the cheap one

I am the cheap one in my marriage. I think a lot of marriages have one of me. 

I’m there in the grocery store, thoughtfully comparing off-brand cereals. I’m examining olive oil like an MSRP sticker on a Range Rover. “Good financial stewardship!” I murmur proudly with every item I place in my cart. I own my frugality. Let others have their bejeweled phone cases and robot butlers.  I need no such luxuries!

If you, like me, are the cheap one in the relationship, then you know that frugality only works if you can lord it over others. Which means that you, like me, have probably mastered the art of passive aggressiveness that comes out when your partner spends any money at all

Of course you should get that brand new sweater! we say. Me? No no no, I’m fine – I’m just going to cut some armholes in a swath of that old cheesecloth in the pantry. We can always get more cheesecloth!  

I, Conor, was the wise steward of our resources. I was the responsible one. The financial manager. 

In fairness, Liz was not, as it turns out, a big spender. The outside observer would classify her in the normal-to-very-normal range. But we had this chasm between us when it came to finances. It was at the core, it seemed, of any argument we might have. It usually went like this:

Liz would suggest something, as minor as getting frozen yogurt for the kids. I would come up with thirty reasons why we couldn’t afford it. Blend well. Argument.

And then we met Candice.

Candice is a financial counselor. (She’s in Florida, so our sessions were over Skype.) Like a good counselor, she listened to us both. Liz talked about her hopes and dreams and her vision for how we could serve the youth in our community – this is a major life goal of our family. Then I told Candice about how I felt like we just spend too much money. 

“You said you ‘felt.’ Math isn’t a feeling,” Candice pointed out. “What are the numbers? Because what you’re saying probably feels to Liz like you’re crushing any dreams she might have. So let me ask a different question: What’s your vision for your financial resources?”

“Well, like I said, I want to spend less money.”

“Conor, in my experience, when I hear I want to spend less but there is no vision attached, I find it’s usually rooted in some kind of fear. So let’s figure out what that fear is.”

Now, being a male, I’m never super enthusiastic about exploring my deep-seeded fears. But it helped that Candice is a Christian counselor, because it allowed her to reference the fact that when God says “No idols before me, people!” He’s not just talking about carved statues of Zuul. He’s talking about things like Money. And my fears are rooted in the fact that somehow we’ll never have enough. 

That’s not wise financial stewardship. That’s not having a vision. 

All that is to say this: If you, dear reader, are the cheap one, you’re not right.

And also – if you’re trying to get your spouse not to be so cheap, you’re not right either.

We are all just planting a flag in our territory and hoping the other side comes to us.

Our monthly talks with Candice have produced one of the single biggest changes in almost ten years of marriage. Liz has become the finance ninja in our house. She’s running spreadsheets with formulas and ratios and producing cash flow statements on a daily basis. On a daily basis.  And I’m letting us dream more. We are now Team Grennan in our finances. 

So as I’ve begun to let go a lot of my passive-aggressiveness, Liz is beginning to find my cheapness more endearing. And because it’s just a cute little quirk of mine now, I feel free to list out…

The Top Five Ways that I may be Unreasonably Cheap.

1.) Paper Towels.

For me to tear off an entire paper towel would require some kind of apocalyptic tidal wave washing over the eastern seaboard. I tear off tiny chunks of one towel, just big enough to cover the spill, making that towel last. I hear Lucy taking three towels at a time to wipe her mouth and it literally sounds like hundred dollar bills cackling in a furnace.

2.) Renting Movies.

If I’m spending $1.99 to rent a movie on iTunes then I better be in that movie. I struggle with it. I swear I’d rather watch season 4 of the Wizards of Wavery Place for free. 

3.) Buying Apples.

I’ve actually weighed individual apples at a grocery store when nobody was looking. They sell those things by the pound and that extra apple fat adds up. My kids can eat smaller apples. They’re not gonna die. 

4.) Fixing Stuff Myself.

A few months back, I thought how hard can it be to fix a light switch? Grab a screwdriver, bingo bango bongo, and I save $100 on an electrician. What happened next was like a live action Road Runner cartoon. I still try to do everything myself around the house, but not the things that will, you know, murder me. 

5.) Just, like, Everything.

I treat individual Zip-Loc bags like oxygen tanks above the death zone. I slice cheese thinner so that it lasts longer. I order sandwiches from places that you wouldn’t think even sold sandwiches because they were the cheapest in NYC. To avoid renting a $5 cart at the airport I will carry hundreds of pounds worth of bags myself, draping myself with them like a sea monster. 

But here’s what our family gets right: We tithe on every penny we make. We want to be more generous with our resources and I think we are getting there. And we’re committed to making money just a thing, not the everything. And that’s a vision Lizzie and I can both get behind.

That, and off-brand cereal. It’s not bad!

By | 2018-01-24T06:49:10+00:00 January 24th, 2018|34 Comments


  1. Liz January 24, 2018 at 8:02 am - Reply

    I can’t stop saying “Bingo Bango Bongo” in my head now.

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 8:42 am - Reply

      We’re never going to stop saying that.

  2. Glenna Kaplan January 24, 2018 at 8:29 am - Reply

    I thought I was cheap until I read this. You, Conor, are the Prince of Cheap (I’m pretty sure Gilbert Gottfried is the King). I wish we could stop thinking of money as everything and not as important, since we never have enough. I love reading your blogs, so keep going. Peace.

  3. Conor January 24, 2018 at 8:43 am - Reply

    I stopped reading at ‘you are the prince.’ I love it.

  4. Sara January 24, 2018 at 9:24 am - Reply

    I find myself wanting to argue with your self deprecation and tell you that you’re just trying to be responsible with your resources! I guess I might be a little cheap, too.

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 9:38 am - Reply

      I know, right?? We validate our choices. It took me a looong time to figure that out….

  5. dad January 24, 2018 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Very reassuring. (That this is one thing you didn’t get from me…!!) I think. (But you know that 5 i “loaned” you last time out–the cheeseburger….. Well. . . just sayin’.)

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 10:34 am - Reply

      Yes indeed!!

  6. Heather January 24, 2018 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Conor, I ad more that you all are working for such a worthy goal.

    • Heather January 24, 2018 at 10:34 am - Reply

      Make that admire.

      • Conor January 24, 2018 at 10:35 am - Reply

        Thanks for saying that Heather! It’s as much self-preservation as anything.

        • Conor January 24, 2018 at 10:36 am - Reply

          But of course I thrive on admiration wherever I can get it, so….

  7. Nicole January 24, 2018 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Yes! Tithing! Such a lost virtue.

    Reading this article makes me think you live in our house! 🙂

    Well done!

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 11:09 am - Reply

      There have gotta be more people like me, right?? People who are just crazy tunes?

  8. Sean January 24, 2018 at 11:06 am - Reply


    “I hear Lucy taking three towels at a time to wipe her mouth and it literally sounds like hundred dollar bills cackling in a furnace.”

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 11:10 am - Reply

      I feel like she needs to take a class on towel-usage.

  9. Steve January 24, 2018 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    I think your habits are quite thrifty and frugal…you might like the blog

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      MMM is hilarious and true. More blogs like that please!

  10. J E Sargent January 24, 2018 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    You might be describing our marriage, although without the Skype counselling. My Beloved and I had to figure out how to financially co-exist on our own, with God’s help! May it encourage you to know that we’re in our 59th year of wedded bliss, live quite well and have money in the bank. We have ALWAYS tithed! In the beginning, we were of suspicion to the IRS, but they seem to have gotten used to us by now.

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 1:44 pm - Reply

      I love this, and also the idea of the IRS giving you all the stink eye. Awesome.

  11. christiane winter January 24, 2018 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Made me smile…To some I can relate quite well…
    But why I write is to express my hope that you will write another book! You are such a wonderful writer, and I am not aware that there is another book out since the Little Princes (one of the few books of the hundreds I read each year, that I have not forgotten)?

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 1:45 pm - Reply

      Thanks for that encouragement Christiane! I love this! And let’s see where the Lord leads :-).

    • Steve January 24, 2018 at 1:48 pm - Reply

      Big Princes – One man’s promise to provide business education, friendships, and better career trajectories to lost MBA1’s and MBA2’s

      • Conor January 24, 2018 at 1:54 pm - Reply

        No lie, Steve. That’s probably more true than you know.

  12. Linda Grimes January 24, 2018 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    You are hilarious! I read your book but this is the first blog post of yours I have read. I will now subscribe to it and tell all my friends! Did you know that if you shake your hands 12 times after you wash them you only need to use one little paper towel to dry them. I learned that from a TED Talk. (That would be if you wash your hands in public, because who uses paper towels at home to dry hands? But still, saving resources anywhere is a good idea.)

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading and sharing it, Linda! I really appreciate it. And I’ve now learned something that will save paper towel usage. God bless those TED Talks!

  13. Kevin D January 24, 2018 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    Brother, that’s why you need to flee Connecticut and lower your spend by 50%, with aweeesome weather. We’ll leave the light on for ya’

    • Conor January 24, 2018 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      Don’t even! (Miss you guys!)

  14. Neena January 25, 2018 at 6:59 am - Reply

    Thank you so much!!! I am crying with laughter! I love the part where you better be in the movie if you’re paying $1.99…. oh man you should consider stand up comedy as a side gig!!!

    • Conor January 25, 2018 at 7:57 am - Reply

      My kids would argue I already do that around the house. Maybe too much….

  15. Amy January 25, 2018 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Loved this. Thanks for sharing Conor (and Liz). You two are leading by example. I loved to the self help electrician part. Would have paid good money to see that.

    • Conor January 25, 2018 at 7:58 am - Reply

      Paying an electricians has become the best money I spend….

  16. Jennifer January 25, 2018 at 10:05 am - Reply

    I am sure your experience plays a part in this frugality. How can you receive a few honey covered walnuts as a gift and not feel humbled? That’s gotta make trips to the grocery store challenging? (Jenny)

    • Conor January 25, 2018 at 10:27 am - Reply

      The truth is that actually probably does play a bit of a role. But I think I would use that as an excuse when it’s mostly fear of other things. But I welcome all potential excuses, Jenny!! 🙂

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