Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.


RN: Of all the character traits that work my last nerve, parsimony just might take the Taystee Bakery Outlet cake.

CP: There you go, being mean to the cheap again. Why must those who are careful with a dollar be the butt of jokes and derision? A penny saved, you know.

RN: I admire financial diligence. It's the squeezing of the nickel until the buffalo poops that seems so, I don't know, unseemly. Although I did just invoke the word "poop," so I guess unseemly is as unseemly does.

CP: I have a big jar full of old buffalo nickels that I have tucked away. I also hang on to all kinds of other coins, and paper money, too. Just don't come begging to me when you and your free-spending pals have frittered away all your savings. And on what, I ask?

RN: Well, judging from your closet, I'd say shoes. I'm talking about the acquaintances who conveniently -- for them, anyway -- notice they've forgotten their wallet when the check arrives, or drive across town to save 4 cents a gallon on gas.

CP: When I worked on an ore carrier on the Great Lakes, I ran into some of the cheapest guys ever. There was a middle-aged mechanic who refused to go to town when we had a half-day of shore leave. "I'd just spend money," he'd say, waving us off with disdain. He would stay on the boat and then ask if he could read my newspaper when I was done with it. I'm surprised that he didn't also want to chew my old gum. For him, an ashtray was just a place to find "keepers."

RN: Pity the colleague who was on the receiving end of that guy's Secret Santa.

CP: Still, the opposite extreme is equally weird. The friend who never lets anyone else pay. That is pleasing to many, but I am left wondering why.

RN: Yes, that kind of imbalanced generosity ranks high on the Bug-o-Meter. Someone needs to program "Can't Buy Me Love" into their iPod. Ella Fitzgerald did a great cover.

CP: What more precisely is it that bugs you about skinflints? For me, it's about how their close attention to the cost of things tends to suck the joy out of those things for others who enjoy the occasional purchase.

RN: Exactly. I'll never understand the pathology of the well-paid tightwad who orders the middling pinot noir because the vastly superior and far more enjoyable choice is $2 more per glass.

CP: One person's "vastly superior" is another's "needless upcharge." They even have pimply teens at the cineplex trained to explain to you how the supersized beverage is a "much better deal."

RN: Fine, I'll rephrase. Which person would you rather vacation with? The one who flies Minneapolis-Atlanta-Los Angeles because the ticket is $40 less than a non-stop ticket, or the one who goes from MSP to LAX?

CP: OMG, your first example describes an ex of mine. Could that be why we broke up?

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib