This is a story about my co-worker, Phillip.


Phillip and I happen to share the exact same birthday. And this is where the similarities end. While I’ve been known to be a bit reckless with my spending, he is much more conservative when it comes to finances.


If I were polite I would call Phillip extremely frugal. But instead, I’ll be honest and call him cheap. He brings penny pinching, coupon clipping and discount shopping to a whole new level.


In addition to his actual job, Phillip runs a small convenience store out of his cubicle. On any given day his filing cabinet holds chocolate bars, trail mix, bags of chips and even packages of Tums for overindulgent co-workers. He dispenses his wares at an exorbitant premium, making a significant profit off of snack-happy office mates. Phillip has a strict pricing policy; he doesn’t permit haggling and will not sell you a handful of Skittles at a discount.


Despite daily arguments over the cost of a single mini Kit-Kat bar (50 cents each or three for a dollar) Phillip’s stingy attitude can also be a helpful (if not hilarious) addition to the daily 9-5 grind. He routinely circulates emails that alert office staff to special sales and discounts that might be of interest.

So why should you care about any of this?

We’re all inclined to be a bit generous with our paycheques around the holidays. Every year, I splurge on gifts for loved ones only to wind up plunging into a debt despair come January.

This year, Phillip — my perpetually penny-wise friend — has been encouraging me to give up my wanton ways and come over to the cheap side. Ninety per cent of his gift giving is reliant on whatever those group-buying coupon websites offer in the weeks leading up to the holidays.

What a Grinch.

But maybe he’s on to something. On the heels of Black Friday and the general insanity of holiday shopping, I’ve started thinking that maybe gratuitous spending isn’t so great, even if it is in the name of all things festive. In the face of crazed consumerism, cheapness might actually be a virtue. And perhaps a little retail restraint is just what we all need this holiday season.

– Read more of Jessica Napier’s columns at