does, to send rivers meandering off in different directions, my thoughts are now meandering. On this “mind river branch”, I digress to mention that there are three Triple Divides in the United States. Montana has one breeding the: Columbia, Mississippi and Nelson rivers; Minnesota has one yielding the: Big Fork, Red and St. Louis rivers; and of course, our blessed Potter County, PA divide blessing us with the tributaries of the: Genesee, Susquehanna and Allegheny Rivers.

One would wonder why I consider shopping and book reading in the same thought, but the common thread is “saving money”. My love of reading started early in life with my anxiously awaited delivery of the Olean Times Herald so I could read Gil Stinger’s motor sports articles. My “frugality” started even earlier as, and my family shudders to often hear me say: “I grew up monetarily ‘poor’.”

I will start out by explaining my savings motivation. When you read as many books as I do, even with a “monthly Book Club,” the expenses build up rapidly. I read well over 100 books in a year’s time. After moving to Wellsville with my “new” bride in the late 60’s I discovered the David Howe Library and its vast resources for my reading pleasures. Frank Slaughter books were aplenty. Book prices today range in the $20 to $30 range for the most part. The Library conveniently reminds me of my savings as noted on the “sign out receipt.” Using an average of $25 per book X 100 books per year, even with simple math I can calculate that I save $2500 a year thanks to the Library. I single out the Wellsville Library as that provides about 90% of my hard copy books, but the Scio Memorial Library, obviously smaller in size but not stature, fills the void when many of the desired books are not in the Wellsville Library, but are, more often than not, in the Scio Library. I also hold a New York Public Library account and until the Covid Pandemic derailed delivery from them I was often able to receive books otherwise not available through the Southern Tier Library System (STLS).

I typically fall in love with an author, and who, with their featured character(s), typically feature books in a series. Many of the newer authors selections are not carried, or completely covered over the range of a series, so I was able to find their books and completed series, via Kindle books featured on Amazon. As a tie to the other “savings” mechanisms I employ, Amazon Prime entitles you to free downloads of a prescribed number of books at no cost using Kindle Unlimited. You can have up to 10 books “signed out” at a time. To order another, you simply return one other. Especially during the upheaval due to the Pandemic, it was convenient to download and read Kindle books. Now that I am midstream in an author’s series, not available in our Libraries, as they often “self – publish”, I continue to use Amazon as a source of some of their books. I still enjoy holding a book in my hands and reading the “old fashioned” way.

Amazon Prime is not free you might think or say. It isn’t. Until recently my monthly subscription rate was $12.99 per month. I just switched to annual billing saving almost $40 a year.

Here is where frugality really comes into the picture. Let me say right up front that I do try to support “shopping local”. Growing up poor taught me to buy as much as you can afford, where you can get it and afford it. Shopping local does not always support both of those objectives. Availability of products is a major driver of that component. A local store cannot, and does not, afford you the choice of selections of products or varieties of products. If you have to travel out of town for a pair of shoes, or clothing, or a larger, more economical size selection of a product, then you tend to do “one stop shopping” at a larger “chain” type store. If tax free gas is available at a location in close proximity to your weekly destination for other product shopping, it is frugal to get your gas there, especially if filling the extra five gallon containers with your lawn tractor gas.

Recent “online shopping” increased not only being financially beneficial, but of necessity, with access and availability limited. Amazon Prime provides free shipping and free returns giving a monetarily advantageous access to products no longer available locally. If you want a 30 Pack of Lorna Doone cookie packets, you have to order them. Free shipping, and yes, free returns or even free replacement, no return, if the package arrives in damaged condition.

I continue with a few anecdotal recollections of what I still say is being frugal.

My family is well used to my frugality, but I guess more aptly now described as “being cheap.” They have been known to help steer me straight. After hearing me say to the “teary eyed” window waitress at the McDonalds Drive through, “Did I say I wanted a cherry pie with that order?”, My youngest son said “You’ve made your point Dad, don’t say any more”.

This picture, taken today, is evidence of the payoff of my earlier “frugality”, but more so of the wisdom and generosity of my wife. In the late 60’s after moving to Wellsville I wanted to explore, and fish, the River (of the Triple Divide) and needed a pair of boots. Ludden’s shoe store had a pair that I thought would be perfect, but they cost $22. I didn’t buy them. I was earning a meager $51 a week, just having started my job at The Air Preheater Company. I’m pretty sure you can see my concern over that expenditure. My wife knew that I wanted the boots badly, but was being realistic balancing their cost and current financial condition. She was persistent in insisting that I could afford them if we scrimped a little and knowing that they should last me  awhile, so, were an “investment”.

My reluctance “caved”, and I bought them. I don’t know what the insulation compound or process was in these boots, but they are STILL used, still warm on my feet, and have even been worn by a third generation of outdoorsmen. Note: They no longer have any tread left so I am searching for a tire tread cutter so I can prolong their use.

I will end with an example on the other end of the “savings” spectrum. During our children’s school days one of them, playing sports, needed a pair of basketball sneakers. The team intended to all wear the same, or similar, sneakers so they were encouraged to buy them through some arrangement for $55 a pair. I refused saying we could get them elsewhere and save some money. Our trek began that weekend and carried over to the next weekend. We travelled to Elmira and to several stores there, necessitating eating at Red Lobster (meal cost, family of 5). Olean was as unsuccessful as well. On the next weekend we traveled to Rochester but with the same problem of not finding the suitable brand/style, at least at a cost savings. I believe at that stop we dined at Olive Garden. (same family of 5, meal cost). I didn’t even calculate the total trip expenses or costs, but reluctantly admitted my failure, and we purchased the sneakers through the school.

Lesson learned! Another one of old friend Tom Geyer’s oft repeated sayings. “Don’t step over a dime to pick up a penny”.

Yesterday would have been, and I guess still is, Tom Geyer’s Birthday. Tom grew up in Bath, NY, and joined The Air Preheater Company before I did but his tenure was abbreviated when he joined the service. Tom was exposed to Agent Orange, during his enlistment, and passed away due to health complications therefrom. Upon fulfillment of his Military duty he rejoined Air Preheater at about the same time that I started work there. It wasn’t only a friendship that began there, but rather a brotherhood.

My Friend, More Like a “Brother”

Sometimes in life you chose your own fate

It may be a friend, it may be a mate

Some friends you find, and in time maybe lose

But once in a lifetime you win when you choose

You can’t pick your family as many will say

But friends are your choice at the end of the day

We first met as friends, tradition surrounds us

Our fam’lies entwined, our love still abounds us

Thru the decades of years’ we’ve shared grief and joy

We shared with our friend of the birth, our first boy

When the love in his life was cut short so brief

We had shared of his joy and then with his grief

We don’t have a choice, who is put on this earth

And our lives not ordained, nor destined at birth

You are not my brother, by birth of our mothers

But you are so to me, so I call you my brother

                                                                          RIP Thomas G. Geyer

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