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My boyfriend's a cheapskate Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I just started seeing someone and it's going great except I have noticed one thing: He's very careful with money. If we buy groceries together, he calculates which items are his and which are mine and we each pay exactly what we owe. We never go out for dinner - he says restaurants are a "rip-off." But the other day he went too far. After a dinner party at my brother's house, he grabbed the unopened bottle of wine he brought and (this was the capper) a half-full bottle of Perrier from the fridge and took them home! My brother was offended and I was embarrassed, but when I confronted my boyfriend about it, he was surprised and said he brought the bottle, they didn't offer it, so why should it go to waste? We've been arguing about this, off and on, for days. He calls himself "thrifty" but I think it's more than that. Assuming you agree with me, how do I convince him of the error of his ways without getting his back up?

THE ANSWER

Well, there's a line between thriftiness and cheapness, and it's one your boyfriend has clearly crossed.

Listen: I know cheapness. I understand cheapness. I'm a little bit that way myself. I too consider restaurants to be a "rip-off," especially if the food's not that great. Paying a gigantic bill for a mediocre bowl of pasta and triple-the-shelf-price wine - it's like a knife to my heart.

But even I know when it's gone too far. When the losses of your miserly ways outweigh the gains. When a penny saved is a huge mistake.

And I know what it's like to be broke. Starting out, I was a classic starving writer. I had a part-time job writing TV news while I freelanced and wrote my first book, the aptly named Chump Change. I could barely pay my rent and student-loan creditors were riding me like Seabiscuit. I rode around on a bike, wore thrift-store clothes. If I bought a new shirt, lost at poker or treated myself to sushi, I would spend the rest of the day kicking myself.

Then, one day, at a book-launch party, I had a vision. It took the form of a woman standing shyly by the canapés in a floral-print dress, but she was clearly not of this earth. She was a goddess. Slim, yet curvaceous. Face alive with intelligence, humour and irony. I could barely bring myself to gaze directly into her beauty rays. Her name was Pam, but as I wrote in my diary the next morning, it didn't do her justice. It should have been something more mythical - like Pam Ra. Pam Ra of the North.

"Me want," I thought, squinting into her nimbus. "Me want. For me."

I had to have her, but my bank account was a little on the empty side. I blush to the roots of my hair to tell you this (I'm not even sure I've ever told her this), but I had to borrow money from my mother to take her out on our first date.

It was the best money Mom ever lent. Halfway through that first date the goddess and I were in love, and now my mother is her mother-in-law. Pam and I have three children together, a big relief to all parties, especially considering the women I'd been dating before her.

And a display of cheapness could have queered the whole deal! Right now, instead of being a happy family man, I might be tossing and turning on a cot in a room full of other indigents, halfwits, screamers and snorers, the stench of foot odour in my nostrils, my wallet - or maybe a knife! - under my pillow.

Women hate cheapness, especially in the early going. For many, it's a total deal-breaker. I ran this past a couple of female friends, and they agreed with maximum vehemence.

"People go through many different phases in their life when it comes to money," said one, who has dated men from all across the economic spectrum, from big shots in limos to flat-broke artists. "You might meet the man of your dreams when he's broke."

But if he's trying, and has potential, she doesn't mind. He's a "handywoman's special:" good bones, solid foundation, and with a little elbow grease could repay your investment several times over.

"But a cheap guy will always be cheap," she says. "Cheapness is a poverty of the soul. Cheap people value money for itself, not what it'll bring."

And they tend to be miserly when it comes to giving love. Now, I try not to be one of those advice columnists who say, "kick him/her to the curb" whenever there's a problem.

But in this case ... I think you should take a long, hard look at your new boyfriend. I mean, he's not only cheap, but he was rude and he embarrassed you. He's a crazy man with a saw and he's way out on a limb.

If you do decide to try to work things out with him, tell him he needs to start loosening up the purse strings or a bailiff will be serving him his Bachelor Papers in short order. This is supposed to be a courtship: He needs to show you some generosity of the spirit and of the wallet.

If he balks, maybe conscript one of his friends to hit him with it point blank: "Dude, this grabbing bottles after dinner party stuff, well it's kind of 'out there.' "

Normally, I don't condone dragging third parties into domestic disputes. (It's tempting, especially when you and your spouse are eyeball to eyeball saying, "You're crazy, and every normal person would agree with me!") But nutty characters call for drastic measures, and his friend should tell him his behaviour is placing him outside the charmed circle of polite society and that's where he'll find himself if he keeps this up: chuckling to himself in an unheated room, and counting coins and bottles with Fagin-like fingerless gloves, all alone.

That's if you care about him and love him so much you want to stay with him and work it out. To be honest, though, he doesn't really sound like a keeper.

If I were you I'd say to him "cancel my subscription, I don't need your issues," and move on. I mean, if he's this crazy/cheap now, I guaranfriggintee he'll be much worse later on.

And you can take that to the bank.

David Eddie is a screenwriter and the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions

of a Stay-at-Home Dad.

I've made a huge mistake

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