The strange, feverish mind of the penny-pinching king

The penny-pincher in the pub counts his dough

It must be incredibly tough being a tightwad in social situations. I’m not joking.

Think about it: the tightwad is perpetually consumed with spending as little as possible to the point where it becomes a mania.

Social drinking is tricky for the tightwad

He will forever be devising new ways to avoid putting his hand in his pocket – there is a limit to the amount of times you have to dash outside to take an “urgent call” on your mobile.

When I talk of penny-pinching, I’m not of course talking about those people who through force of circumstance have to live frugally. I’m talking about people who are just proper tight. Cheap. Penurious.

And boy do we have the master down here in Canterbury. He’s not short of money.

He has run his own business for decades and lives in a four-bedroom house in a desirable south Canterbury street.

He also enjoys a drink, which is when his myriad spending avoidance techniques are unfurled as if on a banner proclaiming stinginess. Upon arrival at his local boozer, he will look first for a group of drinkers he assesses will be willing to buy him a pint.

Spying his quarry, he will insert himself into the middle of the group and begin chatting eagerly away as if he’s been there for hours. The aim here is to prompt one of the group to exclaim: “Oh, John, but you don’t have a drink. Let me get you one.”

Job done. Now John, not his real name, has joined the round system. This means that when one of the other group buys the next round our man will be included.

The tightwad hates parting with money

But here he encounters his first problem: the unwritten code of pub etiquette which requires that each member of a drinking circle take a turn to buy a round.

John has often deployed the “urgent call” method. This, however, spectacularly unravelled one early evening. Having wandered 100 yards away from city centre pub he was in when it came time to buy a round, he returned after 15 minutes to discover that bar staff had been informed he would paying for the next round.

This wasn’t in the script and John duly exploded with rage: “How did you know if I was staying for another pint? What right have you got to tell them I’ll be paying?”

The answer to his questions lies in the fact that one his drinking buddies is more than aware and heartily sick of John’s miserliness.

The Parrot pub in St Radigund’s Street

Not just that. Almost everyone who knows him is aware of his attitude to money. But John doesn’t think they do.

He doesn’t know that his mates swap stories about him – like the time he theatrically pretended to sneeze in order to pick up a 5p off the floor of The Parrot in St Radigund’s Street.

In fact so acute is John’s lack of self-awareness that he resorts to spouting utter bovine faecal matter in the pursuit of cheapness.

For example, he once turned up at the city centre pub claiming that I’d “promised” to buy him a pint during a previous encounter.

I dismissed his rubbish prompting John to look askance at the rest of the group and exclaim: “Look at him. He’s forgotten he owes me a pint.”

Such behaviour is astonishing if you think about it. In fact I’d go as far as to say that it must be a suitable subject for psychological inquiry.

So while the tightwad’s actions are irritating, niggardly and downright rude, don’t forget they’re in absolute turmoil over the pennies in their pockets.

But from the outside all you see is someone whose attitude is “why should I fork out for beer when I get others to pay for it”. And that, I’m afraid, is just not on.


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