I often make fun of myself about the lengths I will go to be frugal. I tell myself, “I wasn’t always like this!” But then I’ll remember an incident from long ago and the inner dialogue pipes in, “Hello-o-o, yes you were!” I must admit I’ve had some really asinine ideas to save money. Here are four really stupid attempts at frugality.
Hot Oil Treatment for Hair
In my senior year of high school, VO5 Hot Oil Treatments became the rage. I can’t remember what a kit cost back in the 1970s, but it couldn’t have been much. It only sells for $3.99 today. I had thick, red, wavy waist-length hair, and I wore it loose. Friends and beauticians (yes, we called hair stylists beauticians back then) would kill for my hair. But I always found it hard to manage, and I was seduced by the VO5 ads in Glamour Magazine that promised radiant and silky hair.
But the thought of paying for VO5 seemed ridiculous, especially when you consider that the Wesson Oil sitting on my kitchen counter top was free. So after school one afternoon I decided to give myself a hot oil treatment with my mother’s Wesson Oil. I combed a cup full of warmed oil through my hair and let it sit for a half hour. Then I rinsed it out, and continued along with my regular shampoo and conditioner routine. Immediately, I could sense something was wrong. My hair was heavier than usual, and it was clumping so badly I could barely run my fingers through it.
After shampooing my hair several more times, it became clear the oil was not coming out. Even when my hair dried, I looked like I had just gone for a swim in a dirty lake. I started to freak out and tried to blot out the oil with several bath towels. But I just ended up with a mess on my hands.
The next morning I begged my mother to let me stay home from school. She might have agreed but she was so pissed at me for ruining her towels and pillowcases that she made me go to school just to punish me. I trotted off to school with my hair in a pony-tail and a bandana on top of my head. We were still on the fringes of the hippie era, so I looked cool.
I didn’t get too much flak at school since everyone just thought I was making a hippie fashion statement. But it took a full two weeks of washing my hair twice a day before the oil finally disappeared. I vowed that I’d never do something that stupid again. Sad to say, years later, I allowed a beauty school drop-out friend to cut my hair because I was too cheap to go to a salon. I ended up with a buzz cut and one less friend.
I loved a pair of Dr. Scholl’s sneakers I bought in Walmart for $19. When one sneaker started to come apart at the seams, I didn’t want to throw them out. I only had them for a few months and was disturbed they deteriorated so quickly. So I emailed Dr. Scholl’s and asked for a refund. They said I could send the sneakers back, but they would only refund me if an “inspector” determined the workmanship was faulty. It was hardly worth the effort to pack them up and bring them to the post office.
Since the tear was small and unobtrusive I decided to mend the sneaker myself. First I tried to patch it with an extremely thin patch—the kind used for fixing tents. I thought a small piece affixed with Shoo Goo onto the inside of my sneaker would work. But getting the patch to stick to the inside proved impossible when I couldn’t turn the sneaker inside-out.
Next, I searched for a small cloth patch to cover the seam on the outside that would not make me look like Forrest Gump. I found these cute, colorful little cloth stars on Etsy. They’re actually sold as buttons since they have two tiny little button holes. But I used them as patches. I patched the one sneaker successfully with Shoo Goo, and then I patched the other one so they’d match.
I was very proud of myself for my resourcefulness. Isn’t that sneaker beautiful?
It’s not nearly as lame as Dr. Penny Pincher’s tennis shoe patched up with duct tape.
Well, I really thought my patched up sneakers looked way cool—until I visited Mr. G’s family. My mother-in-law took one look at them and begged me to buy new ones. “Why?” I asked. “Don’t you like my groovy handiwork?” She said the sneakers would look groovy on the feet of her five-year-old niece—not her fifty-five year old daughter-in-law. I was totally bummed out! After ten minutes of wound-licking, I conceded to go shopping with her. But only to Kohl’s since I had a 30% off coupon.
Cheap Hotel in Charlotte
Prior to moving to Charlotte we made several field trips to check out neighborhoods. Finances were tight and I didn’t want to blow a lot of money on hotels. For our first trip, I made a two night reservation at a Super 8 Motel on Sugar Creek Drive, off of I-85. This was around 2004/2005 and TripAdvisor was not yet a household name—at least not in our house.
When we entered the Super 8 Motel lobby, half a dozen teenagers were milling about by the entrance. They seemed a little shifty (what teenagers hang out in a motel lobby?), but the motel staff was cordial and professional so we ignored our instinct to bolt.
After we settled into our room, we realized we were not alone. A cockroach the size of Groovy Cat’s paw made its way slowly across the bureau. “OK”, I thought to myself. “We’re from New York. We’re used to bugs. It’s one bug.” And then there were two. And then there were three.
Mr. Groovy and I scooped up our belongings and got the hell out of the Super 8, quickly. The trail of smoke we left behind probably gave those cockroaches whiplash. And then we headed for the nearest Hampton Inn.
Even today Mr. Groovy still begs me when I make our travel arrangements. “PLEASE, would you pick a decent hotel!?” But I’ve learned my lesson. And here’s one for you. Should you find yourself in Charlotte anywhere near Sugar Creek Drive, run like the devil.
Theater Tickets in Louisville
One night during our recent vacation in Louisville, Kentucky, we were looking for something offbeat to do. As we walked down Main Street, we passed the Kentucky Science Center, and a marketing guy standing outside got our attention. He was selling tickets for an all-night beer and wine tasting event. Mr. Groovy was psyched to give it a try, but I thought the $25 ticket prices were high. Besides, I wanted to check out the box office at the Alley Theater down the street. It was opening night of EVIL DEAD The Musical, and I had always heard wonderful things about the Alley Theater, back in my acting days. Too bad I didn’t realize the references were for the Alley Theater in Houston—not the Alley Theater in Louisville.
We took a walk down to the box office, and tickets were only $15, Mr. Groovy agreed to see the play, but only if we would not sit in the “Splatterzone.” That was where the audience would get splashed with blood during the course of the play. I was totally fine with that.
The play opened with the eight actors singing their way from the back of the house, through the audience and to the stage. “This could be really promising,” I thought. And it went downhill from there. The actors tried their best, but several of them just could not act or sing. One character got killed off, and after she became a ghoul, she kept reappearing like a jack-in-the-box through a trap door. Another actor had a long tap dancing sequence, and he couldn’t dance to save his life.
But the most pathetic part was that Splatterzone. It was rigged with little helicopter-like devices hanging above the seats. Every time a character was stabbed or shot, the devices spun around and sprayed the audience members sitting in the Splatterzone with stage blood. The first time it happened, OK we chuckled. Twelve times later it was not funny.
After the show, the actors stood in costume in a receiving line to greet the audience. Mr. Groovy walked up to the star and asked if he’d pose with him for a photo. The actor was basking in the afterglow of his opening night performance. And as I lifted my phone to take a shot, Mr. Groovy put his arm around the actor and said, “Thanks, man. You look exactly like my cousin Sammy.” The actor’s face dropped and I nearly dropped my phone. Mr. G didn’t say “Good show” or “Well done.” All he could eke out was that the guy looked like his cousin.
As we left the building I elbowed Mr. Groovy and told him what an insult it was to say that to an actor. But Mr. Groovy said he couldn’t think of anything nice to say. I can’t fault him for that. Sitting through the show was torture. If they had cut out about 45 minutes of dialogue, and recast 6 out of the 8 actors, it could have been brilliant!
Epilogue: Will this be my fifth stupid attempt at frugality?
I’ve wanted to buy a tablet since before Thanksgiving. Mr. Groovy thinks I should get the Ipad Mini 2, which sells for $269. I’m uncomfortable spending so much on a tablet with a three-year old operating system. And Apple is about to come out with the Ipad Mini 5, which should drive down the price for the Mini 2. I’m also considering the cheaper Samsung Galaxy A8, which sells for $199. Or I may spring for the better Samsung Galaxy S3, with twice as much memory as the Ipad Mini 2. It sells for $299. Mr. Groovy would be fine with that too. He’s always telling me to spend some money on myself, but I have trouble with that. I’ll probably procrastinate a few more weeks before making a purchase. But I better buy the right tablet because if Mr. Groovy hears me cursing at the screen while waiting impatiently for a website to load, I’ll never hear the end of it.
Do you have trouble spending money on yourself?
What blunders have you made going the cheap route, rather than buying the right product or hiring the right professional?