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You're just cheap and here's a dime to prove it

Columnist Dan Conradt didn't want an ice cream cone for a reward, he wanted cold, hard cash.

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“You’re the cheapest person I’ve ever met!” my friend said, not bothering to hide his frustration. “I’ll bet you still have the first dollar you ever made!”

I felt the need to clear up a couple of misconceptions: “First, if you want your own pop, fine. I was only SUGGESTING that we get one bottle and share it. Second, I’m not cheap. I’m thrifty. Third, I spent my first dollar a long time ago.”

I decided not to tell him about the dime incident.

It was a Saturday morning in the mid-1960s. We gathered at the park, armed with garbage bags, heavy gloves and old shoes.

Our Cub Scout pack had been talking about litter and started noticing all the trash along the road leading into town. So long before MnDOT would put your name on a blue and white sign, we adopted a stretch of highway and were going to walk the ditches and pick up trash.


We were one hour and a dozen garbage bags into our project when someone found a wallet.

There was nothing inside to identify its owner -- no driver’s license, no credit cards, no ID card … nothing.

Just one dollar.

It was like winning the lottery!

To celebrate our windfall and a job well done, one of the guys suggested that we all stop at the café for ice cream cones.

Ten scouts, 10-cent ice cream cones, one found dollar. The math worked out perfectly.

Except I didn’t want an ice cream cone. I wanted the dime.

The scout leader tried to convince me otherwise: It was a celebration. It was only a dime. It was found money. He implied the word “cheap” without actually saying it.


When it became obvious he wasn’t going to change my mind, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the only coin remaining from the found dollar.

I stood at the counter, clutching my dime and watching as nine friends enjoyed their ice cream cones.

I’m not cheap, I told myself. I’m frugal.

Still, the dime didn’t make the satisfying “clink” I hoped it would when I got home and dropped it through the slot on my piggy bank.

I’m not cheap, I told myself. I’m fiscally conservative.

I don’t remember my first paycheck or my first house payment, but I’ve thought often about that dime.

So I did the math: taking into account inflation, cost of living adjustments, interest rates and various economic downturns, 55 years later my dime is now worth …

(multiply by point-zero-three, carry the one, subtract 2.7 percent, move the decimal point two places)


… roughly the cost of an ice cream cone. As long as you don’t add the optional sprinkles or dip it in chocolate. Or get more than one flavor.


Oh, who am I kidding? I’m just cheap.

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.

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