My father.

I’m not saying my father is cheap, I’m just saying if he had his way my mother would wash out and reuse ziplock bags instead of tossing them in the garbage and buying new ones.


Sort of.

He’s thrifty, is all.

He buys in bulk … so much so that my sisters and I could LITERALLY go grocery shopping in my parents’ basement.  Seriously. Sanitizing wipes. Chicken broth. Scouring sponges. Condiments of every type. Frozen chicken breasts. Filet. K-cups. When Armageddon comes, you know where to find me — in my father’s basement sanitizing the hell out of stuff while sucking down coffee and dining on filet.

He clips coupons.

He gives my mother “the look” when she’s on her way out the door to her job, which is spending his money.

But that’s not to say he isn’t generous, because he is — with his time (he’s a mentor) and with his money (a dozen or so charitable causes he regularly gives to).

He’ll spend money when necessary, but there’s one thing he RARELY spends money on, and that’s to park in downtown Pittsburgh. And yes, it is possible to park for free, just so long as you don’t care if your car gets stolen.

That’s just one of things I learned from him, and in the June issue of Pittsburgh Magazine, I talk about a few others.

My latest column is up. “What My Father Taught Me About Pittsburgh.”


  1. Izzy
    May 24, 2010 2:59 pm

    My dad is the same way; I always shop EdMart when I’m leaving their home. Seriously, though – how many cans of peas DOES a couple need?

    Loved the mention of coming through the Ft. Pitt tunnels. I lived in NYC for five years; I always made sure my flight coming home was in the evening so I could see the lights and I cried everytime I came through.

  2. JennE
    May 24, 2010 3:10 pm

    Wow… this was great. You could have been writing this about my own dad, who I miss a TON. Thanks!

    I’m still a proponent of always moving. A couple of my friends call me “Backroads Betty”…

    I would love to develop a yinzer GPS — complete with accent and directions that never actually involve a street name, but also include a brief history of what once was and what used to be…

    “Yinz go dahn ‘der by the ole Eckert Drug an’ make a left, but now itsa Rite Aid. Ya know the one.. where yer Cousin Johnny worked and he used ta redd up the shelves n’at…”

    However, I would leave it in Rick Sebak mode at all times.

  3. LaReina
    May 24, 2010 3:15 pm

    Great article abaht the tahn we love, ‘n’at. My husband was the exact same way about parking when we both worked in the Koppers Building. His car wasn’t stolen from the Hill District, though, he only lost a stereo.

  4. Sooska
    May 24, 2010 3:35 pm

    Good column, Ginny. My dad came to Pittsburgh on business very frequently so parking convenience was the utmost when he had meetings downtown and professional offices were still there. He used to carry $2 for bribing the Kaufman’s parking garage guy to give him a space when the lot was full, which was all the time. They knew him by name. He knew all the “shortcuts” too. My husband does, too. OY.

    On cheap: My brother’s MIL buys the cheapest paper napkins to be had and pulls the layers apart and cuts them in half and you get ONE at a meal. What it amounts to is a one-ply tissue of toilet paper. Then she serves ribs or something like that. You get ONE.

  5. SpudMom
    May 24, 2010 4:05 pm

    I read the column earlier, Ginny, and it was a really wonderful tribute to your Dad. He sounds awesome!

  6. Biggest Fan
    May 24, 2010 4:14 pm

    @Sooska: LOL

    Opening and cutting napkins might be the cheapest act in the universe.

  7. Me
    May 24, 2010 4:46 pm

    My mom washes out and reuses plastic storage bags. And bits of aluminum foil. She grew up in the depression and some habits are hard to break.

  8. Magnus Patris
    May 24, 2010 5:17 pm

    I have a strange obsession with condiment packages. I take more than I need and I never throw them away because I might need ketchup some day. I have been know to squeeze said packets into the near empty ketchup bottle. And maybe the occasional tartar sauce packet too.

  9. Donna Schulte
    May 24, 2010 5:31 pm

    Loved the magazine article. As a newcomer to Pittsburgh, I apprecaite any inside advice on getting around. Laughed at the triangle/trapezoid reference. Makes me feel a whole lot better.

  10. Alyia
    May 24, 2010 6:21 pm

    Nice article. But… I wash out and reuse plastic bags. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with reducing waste.

  11. Mary
    May 24, 2010 9:31 pm

    Awesome. My dad is all about the shortcut which is a longcut. Since my mom passed, he’s all about Costco too. NOT GOOD.

  12. bucdaddy
    May 24, 2010 10:13 pm

    Hey, I reuse Ziploc bags! I take that personally! Though I have, in fact, in the course of my life managed to graduate from penurious to cheap to frugal.

    “Opening and cutting napkins might be the cheapest act in the universe.”

    Nah. The best cheapskate story I ever heard came from one of our guys covering a softball game (I work for a newspaper). He said the girl playing left field dived for a ball and hurt herself. Her parents came out on the field and gathered her up and put her in the car and headed for the hospital.

    But on the way out, they stopped at the gate and asked for their ticket money back.

  13. bucdaddy
    May 24, 2010 10:14 pm


    Must be Tat-Ta’s.

  14. USCMike
    May 24, 2010 10:32 pm

    As a dedicated Costco shopper and the keeper of the ‘bomb shelter’ as my kids call it, it’s amazing how often we don’t have to run to the local Big Bird. “Just go downstairs and get some more” is the usual refrain around here!

    Of course, the neighbors always know who to ask when they’re running short and want to ‘borrow’ something. Funny how it’s never returned by some folks, but it doesn’t matter, it’s all about the spirit of Pittsburgh and caring for others…depending on what they’ve borrowed! ;^)

  15. Cindy T.
    May 25, 2010 7:53 am

    I am your dad.

  16. Oracle of Delphi
    May 25, 2010 8:43 am

    My benchmark for cheap is my friend Rich. He still has his First Communion money in a frame on his wall.

    Rich goes to Goodwill, St. Vinnies’ or some other thrift store and buys used underwear. Yep. 50 cents a dozen. Once he discards the few pair that have stretched out waistbands, he has enough to last a year or so.

    When he is done with them, he re donates them along with other clothes to the thrift and takes a tax deduction for them…

  17. Axlerod
    May 25, 2010 8:43 am

    Who doesn’t re-use baggies??


    The end is near!

  18. red pen mama
    May 25, 2010 9:25 am

    What a sweet tribute.

    But it does seem that losing a car is more expensive than $3 or $5. ;) God bless him for his perseverance, though!

    My dad is a Pittsburgh boy, too, and has taught me that nothing but nothing takes the place of good planning and hard work. I need to learn to apply these a little more in my own life, but I have learned them.

  19. J
    May 25, 2010 9:47 am

    my grandmother would rinse out ziplock bags and let them dry so that she could reuse them. sometimes i think it’s crazy talk! and then there are other times when i go to throw away a ziplock bag that had something lame in it like noodles and i think “maybe rinsing & reusing isn’t such a bad idea…” haha!

  20. Woy
    May 25, 2010 9:59 am

    My Dad does research on major purchases like NASA planned moon landings.

  21. Ginny's Dad
    May 25, 2010 10:10 am


    You don’t know the half of my frugality. For example, when the dehumidifier bucket is filled, I pour the water into the toilet tank after I flush it. Mom thinks I have OCD. Just think what I would be like if I lived during the Great Depression.

  22. unsatisfied
    May 25, 2010 11:02 am

    when armageddon hits, I’m making a beeline for my parents’ house — they were “great depression” kids, too….

    we could survive about 10 years at least, by my estimates…

  23. Pittsburgh Pete
    May 25, 2010 11:07 am

    Did they paste your head on someone elses body on the “illustration” in the mag?

  24. Greg
    May 25, 2010 11:27 am

    NO, she really looks like that.

  25. Roxy
    May 25, 2010 11:38 am

    I read your article in the magazine last night and loved it. It reminded me of growing up here in Pittsburgh and using buildings and other things to navigate. I still do it! Anyway, my grandparents basement is similar to your parents. If anything ever happens I am going to her house. I know I will be well fed and have the most ridiculous things to do as she buys more than just food she buys anything on sale that someone may need some day.

  26. Donny Iris
    May 25, 2010 2:31 pm

    Ginny’s Dad — my dad takes the dehumidifier bucket and pours that water in the washing machine, eliminating at least some of the water needed to wash a load.

  27. LaReina
    May 25, 2010 2:33 pm

    When I run water to wash dishes (no, I’m not too cheap for a dishwasher, I just don’t like them) I save the not-yet-hot water in a bucket for later use, e.g., watering plants. Not cheap! Practical!

  28. Michele
    May 25, 2010 3:17 pm

    Your folks and mine would get along swimmingly! [Both my Dad and Mom are like your Dad!] The cellar is the same, too. Maybe it’s a Pittsburgh thing. [I on the other hand, would be the person washing out ziploc’s. Guilt or eco-education courtesy of my son’s montessori school.]

  29. Wendielu
    May 26, 2010 2:21 pm

    I actually know of someone – a friend’s mom – who ordered name labels for her zip-lock baggies so they could be returned to her after a function. Like a church supper or something. True story.