Thursday, January 5, 2012

Feast and Famine; Thrift and Theft

The mathematical meetings are ablaze with activity.  My head is awhirl.  Good stuff.

Before I left home, I grabbed a few assorted snacks for the road: my usual trail mix, some chocolate covered coffee beans my step-daughter bought me, some dried fruit.  This pile o' food helps a lot when I get stuck in train stations. Aside from that, though, business trips are a combination of Feast and Famine.

The Famine comes about from my reluctance to pay convention center prices for bad food.  $12 for a scone and coffee?  Yoicks!  I figure it's time to practice fasting.  Grouchiness.  But then there's the restaurant meals, shared with colleagues chatting about mathematics and committee work. Feasts so overwhelmingly large that if I ate that much day in and day out, I'd be a really well-rounded person, if you know what I mean.

The other odd thing about conventions is being surrounded by so much free stuff that it's tempting to just start taking stuff.  Small example: hotel soap and shampoo.  I always bring home the bar of hotel soap that I used on my stay.  And if I use the hotel shampoo, I'll take home the rest of the bottle--waste not, want not, after all.  But how far does a person take that?  I've met people who pocket the shampoo every day, get a new bottle the next day, pocket that; (etc).  They figure it's built into the cost of the hotel.  Me, I shudder.  Take shampoo bottles today; embezzle bank funds tomorrow, as far as I'm concerned.  It's not about the shampoo -- it's about your immortal soul.

Okay, so maybe that's a tad melodramatic.  Bigger examples of hypocritical thrift come with meals someone else is paying for.  That $12 scone might be more than I'd want to buy for myself, but does my employer want to buy it for me?  And then there are dinners; I meet up with friends for dinner, and I realize how tempted I am to become a Big Spender when the wallet is full of Other People's Money.  


I guess I'm saying I'm a miser because I really believe it's good to live on less, and to share more.  Even when it's OPM.  So I reverse that advertisement that Tom Bodett does.  Hotels and motels:  I'll turn the light off for you.


  1. When I travel on business I stay at cheap hotels, eat at cheap restaurants, take the cheapest train or plane I can, ride subways and otherwise spend like it was my money. My current employer is a non-profit. I often have the lowest expense report on a given trip. But my boss still thinks it's funny that my otherwise penny-pinching report has expensive Lattes on it.
    When I worked at a large corporation, eating cheap was weird. Many frequent travelers went to expensive restaurants and ordered expensive food and drink just because they deserved it for being away from home.
    Frugal is definitely not the norm in the corporate world!
    You are the queen of cheap travelers Miser Mom!!

  2. I guess I'll stop lurking and comment :) I'm glad you posted this, since I leave for the American Astro meeting tomorrow. The money issue has been on my mind, and my initial plan was to take my own airplane snacks and travel mug/teabags to reduce what I was charging the school. Last year when I went, I bought bagels and cream cheese at a nearby store, and tried to eat breakfast in my room as much as possible. It didn't work so well, since I traveled with big spenders, but I was going to try again this year. But I checked my budget yesterday and realized I have more money left than I thought (roommates make hotel rooms a lot cheaper...) and so I started thinking maybe I'll splurge on food while I'm there. You have, however, inspired me to return to my original plan. Thanks :)