I may be the cheapest guy you ever knew. I prefer the word “economical,” but it’s not up to me to determine words assigned by others. As a wordsmith, though, I don’t think “cheap” is the most accurate.

When I think of a cheapskate, I think of someone who takes advantage of others. Like the guy who throws a dollar in on a group tip in a restaurant and then, after determining that the gratuity is too high, pulls his dollar off the table as he follows the others out the door. 

Or he’ll split a tab 50/50 if his was the higher-priced entrée. If his meal was the lesser amount, he’ll ask for separate checks. You know that guy.

That’s the same guy who will take a handful of mints at the cigar counter and stick them in his pocket because they’re “free.” No, you take one mint and consume it on the premises. If you want more, stop at the Piggly Wiggly and buy your own. 

I’m not that guy, so maybe I’m not the cheapest person you know. But I’m cheap in other ways. 

I’ve been known to repair shoes with duct tape, recycle newspaper for wrapping gifts and hammer out a used, bent nail. You know those little slivers of soap that are too small to use? I save them and meld them into a new bar. Waste not, want not.

My motivation is not from wanting to save money. It comes more from having had no money to waste. Over time, it has become a source of pride to come up with creative ways to save both money and labor.

My latest project is the renovation of my office. The building is 60 years old, and the walls are covered with paneling. That ugly, brown paneling with the vertical grooves every 6-8 inches. Apparently, the person who built it also was cheap.

Most people would hire somebody to pull the old paneling down, put up drywall and install new carpet. I’m not most people.

Instead, I used drywall tape to cover the grooves and then put joint compound over the paneling to give the appearance of drywall. I’m not especially skilled in “mudding” drywall, so I textured the walls with the joint compound and then painted it. It’s faster and easier.

That was for the top half of the walls. For the bottom, I put up 70-year-old mahogany panels that I saved from demolition about 15 years ago and have stored in my garage since then. It’s still paneling but without the grooves. 

Even though the panels are older than what was there, it has a richer look to it. It also has an aged patina that I like. 

I didn’t have a lot of panels, and the ends had a lot of cracks and water damage, so that’s why I cut them down. At half the height, I can cover twice the length. I didn’t have enough to cover all the walls, so some have pine beadboard for wainscoting. Why beadboard? Because the lumberyard had a sale on them 10 years ago, and I’ve been waiting for just the right place to use them. Hashtag: hoarder.

I pulled the old carpet up, which was glued to the concrete floor. I’m looking for a cheap flooring solution, but the plan right now is to take up the mastic, sand the surface to expose more of the rock in the concrete and then stain and seal it. The end result should look like terrazzo.

For the door trim, I’m thinking way outside of the box. I’m planning on using old printer blocks.

Since it’s a newspaper office, I have dozens of old wooden blocks that have photos and advertising etched in metal on one side. They are left over from the days of letterpress, a technology that has been obsolete for 40-some years. 

The blocks have little to no value, but they give a glimpse into the history of the community. Using them to trim out the doors will create a mini-museum effect with the added benefit of costing no money.

So call me cheap if you want, but I’ll be chagrined all the way to the bank.

© Copyright 2019 by David Porter, who can be reached at porter@ramblinman.us. My real motivation: not dipping into my cigar budget.