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People Can Surprise You

October 7, 2011

My father is one of the cheapest men in America. Much of my childhood was spent going store to store, brandishing an assortment of coupons in order to accumulate absurd amounts of a variety of products. Getting a good deal is a mark of honor for my father, and I was his accomplice in the endless pursuit of a sale.

cheese puff balls, snacks

Yep, I ate far more of these than I'd like to admit. Photo courtesy of Ed Kohler.

There was the time he got a deal on cheese puff balls. We saw those in our lunch boxes about every day for a year. Or the time that he discovered a sale on chicken – $1 per pound. This just happened to coincide with a coupon for $1 off of a pound of chicken. After spending hours clipping hundreds of these coupons and purchasing an extra freezer, we were the happy owners of enough chicken to last several years, all purchased for the mere price of the tax on the chicken.

Dinner every night included chicken. Roasted chicken. Fried chicken. Chicken wings. Chicken legs over rice. Rotisserie chicken. Barbeque chicken. Oh, and don’t forget the leftover chicken sandwiches and soup.

Let’s just say that I was really happy when a hurricane made us lose power just long enough that we lost about six months’ worth of chicken. I only recently started enjoying chicken again.

Remember when Burger King came out with their new French fries recipe and offered everyone free fries for one day? Well, that was the one occasion where I was permitted to miss a day of school. We traveled to every Burger King in the tri-city area to gather free samples.

Growing up, I didn’t think that my dad was cheap. I thought we were poor. I mean, I paid 25 cents for my lunch at school, whereas all my peers paid $1.50. I wouldn’t qualify for reduced lunch if we weren’t poor, would I? In hindsight, I realize that my dad probably, um, fibbed a little on the qualification forms. Or maybe it was an honest mistake. He probably left off a zero on his salary or something. Totally accidental.

Picture of me and my father

This is one of the only pictures I could find of me and my father. Mental note #1: Take more pictures! Mental note #2: Tell Dad to open his eyes next time!

Of course there was also the time that we moved from Germany to New York (my dad was in the Army), and had to stay in a hotel until we found a new home. No biggie, right? Well, we were given a daily budget for our hotel. Said budget included two hotel rooms – there would be four people staying in the hotel, after all. I think you can guess where this story is going. In order to pocket half of our “per diem,” my father booked only one hotel room. He told the staff it would only be him and my step mother staying in the room. Then, for the next two weeks, my sister and I had to sneak unnoticed up a back stairwell into the hotel room and sleep on the floor.

I have about a million of these stories. My dad is a character. It’s endearing. Sure, the fact that our garage always looked like a grocery store – well, a grocery store that only sells about five products at a time – was strange, but at least we always had plenty of food. And his antics provided me with lots of stories to tell at parties. Most importantly, my father taught me the value of a dollar. While I don’t often clip coupons myself, I can find a mean sale and I’m pretty darn cheap.

When my uncle died, my dad inherited his condominium in Washington, D.C. On Father’s Day this year, we were cooking out (thankfully not chicken), and we learned that my father had an offer on the condo.

“You know what you should do with all that money?” I asked my father, jokingly. “You should take us on a family vacation.”

We have never been on a family vacation. Are you kidding me? That stuff costs money, people. My dad doesn’t spend money if he can help it.

“The only place I’d take you is…” he started. I awaited his sarcastic response. Where might he say? Sam’s club for lunch? This was a favorite of his – he’d offer to take you out to lunch and then you’d realize “lunch” was free samples at Sam’s club.

“…Hawaii,” he finished.

family in Hawaii wearing leis

I love love love this picture of my family in Hawaii. Too bad I wasn't born yet.

Once we picked our chins off the ground, we started to talk about it. My father was once stationed in Hawaii, in fact, my sister Natasha was born there. I hadn’t been born yet when the family was there, and I’ve always been jealous of the pictures of my mom, dad and sisters wearing leis. What I haven’t been jealous of is their harrowing tales of flying cockroaches, but don’t get me started on that.

That Father’s Day was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve ever spent with my dad. We spent the entire day talking about where we would go, if we were to go to Hawaii. He told us about how he used to make doughnuts for my mom and all about their favorite beach. He talked excitedly about all the places he’d love to show us, and my sister and I looked up flight and hotel costs. I’ve never seen my father so excited about anything.

On the way home, I realized that it would never happen. I mean, my dad is too cheap for a trip to Hawaii. Nevermind that getting to Hawaii is incredibly expensive from the East Coast. So, I all but put the idea out of my head.

The next day, my father called and asked if I could get about two weeks off from work in January. Could I? Absolutely!

And that night, my dad booked a trip for him, my two sisters, my step mom and myself to Hawaii.

Now, don’t you go thinking that my dad is a changed man. Remember my theory: people don’t change. Although, I do think that his recent cancer treatment has impacted his life view. But, he’s still as cheap as ever. When we are in Hawaii, he has big plans of going to the commissary (the military grocery store) for most of our meals, and he’s adamant that we are going to save money everywhere we can.

I’m not complaining. I’ll be in Hawaii. Not much can faze me if I’m on a beach in Hawaii. In fact, I’ve been dying to be on a good beach since I cancelled the honeymoon. And, the trip falls during my birthday. So really, we’re all going to Hawaii to celebrate my birthday. Isn’t that sweet?

And don’t you worry – my dad got us two rooms this time.

People can surprise you.

Has anyone surprised you recently?

Copyright 2011. Simply Solo blog by Catherine Gryp. All Rights Reserved.

51 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2011 8:43 am

    Such an interesting story, thanks for sharing! 😀

  2. Ellen permalink
    October 7, 2011 9:00 am

    Yes, this is very sweet. 🙂 You better blog about it!

    • October 8, 2011 11:46 pm

      Thanks, Ellen. Don’t you worry – I’ll be blogging about it. It’s about the most interesting thing going on in my life, I’m out of blogging material! LOL 🙂

  3. October 7, 2011 9:25 am

    Take it from me (the Cheapy McFrugalPants of cheapness). That. Is. LOVE.

  4. October 7, 2011 9:58 am

    love to see old family photographs.

  5. October 7, 2011 10:15 am

    That’s so great that your dad is taking you and the family to Hawaii! I hope you have a fun time. Can you ask your dad if I can come, too? =)

    • October 8, 2011 11:44 pm

      Haha, thoughts! Wish you could come but it’s immediate family only! He won’t even let my sister bring her husband. LOL! It’s like we are having the family vacation we should have had in middle/elementary school! Can’t wait 🙂

  6. October 7, 2011 11:34 am

    What a fabulous story to share! 🙂

  7. Just Saying permalink
    October 7, 2011 12:09 pm

    Great story! I had the “same Dad” minus the vacations if they weren’t revovling around camping/hunting.

    Love the story.

    • October 8, 2011 11:43 pm

      Thanks, Just Saying. My dad was never an outdoorsy guy – Thank God because I’m not AT ALL! lol 🙂

  8. October 7, 2011 12:30 pm

    Catherine, HOW EXCITING!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 I just got back from Hawaii… and even going with my ex’s mom it was AMAZING. I’m soooo excited for you… and your dad sounds awesome. Dads are funny people, aren’t they? 🙂 Mine was all about halloween costumes. And when your dad works at a steel drum recycling plant… well, you end up being toxic waste. Ha! Sounds like you were loved as much as I was & that makes me happy. I CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR ALL ABOUT IT!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • October 8, 2011 11:42 pm

      Haha, that’s too funny about your dad and the Halloween costumes. Please write a blog post about this soon so I can hear some more of his creations 🙂
      I am so excited! Glad you had fun in Hawaii – in three months I’ll be there too!

  9. October 7, 2011 1:21 pm

    This was great. Your Dad sounds like a lovely man. From a life eating chicken to a trip to Hawai sounds a fantastic change of gear. I’m very pleased for you. I thought this was a great post and will be visiting this Blog again

    • October 8, 2011 11:40 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I am so excited … it’s going to be a great trip. Not just the trip – the time with family. And I’ll tell you guys all about it!

  10. mom permalink
    October 7, 2011 2:34 pm

    Just for the record I make thee donuts 🙂

  11. natasha permalink
    October 7, 2011 3:36 pm

    He use to also bribe us with pot-pies. There were a special treat, and we were only allowed to have them when we were extra good… wasn’t until years later that we learned pot-pies cost a whopping 50cents.

    • October 8, 2011 11:39 pm

      Hehe Natasha – I’ve been craving one of those pot pies recently. I also used to bribe us with Totino’s pizza. I thought Totino’s was SO expensive, so I had to do tons of chores and be on my very best behavior to get it. Turns out Totino’s was like 2 for a dollar. LOL! Can’t say I blamed Dad though – he got lots of chores out of us, good behavior, for something as cheap as a pot pie or frozen pizza. I’m probably going to do the same thing to my kids!

  12. annie permalink
    October 7, 2011 3:50 pm

    I can totally relate! Lunch with my dad consists of anything off the dollar menu at Wendy’s (his favorite “restaurant”). If we ever went to an actual restaurant as kids, we had to order water and only items off the “ala carte” menu. I think we are still traumatized as adults, my sisters and I totally feel guilty for ordering a diet coke with a meal! My dad will always be that way, and we are grateful for the lessons we’ve learned from him (and sometimes we have a few chuckles at his expense!) Recently, my dad shocked me when he splurged and bought himself his favorite car – like he had when he was young. I came to his house one day, and it was just sitting in the driveway, Usually we have to “visit” his big purchases at the store about 8-9 times before he finally decides he can spend the money on something! Taking a ride with him in that car for the first time was really special, because I could tell how excited and nostalgic he was about it.

    You will have a blast in Hawaii, truthfully it is not the meals and expenses you will cherish, it will be the time spent with loved ones.

    • October 8, 2011 11:37 pm

      My dad is a fan of the dollar menu too!! You NEVER got a value meal unless you had a damn good coupon to go along with it. LOL. I have some of the same survivor guilt as you and your sisters do! When I bought my car, I had so much buyer’s remorse. Until I realized where it was coming from… my cheapness growing up. Now I’m trying to enjoy my car more and not feel so guilty about the money.

      I LOVE the story of your dad buying his dream car. That just shows that even the cheapest people have things that are worth more to them than money! I love how you had to visit big purchases at the store before he bought it – I’m that way too. Appreciate your commenting and your sharing your stories 🙂

  13. October 7, 2011 3:54 pm

    I wouldn’t call it cheap. Thrifty maybe…because I’m almost the same way. For me, most of my grocery shopping consists of buying only items that are on sale, or recently reduced prices.

    I often walk out of the store with 3-4 bags of food for no more than $25.

    But sometimes you do have to stop the frugality and treat yourself (or others).

    Great story. Sounds like your dad and I are on a similar page.

    • October 8, 2011 11:32 pm

      Haha, Matthew. Do you also buy things in bulk when they are on sale? That’s probably my dad’s biggest vice! I’m all about finding a good sale – but having 200 of something you don’t really like in the garage isn’t the best situation lol 🙂 One time my dad bought a ton of Miracle Whips because he got them for almost free. Turns out, the entire family hates Miracle Whip. That’s the only time I can remember my dad allowing us to get rid of something he found on sale!

  14. October 8, 2011 12:51 am

    Kinda off topic, but being January baby myself, I just had to say – yay!

  15. October 8, 2011 8:28 am

    Awesome, how nice for you all. I mean who really has family vacations when they are adults?? That is great. I just know you will have lots of stories to tell us when you get back we all will be watching for them. Have the best time ever. Yeah!!!! 🙂

    • October 8, 2011 11:29 pm

      I know! What’s awesome is that we are having this family vacation at an age where I’m going to remember every detail. And I can adequately appreciate the time spent with family. I’ll definitely tell you guys all about it!!

  16. Nick H. permalink
    October 8, 2011 2:42 pm

    Speaking of Dads….I got a couple of good ones. Stories that is, not Dads. Mine used to take me to Denny’s on my Birthday because kids eat free. Only problem was I had about 4 Birthdays a year. There was the time we watched the movie “Misery”, based on the Stephen King book, and I loved it so much that he gave it to me for Christmas. The actual copy that we had watched months before. I noticed the tattered corners of the case the tape came in. Plus it had his girlfriend’s initials on it. He took out an ad in the newspaper under the business moniker “ODM”. He offered a pamphlet on how to make money, all you had to do was send him 10 dollars. The pamphlet described in detail how to take out an ad in the newspaper and send a pamphlet for 10 dollars. ODM stood for “One Desperate Man”. Looking back, I realize he wasn’t teaching me the value of a dollar, he was cheating his way through life. I suppose I am grateful that, while he only got to see me every two weeks, he at least tried. And finally, he, like your father, had an opportunity to do something great. He won an all expense paid trip to the Super Bowl in 1996. Cowboys vs. Steelers. Got to party with celebs, got spending cash; the whole shebang. He took his girlfriend and not his only son. I was sixteen. Your father may have been “cheap”, but at least he taught you something and he isn’t selfish. God rest my father’s soul. Good post! Sorry my response was so long.

    • October 8, 2011 11:27 pm

      Wow … thanks for sharing. I believe that most people work with what they have and do the best they can. And some people’s “best” just isn’t that great. And they may never know it. I guess you just have to focus on the positives – which is what I’ve done with the people in my life that are less than what I would hope they would be. Your father spent time with you and he loved you. He made some bad personal decisions, but at the end of the day, you just have to embrace whatever good was there. It’s not always easy but it’s probably the only way you can come to peace with it.

  17. October 8, 2011 6:54 pm

    I’ve been there twice — doesn’t matter where you eat, you’ll love it! Buy yourself a piece of art from one of the local artists while you’re there, and January is a great time for whale watching! 🙂

    • October 8, 2011 11:22 pm

      I’ve heard that about whale watching! I’m so excited. I’ll have to pick your brain some more before we go 🙂

  18. October 8, 2011 10:42 pm

    My father also has cancer (prostate @ 82 yrs.).

    He did surpise us all when I last visited a month ago — he played ping-pong table tennis with one of his grandsons.

    We had NEVER seen our father play ping pong table tennis in our lives before. So first time for us to witness this. He did play it as a teen. He is not a sports oriented father. (But it weren’t for his cancer, he has no respiratory, cardiovascular, etc. problems. Just good diet. He may actually be underweight, as he has been for most of his life.)

    Have a great visit, Catherine. Treasure the trip with him.

    • October 8, 2011 11:22 pm

      Hey Jean,
      Thanks for sharing that with me. Great story and I’m so happy your dad had the chance to play ping pong with his grandsons. I hope they hold that memory forever. I am really looking forward to the trip – it’s so important for us to spend this time as a family. I’m very lucky to have this chance, especially after the health scare this year.

  19. Debbie permalink
    October 9, 2011 6:33 pm

    please do not forget the doritos…it was cheesy balls and doritos…man for years and years i never could look at one. To this day i still dont like cheese balls….what else? I do know he also taught me a value of a money. When i worked bagging at the commissary he used to make me put half in the bank. I know i nursed on that for years after coming home.

    • October 13, 2011 8:15 pm

      For some reason I can’t remember the Doritos! Maybe I blocked that particular memory out? 🙂

  20. October 10, 2011 9:36 am

    I LOVE this – this kind of makes me love your Dad, too.

    Also, he could have been on “Extreme Couponing” on TLC had he been discovered sooner…

    • October 13, 2011 8:09 pm

      I’ve thought the very same thing! He is retiring soon, so I think his couponing will enter a whole new level since he’ll have more time to focus on it. You may see him on that show, yet! 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

  21. October 10, 2011 6:48 pm

    This is so sweet and beautiful! I love your chronicle of your dad. He certainly does sound like a character, and a very nice man. Love the pictures too. Have fun in Hawaii!

    • October 13, 2011 8:08 pm

      Thanks, Larissa! Not sure I’d ever call my dad “sweet” — he was a military hard ass growing up 🙂 — but he’s definitely grown “sweeter” with age. The funny thing with your parents is they just are what they are. That’s my dad. He’s a hoot and a good person, and he definitely gave us some interesting stories!

  22. October 11, 2011 11:28 am


    well. I can relate to the cheapness… not THIS much though. My dad has always complained how he has no videos of us as kids cus he was too damn cheap to buy a camera. We never really went on vacas either, except weekend trips to lake michigan. but, we really were strapped for money and my dad always paid cash for everything and never had debt.

    so i learned a TON from them on money management. totally saved me when i lost my job.

    • October 13, 2011 8:06 pm

      Hey, that’s probably why I don’t have any videos of my childhood either! Eureka moment! LOL 🙂
      You are so right though. I learned a ton about money from my dad. Sometimes, I take these lessons for granted. But then, a friend of mine will say something totally illogical about finances, or I see my peers drowning in a debt, and I realize how lucky I am.

  23. October 11, 2011 6:47 pm

    Hey, the best thing about Costco – which is, of course, just a fancier (?) (less fancy?) version of Sam’s Club – is the free samples. That, and the $1.50 1/4-lb. hot dog and soda meal deal. I wouldn’t consider myself cheap, but I still like the way your dad thinks when it comes to lunch!

    So, what’d you do with all those French fries, anyway?

    • October 13, 2011 8:04 pm

      if my dad liked hot dogs, I bet we’d be eating those weekly. With a coupon, of course. 🙂

      Haha, the french fries. I seem to remember collecting them all in a bag and then recooking them for a week or more. My dad says I’m nuts and we did no such thing. He also doesn’t think we went out on a school day. LOL. He really has a fuzzy memory of the crazy deals/scams/sales he put us through …. or maybe I have PTSD and I’m incorrectly remembering things.

      He did call me when he read this post and was like, “You lied!” I asked him what about, and then he said, “The chicken coupons were for $2, not $1.” Hahahaha. To think I had the audacity to make him look LESS cheap! 🙂

  24. October 13, 2011 3:23 pm

    Well it seems like you are well adjusted to your fathers ways and you are getting a vacation to Hawaii out of him.

    • October 13, 2011 7:41 pm

      Haha, Bathwater. I am definitely used to his ways – but trust me, I never in my wildest dreams would have thought he would have signed up for this! I think it was just good timing… maybe he was on heavy meds when he agreed? haha


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