While we’re on the subject of my parsimony, I’d like to share with our readers my unique approach to commerce. You see, most cheapskates look to save themselves as much money as possible. This approach, while natural and logical, has a flaw: it allows savvy merchants to exploit the consumer’s predictable and narrow focus on minimizing cost. Let me illustrate with an example: suppose you go into a cafe and order the cheapest sandwich on the menu. Knowing that the cheapest item will be ordered frequently, the cafe owner may have priced it such that it yields the highest profit margin on the menu. You leave the restaurant happy that you saved a buck, unaware of the fact that you put money in the cafe owner’s pockets and settled for what was probably an inferior sandwich.
That’s why I approach transactions not with the intention of maximizing my expected value, but of minimizing that of the merchant. In a zero-sum game, these approaches are one and the same; capitalism, however, is not zero-sum, so they can lead to very different decisions. Take a buffet, for example: your typical consumer will eat a substantial but reasonable portion of food and walk away feeling satisfied. How can he be satisfied, though, knowing that it is possible and indeed probable that the restaurant turned a profit on him? When I go to a buffet, I skip the previous meal or two and stuff myself to the point of intestinal distress. My goal is at least to deny the restaurant a profit, and preferably to cost it money; in my view, temporary discomfort is a small price to pay for accomplishing this.
Another example of my strategy in action is pizza. Most pizza places charge a flat rate for any topping. Why should I pay $1 for onions or peppers, which cost the restaurant mere pennies? I order toppings not based on which ones I like best, but on which cost the pizza parlor the most. That these tend to overlap is purely coincidental; I’m acting with a higher purpose in mind than gratification of my taste buds.
I’ve employed this approach for years, and I’m a true believer in its efficacy. Be warned, though: it is a highly advanced strategy that can easily backfire in less experienced hands. Those just entering the wonderful world of frugality should stick with the standard approach, but if you’re a veteran cheapskate looking to take your game to the next level, give it a try.