W. Hodding Carter
W. Hodding Carter - 
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TESS VIGELAND: We talked at the beginning of the show about change in the year since Lehman Brothers collapsed. Whether we'll all stick to our new, financially responsible ways. I'm still somewhat skeptical. Still, there are people out there who have more than fully embraced the notion of change. We call them the "extreme frugals" and we've been hearing regularly from one of them.

W. Hodding Carter has been blogging about his new, almost threadbare existence for Gourmet.com. Think family of six, 550 bucks a month to live on, that's after the mortgage payment.

Here's his latest installment for us.

W. Hodding Carter: A while back, Lisa noticed six identical chairs for sale on the side of the road. In our house, none of the furniture matches and the pieces that once did were ruined by our four children and countless pets long ago. And, Lisa has a chair fetish. She wanted those peeling, quarter-sawn chairs. Big time.

The seller was asking $20 apiece. I didn't call that day, that week or even the next -- employing one of my many newfound frugal skills: Patience.

When the owner finally gave up and brought the chairs inside, I pounced, talked her down to 10 bucks a chair and drove home grinning with victory.

The day of our anniversary, I taped a used ribbon to one of the chairs and prepared to watch her crumble in defeat. She smiled, said how she loved them, and even nodded her head approvingly when I bragged about the price.

When it was her turn, she handed over a sealed envelope. "Ah, a certificate for some massages," I sighed to myself. "She's way out-spent me and I get massages to boot. I won! I definitely won!"

I stopped gloating the second I ripped it open.

"Oh, no," I groaned. "I lost. I definitely lost."

What did the card say? "Vacation Getaway... Accommodations for two for three days and two nights. Plus, $50 in dinner rewards!"

It was without a doubt the most selfless, perfect present I'd ever received. Not only had she performed the unthinkable -- conversed with a telemarketer for nearly an hour over the phone -- she'd also agreed to endure a five-hour sales pitch! The vacation was hers, as long as she made it to the end, no purchase necessary.

Of course, she did, dodging all advances from the flirtatious, elderly British salesman, whose many charms included bad breath, a mismatched toupee and an aura of defeat that almost, but not quite, guilted her into buying a time-share we could never afford.

Humbled, I bowed before her and declared she was not only my true love, but once and for all, The Queen of Frugality.

Vigeland: W. Hodding Carter is writing about his family's experience with extreme frugality for Gourmet.com.

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