Living lousy for less

Brenda told me she's leaving town for three weeks, two vendors got into a shouting argument that lasted on and off all afternoon, and a man I've seen around but never yet spoken to blew me a kiss.

Telegraph Ave was more Telegraphy than usual today, but you'll forgive me (or you won't, what do I care?) if I don't go into great detail.

There's no time to type it.

Gotta unplug my mini-fridge and let it drip dry overnight. Gotta keep tossing trash into some trash bags, and my prized possessions into other trash bags. 

Joe's already gone, so then there was one, and he's me. I'll be the last to leave, tomorrow morning.

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It'll be casual for a move-out, since Judith is letting me stash most of my minimal stuff here for a few days, and Bill's graciously offered to drive the heavy stuff over the bridge, when I figure out where to drive it to.

Tomorrow morning I'll get an early start, and hope to find a cheap but decent lowlife hotel in the city. Then I'll go to work at the magazine, same as any other Monday.

♦ ♦ ♦  

For tonight I'll say, thanks, Judith, for offering me a home when I needed one last summer. It's been nice having a friend to come home to. No hard feelings about the eviction.

Au revoir to Judith & Jake, to Joe, to Cy, to three cats, and Lugosi the giant barking dog. Farewell to other people's mess, as tomorrow I'll begin making my own mess again, somewhere in San Francisco, where I belong.

Meanwhile, as filler, here's a bonus rant I wrote a few weeks ago…

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Living lousy for less
Or, a lazy cheapskate's manifesto

I'm a lazy man, and believe in laziness. I proselytize for laziness. A day off from work beats the best week ever on the job, any job. I'm currently working four five-hour days most weeks, plus occasional odd jobs which, coupled with the cash you so kindly send for this zine, give me enough money to live on, and rarely a nickel more.

For most folks, the biggest expense is the rent, so live in the cheapest place you can find. Being in a fancy place, surrounded by other fancy places, fancy cars, and fancy people is not worth a fancy price. For lots less money you can live your same live in a crappy neighborhood, with rickety walls and a leaking roof, and does it matter, long as the roof isn't leaking on you?

Crucial to the equation for cheap survival is avoiding any unnecessary expense. That's why, in this public diary, you've read several times about Judith or Josh taking me to dinner, but you haven't yet read about me taking them to dinner. And I have a great excuse — I simply don't have the money. (Several times I've offered Judith an onion and peanut butter sandwich, but she always declines.)

An easy way to trim the budget is by drinking water. That's the liquid your body needs — not beer, not Pepsi, not lemonade, Snapple, or even milk. Water tastes good, doesn't spoil, you can fill a jug and carry it with you everywhere, and it comes conveniently and affordably out of a pipe in your kitchen. Simply swallowing H2O, and eliminating soda, juices, and other factory-formulated sugar waters, you can save a few dollars every day, and that's money that adds up.

Quit eating out, of course, but if you actually pay for meals in restaurants, you can trim 10-15 percent off the tab by ordering a glass of water, or drinking nothing. The glass of Coke they'll bring to the table for $1.75 is almost entirely profit for the restaurant. 

Save some money by spending some money on a big bottle of vitamin pills, and take twice the recommended dose daily. That'll keep you healthy, and after that once-yearly expense, you can stop thinking about silly incidentals like nutrition, and survive nicely on the cheapest foods you can find. 

My menu is mostly day-old generic wheat bread, generic margarine, generic peanut butter when it's on sale, and an almost daily regimen of ramen, twelve for a dollar. With vitamin pills, food becomes entirely a matter of flavor, price, and quantity, and maybe flavor isn't the most important of the three. Cheap food fills you up just as well as filet mignon, so remember my rule of anus: No matter what price you pay for the food you eat, it's all poop in the end.

Once you get into the lazy cheapskate habit, you'll find so many ways to avoid spending money, or spend less...

Shop for clothes at thrift stores, not The Gap.

Get your books from the library, not Crown.

Wait for second-run double features — two movies for a $1.50, instead of seeing the latest schlock for $7 on opening night. And of course, sneak your own snacks in.

Sell your car and start taking the bus. (You'll meet much more interesting people.)

Have the cable TV shut off.

Cat food is cheaper than tuna, and tastes almost the same if you buy the right brand.

Have your phone disconnected. (Maybe that's just me.)

Sandwich bags, paper bags, garbage bags, plastic "disposable" cutlery, the cool jars that pickles and mayo come in, styrofoam cups… all these and many more things you can think of are re-usable. For free sandwich bags I always just use the plastic wrap that the factory puts around the bread.

Shaving, for either gender, is a societally-imposed waste of time and money. Wherever you're applying a razor, hair grows there naturally, so be Mr or Ms Natural and quit spending money on blades and foam.

Haircuts? Do your own. I bought a hair-clipper at a thrift store ten years ago for five bucks, roughly the price (without tip) for one visit to a "hairstylist," and I've given myself a monthly crew-cut ever since.

With hair so short, I never have to buy combs, and also save a few minutes of hair-combing time every day.

Personal hygiene in general is overrated fakery, largely enforced via advertising. Unless you do physical labor for a living, or have a hormone imbalance, a daily shower is a waste of soap, hot water, and time. I shower about twice a week, generally when my scalp or groin begins to itch.

Deodorant is not needed, unless you're a particularly stinky person. Lather your pits with soap in the shower, don't rinse it after, and you'll smell fine. 

For most people, shampoo is a waste of money. I wash my body with the cheapest generic soap, and the same soap washes my hair. No pricey sprays, creams, or gels.

Laundry is another expense that can be, maybe not eliminated, but reduced substantially. Unless you work in construction or play in the mud a lot, it's simply silly to toss your clothes in a hamper after wearing something just once. The jeans I'm wearing today are the same pair I was wearing two weeks ago, and they don't stink and don't stand without me. If you're not in the habit of peeing on yourself, underwear can be worn for at least days, maybe a week, then rinsed in the sink and worn again. (Loose-fitting boxers last longer than tight-fitting briefs before the odor gets your attention.)

You may need dishwashing liquid if you cook lots of greasy foods, and if so buy generic, but I never cook anything greasier than macaroni and cheese, and wash my dishes just fine with only hot water and a rag. 

Toilet paper comes in countless brands and varieties, twin-ply, triple-ply, quilted, and it's all a canard. Rip out a square from yesterday's paper, fold it 2-3 times, and wipe. You've just saved 59¢ a roll.

You're getting the general idea, right? Always consider and reconsider every purchase, before whipping out your wallet. My lazy cheapskate philosophy is: The less you spend, the less time you'll need to spend working to earn that money.

From Pathetic Life #22
Sunday, March 31, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. Laughs, but you're more of hardcore cheapskate than me. I draw the line at skipping daily showers. That's not civilized, no offense Doug.

    1. These days I have to take daily showers, or I get itchy and rashy. Part of getting old, I guess. It used to take 3-4 days to get itchy, now it's about 18 hours.

    2. Oh, and I forgot to tell you how horrendously offended I'm not.


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