I must admit, I do enjoy adulthood. Even though I technically became an adult when I turned 18 in 2006, I don’t really feel that I earned that title until only a few years ago. From the time I was 18 until my mid-20s, I was more of an adult-in-training.
Being a young adult is when you learn about money. And like most starting out in the real world, I didn’t have any money. But that didn’t stop me from living. I moved out when I was 18 and didn’t have a roommate until the day the lovely Mrs. Dossi and I got married in June of 2018. I learned a lot during that time, but perhaps what I learned the best was how to stretch a dollar as far as it could go.
Now, let me be clear right up front and let you know that being frugal is in my DNA. I’m pretty sure in Italian, Dossi means “penny pincher.” I come from a long line of Dossis who don’t spend money. So, I guess I’m keeping the family tradition alive. However, I took my cheapness to a whole other level that might put me in the Hall of Fame.
When I first moved out, I had a two-bedroom shack that was built during the depression. It was freezing in the winter and a sweatshop in the summer. It also came with the occasional rat, mouse, black widow or any other creature that you don’t want to see in the middle of the night. After living there for a while, my light bulbs started to burn out, and over time, I was down to just one. But instead of buying new bulbs, I simply took the one working bulb from room to room. As long as I had a sock on my hand so it wouldn’t burn, I’d unscrew it, go into a new room, screw it back in and, voila, light. That little routine also helped with my electric bill.
Here’s a trick that I’m not super proud of, and I don’t recommend it to any young men trying to woo a lady, but it worked. A fun date night was always a trip to the movies. But between the tickets and popcorn, you’re spending a lot of money, which was something I didn’t have. So, we’d get to our seats, and I’d ask my date if she’d like some popcorn. The answer would always be “yes.” I’d then go in the hallway, look through the trash and find a jumbo popcorn container, which, when empty, comes with a free refill. I’d walk to the concessions, ask for a refill but in a new tub, as this one was too greasy. And boom, I’ve got popcorn for my date.
Sometimes there were some things that were just too expensive to buy, regardless of how much I needed it. There was a time for about four months where the battery in my truck was dead and I couldn’t afford to replace it. Fortunately, I drove a manual and as long as I parked on some sort of a hill, I’d be able to pop the clutch and get it going. But finding an incline wasn’t always the easiest thing to do. There were many times I’d push my truck to get it rolling, jump in the cab and start ’er up. The only time I was embarrassed was when there was a girl sitting in the passenger seat and I was chasing after my truck in a parking lot.
I’ve rolled pennies for gas, conveniently misplaced my wallet when ordering food with friends, and showered using dish soap, but the one thing that takes the cake is what I did at my best friend’s wedding.
One way that I would always get a little extra cash was to recycle. For months, I’d save my cans, or take them from my dad or my workplace. And twice a year, I’d make a big trip to the recycler and cash out. If you have an eye for spotting cans, it’s hard to turn that off. When my best friend got married, soda was a drink option at the reception. Everywhere I looked, there were cans just waiting for me to collect.
So, I walked around from table to table with a big black trash bag and took the cans off the tables. The only issue was that while I was snagging cans, I was doing so in my tuxedo. Yes, I was a groomsman. So, imagine going to a lovely wedding and seeing what appears to be a well-dressed homeless man asking people if they are done with their soda. While that might not be one of my finer moments, I still was able to cash in for over $50, so it was a good day for me.
I tell you these stories not because I’m necessarily proud of them, but because we can’t appreciate where we are without realizing what it took to get there. That being said, if you see my truck parked somewhere while I’m covering a game and you want to dispose of your soda can, toss it in the back and I’ll take care of the rest.