We are what our parents make us.
Everyone used to make fun of my dad. When I was growing up, he was obsessed with saving money. He always wanted to get the best deal on everything, and he’d get mad if he bought something only to find it cheaper somewhere else.
In fact, one particular Christmas, he demonstrated to ShopKo just how serious he was about that.
He’d bought Dave and I Shogun Warriors for Christmas. They were giant, samurai, robot warriors, and the things stood almost two feet tall. All of them launched missiles of some sort and had removable parts and were pretty much incredibly awesome.
But on Christmas Eve 1979, ShopKo decided they weren’t selling well enough, so they marked them down to a dollar each.
Dad was furious. He’d paid about $5 each for the ones he’d gotten us.
So he took those Shogun Warriors back to ShopKo on Christmas Eve, still in the wrapping paper, and told the manager he wanted them at the sale price. My father threatened to unwrap the gifts right there and get his money back if they didn’t comply.
My mother was aghast, naturally, but Dad was determined not to get cheated, and he left the store feeling like he’d gotten a big win.
And as funny as that incident is, it’s understandable. He is what his father made him. Grandpa survived The Great Depression. Saving money in all things was paramount.
So Dad drove all over town to get the best deals at each grocery store every week. He clipped coupons and used them at the stores that would double or triple their value. His ultimate victory was having a double- or triple-coupon be worth more than what the store was charging, so that he would get some change.
“They paid me to carry it out of the store,” he would crow.
We all used to laugh and shake our heads at him.
Flash forward 30 or so years.
Last Christmas, my wife had been wanting a new Ninja food processor. I noticed that Kroger had them for about $40.
I do most of my shopping at Kroger, because they have a rewards program that lets me save up to a buck a gallon on gas at Kroger Fuel. You get one Fuel Point for every dollar spent, and every 100 Fuel Points is good for 10 cents off a gallon.
As I contemplated getting the Ninja for Jill, a thought occurred to me. Kroger was running a promotion where you could get four times Fuel Points for buying a gift card. I wondered if there was a way to make this a big win for me.
I put the Ninja back on the shelf and went up to the gift card kiosk. I grabbed a $100 Visa gift card and went up to check out. Sure enough, I got 400 Fuel Points — 40 cents off a gallon.
But I wasn’t done. Now it was time to see if this was the big win I hoped it was.
I went back and got the Ninja. I brought it up front and paid with the gift card I’d just bought. The transaction went through, and I got the Fuel Points for the Ninja too! I’d gotten five times the Fuel Points on my purchase!
Naturally, I called my father. I’d told him what I’d done.
He was insanely proud of me. In fact, two days later, he bragged about it to friends!
This wasn’t just a big win. It was a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth!
And now, of course, I do it all the time. Kroger never offers less than two times Fuel Points for gift cards, so I purchase gift cards and use them to buy groceries. I haven’t paid more than a $1.50 a gallon for gas in almost a year.
Everyone at my house smiles and shakes their head at me. They’re amused at my obsession with amassing Fuel Points so we can save on gas.
But I am what my father made me.
I am a direct heir to my grandfather. I did not survive The Great Depression and neither did my father. Both of us were born well after the world economy had recovered.
Sometimes, that makes them proud.
More stories of how my father influenced me can be found in my memoir, Legend in my own Mind: The Incredible, True-Life Adventures of a Kid Growing up in the 1970’s. Click here to get it from Amazon.com.