Thursday Rant: How I almost got arrested for being a Frugal Weirdo

In Monday’s post’s comments, some readers used the term “frugal weirdo.” This term makes me happy and sad, all at the same time. It makes me sad because we frugal people are so few and far between, we are outcasts. On the other hand, Frugal Weirdo is a badge of honor. I’d rather be a wealthy weirdo than a broke, normal guy any day of the week.

FRGL4VRUnless you live on the moon, you know that marijuana is legal in Colorado. This has created quite a bit of consternation among the surrounding states. Kansas went so far as to put up fake drug checkpoint signs to scare people. Rumor has it that police in Cheyenne watch for cars with Colorado plates. I experienced this phenomenon last week when I was pulled over in Iowa. Here is how it went down.

Officer, I’m just frugal, really

photo (22)


Last week, I mentioned that I drove to Chicago on my recent work trip to save money. It was a lot cheaper to drive than to fly and rent a car. Besides, I don’t mind driving and it gave me a good excuse to listen to the “Game of Thrones” audio books. The trouble started on my return trip in western Iowa.

I don’t speed much any more. It’s been at least a decade since my last speeding ticket. It just isn’t worth the fines. Besides, I’m a lot calmer now, so I just take my time. So I wasn’t at all worried when I passed a speed trap in western Iowa. I was in the right lane, while others were flying past me in the left. However, 5 minutes later, I found myself getting pulled over. The officer came up to the window and the conversation went like this:

  • Officer: Do you know why I pulled you over?
  • Me: Ummmmm…
  • Officer: The speed limit is 65 and you were going 69.
  • Me: Ummmmm…
  • Officer: What are you doing in Iowa?
  • Me: I’m returning from a work trip in Chicago.
  • Officer: Really? Why didn’t you fly there?
  • Me: Well, my company doesn’t pay for my travel. Driving worked out to be cheaper than flying.
  • Officer: Hmmmmm. I’m just going to give you a warning. Why don’t you join me in the front seat of my squad car and I’ll write it up?
  • Me: Ummmmm, OK.
What I thought Iowa was like before The Incident

What I thought Iowa was like before The Incident

That is when the fun started. As soon as I got out of the car, the officer asked if he could pat me down. I consented*. There I was on the side of I-80 with my hands on the squad car getting groped by The Man. Lovely. It’s at times like this that my imagination starts to run wild:

Don’t tase me bro!

In my mind’s eye, I’m on that TV show “Cops” and the officer starts hamming it up for the camera:

  • Officer <while stroking his copstache>: This Coloradan expects us to believe he drove across county to save a couple bucks. Who is he trying to kid? When we find his stash, we’re gonna send this Frugal Felon up the river for 10 years of hard time.
  • Me: No, really, I was just…
  • Officer: Son, you’ll shut your mouth if you know what’s good for you!
  • Me: No, really…
  • Officer: That’s it, say hello to my little friend Mr. Taser you Frugal Freak!


Queue the music: Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do…

This is what I think Iowa is like now.

This is what I think Iowa** is like now.

What really happened

In reality, the officer and I had a <sarcasm>nice chat</sarcasm> in the squad car:

  • Officer: So, you’re from Colorado, want to tell me again what you’re doing in Iowa?
  • Me: Like I said, I was on a work trip to Chicago. I’m on my way back.
  • Officer: Why didn’t you fly?
  • Me: I have to pay for my own travel. It’s cheaper to drive than to fly and rent a car. I like to save money whenever I can.

At this point, the officer looked at me like I was insane. Clearly, he thought I was running drugs or involved in some other illicit activity. The conversation went on:

  • Officer: Chicago? Really? What do you do there?
  • Me: I program computers.
  • Office: Program computers?
  • Me <starting to act surly>: Yes, I write complicated algorithms for medical devices. I also design and implement virtualization based architectures for high-availability systems.

This flummoxed him a bit and he didn’t know what to say, so he went back to his original line of questioning:

  • Officer: So, you drove? Really? Do you have a family?
  • Me: Yes, I have a wife and 2 children. I look forward to seeing them later today.
  • Officer: Tell me again why you drove?

Around in circles we went. He couldn’t (or didn’t want to) grasp that someone would drive to save money. Same questions, over and over, to see if I was consistent.

Later in the redundant and ridiculous conversation, he hinted that he’d like to search my car. It never came to this. The incident ended awkwardly when he asked to verify that my eye color was the same as what was on my license. We stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment*** and he finally let me go.

Frugal Weirdo

The incident was annoying, but thinking back, I’m mildly amused. I’m sure the officer suspected I was a drug runner, bringing a stash to Chicago. He thought he had caught a big fish. Little did he knew, all he caught was a Frugal Weirdo.


*If I had more time, I would have been belligerent (“Get a warrant if you want to search me!”). However, I was on my way back home to see my family and I didn’t want to wait for hours on the side of the road in a police car.

**Iowa people, I really do love you and your state. We travel to see you every year for RAGBRAI. I love wandering around your small towns, looking at your wind turbines and watching the sun set over your cornfields. I hope my incident was nothing more than an anomaly.

***Not like that.

Doc - Oct 8, 2014, 8-43 PM

Iowa, can we still be friends?

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52 Responses to Thursday Rant: How I almost got arrested for being a Frugal Weirdo

  1. Haha, dirty cop. It is incredible to me how many bad cops are out there. Glad it ended without incident……but just think if he had pulled you over at night……or worse yet if you were of a different race.
    Income Surfer recently posted…Will You Encourage Your Kids to Attend College?!My Profile

  2. If it’s any consolation, I got pulled over by a motorcycle cop while on my bike on the way to work. I had slowed down, but not fully stopped, at a stop sign when there were virtually NO CARS around. In fact the only cars were the motorcycle cops who were pulled off onto the sidewalk a couple blocks up and I had enough visibility that I could see them as I went through the intersection. =(
    Now I come to a full stop. Every time.

    I don’t know if I would consent to being searched without cause… it’s funny my friend spilled BC powder in the cup holder of her car the other day, it looks like she (mother of 2 under 5!) was doing snorting drugs or something in the car while waiting for preschool pickup.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted…Won’t You Be My Neighbor?My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      That is completely and totally pathetic on the part of the cop. Obviously, they don’t have enough to do.

  3. Hmmm, ‘grey eyes’ the form says… not sure I’d trust ’em. Sounds like a bizarre encounter. Glad you made it out sans ticket!

    I aspire to frugal weirdness in all aspects of life and sometimes I’m shocked no one calls me on it (although I do have this almost-daily conversation with co-workers about clothes: co-worker “where did you get that cute dress?” me: “uh, the thrift store.” co-worker: “oh, that’s right, you buy everything used….”). But so far, no legal interference with my frugality.
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…The Water Bill IncidentMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      My eyes will pierce your soul! Well, not really, but that sounded kind of cool.

      I shop at thrift stores as well. One co-worked looked at me like I had a 3rd, grey eye when I told her where my shirt came from.

  4. Mrs SSC says:

    Wow! I am impressed you kept your cool. I tend to be fairly level-headed, but I think I would’ve made a couple of sarcastic comments at some point in that interaction that would’ve gotten my car searched. I’m big on the ‘lesson learned’ and probably would’ve asked the officer what I should’ve done differently – should I have had fake plates from a different state? Should I have matched the 10+ mph over speed limit of all the other drivers? Is my almost middle-aged mama appearance suspicious? Of course, the officer would probably say ‘don’t speed’….
    Mrs SSC recently posted…Bad Decisions 5: Cashing out my 401k!My Profile

  5. GPS says:

    “Ethnicity – Not of hispanic origin”
    Does this mean the world is made of hispanic people and non hispanic people? This could totally be made for racial profiling. Was this guy of hispanic background or non hispanic background? Cause if it’s hispanic background than we got something to worry about. But if it’s non-hispanic background than we’ve got nothing.

    What a load of bollocks!

  6. That. Is. Totally. Ridiculous!
    theFIREstarter recently posted…Track Your Finances For Free – Introducing Money DashboardMy Profile

  7. 4 mph over. Seriously? Is it even worth the effort? Even if you were the type to smoke, is that a viable reason to search a car? I think he’d have to smell it.
    You might be a frugal weirdo, but now he’s a weirdo cop. 🙂
    Genevieve @ pftwins recently posted…Would You Use Your Emergency Fund To Pay Down Debt? Brooke’s Big Student Loan PushMy Profile

  8. Michelle says:

    You got pulled over for going 69 in a 65? That is ridiculous. Me and Wes got pulled over the other day for going 26 in a 20. It was after midnight (he was on a bike trail with a friend and a bike broke so I had to drive 8 hours round trip to save them) and there was not a single person awake in the town (so no one was at risk), and he radared us right when we entered the 20mph speed zone (it went from 55 to 20, so we were in the process of slowing down). Luckily he didn’t give us a ticket because Wes told him that it was ridiculous!
    Michelle recently posted…How To Start a WordPress Blog on HostGator – Plus $250 GiveawayMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I think the police have lost site of their mission sometimes. They are supposed to be there to protect us, not to bother us for silly nonsense.

  9. Jon says:

    I’m somewhat convinced that many o’ cops didn’t have high school “go their way” and thus try to even the score in life by being tough guys ( or gals ). This fella with the obligatory cookie duster/mustache sounds like one of them. Clearly he doesn’t see the value in frugality….lucky for him he likely has a nice pension to fall back on. At that point…he can scream… “hey kids….get off my lawn!”

  10. Refinerr says:

    Thank your lucky stars! My husband was just telling me about how the police are taking people’s cash and homes as part of a crackdown on drug running except it’s happening without trial or evidence of any drugs. He even said one department used the money they took to fund their holiday party? Merry Christmas!
    Refinerr recently posted…How I Took 1 Year Off My Retirement Goal By Selling My Car!My Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I’ve read similar stuff. I think that I’ll empty my car and wallet out next time I’m on the road.

  11. KB says:

    Why did you consent to the pat down? I would have said no. He didn’t have any probable cause.

    And getting into his squad car – mind boggling man.

    • 1500 says:

      Like I said at the end, if I had more time, I would have fought everything. It wasn’t worth it to me to sit for a couple hours on the side of the road while he got a warrant and then emptied out every square inch of my vehicle (I’ve seen it). When I’m retired, I’ll have all day to fight nonsense like this!

      I also realize now that much of it was trickery. “Come sit in my car to fill out paperwork” was a way to get me out of the car so he could see inside and also observe my physical condition.

      Next time…

      • KB says:

        Yeah, I understand since you were sober and had nothing to conceal you probably thought it would be quicker and easier. But they are taught to pry and fuck with us until we crack (even if there is no wrong doing).

        Like savvy, I’ve been heavily profiled in my life and given less than stellar treatment from police officers. Trying to sound polite here. 🙂

        Either way, I hope I didn’t come across as a dick with comment. Wasn’t the intent, I was just surprised but I understand the logic. You just wanted to get home, can’t hate on that.

        • 1500 says:

          Nah KB, it’s all good. I like your spirit and we’re on the same page. Since this happened, I have read up on my rights when stopped. I also STRONGLY advise you and anyone reading this to record any interaction with police. Any smartphone has voice recording. The second you are pulled over, hit the Record button.

          I think that in a lot of places, the police have forgotten about their core mission. Instead of protecting us from others, they hassle people who aren’t doing anything outwardly wrong. I’m of a libertarian mindset and prefer government out of my life.

          I have been hassled too in the past and it sucks. The first time was in high school, I lived in a crappy neighborhood and someone had vandalized the neighbor’s car. I happened to be walking past, so the cops nabbed me. I sat in the back of a cop car for an hour while the cop tried to pin it on me: “You did this!” “No officer, I didn’t.” Eventually, it turned into: “If you didn’t do this, you know who did it!” “Sorry cop, still can’t help ya’!”


          • KB says:

            e-hug man. Glad we are on the same page.

            And I completely agree with recording. I have some cheap little windshield mount for my iPhone. I record most of my drives, especially in high traffic or accident prone areas. Hopefully I never need it but I do believe it could save my ass one day.

            Have a good week man. 🙂

          • 1500 says:

            That recording idea is a great one. I hear that in some countries (Russia comes to mind), everyone has these. I almost t-boned some idiot who pulled out in front of me last week. So many horrible drivers…

  12. Even Steven says:

    I love the before and after Iowa pictures, gave me a good laugh this morning. Years ago I was stopped funny enough in Iowa, they did ask to search my car, I was actually moving so it was full of all my clothes, etc from college. He had stopped me because they had a lot of people smuggling fireworks or so he said. Oh Iowa!
    Even Steven recently posted…Strike it Rich The Financial Independence Gold RushMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Next time I’m on a trip, I’ll put a big box in the back of my car that says “COCAINE” on it. It will be filled with a bunch of those snakes that pop out. “Sure officer, go ahead and see what is in the box!”

  13. Big Guy Money says:

    “*If I had more time, I would have been belligerent (“Get a warrant if you want to search me!”). However, I was on my way back home to see my family and I didn’t want to wait for hours on the side of the road in a police car.”

    As great as this post was, methinks it could’ve been epic if this scenario were played out!
    Big Guy Money recently posted…DIY – Have I Gone Too Far?My Profile

  14. Tawcan says:

    Wow you got pulled over for going over 4 miles per hour? I guess the cop had nothing better to do.

    You had a hilarious conversation with the cop. I’m sure once he let you go he was on the radio talking to other cops to watch out for a frugal weirdo lol!
    Tawcan recently posted…Secrets to a happy and frugal lifeMy Profile

  15. BackNColo says:

    You could have said,” Iowa…. Isn’t that where all those meth heads are?”

    In all seriousness, the I-80 corridor is a pretty big on drug running . Any excuse to see if you are drunk, stoned or silly enough to have drugs and explosives is enough to make that cops day or year.

    Did the cop ask if you were carrying any cash? I hear they love to confiscate it as evidence in a future crime.

    Glad you made it back the Colorado.

    • 1500 says:

      No cash questions. Good thing too as I had $50,000 in non-sequential 100s under my spare.

      Ha, I kid. In reality, I usually have about $3 in actual cash on me.

      Perhaps next time I’ll take the country roads. They are more scenic anyway.

    • Walt S. says:

      The cop thought Mr. 1500 was running pot from Colorado. He probably has an older car that’s efficient on gas for frugal reasons. However, this type of car combined with Colorado plates could contain a Coloradan with a load of weed to sell in Iowa.

  16. Brooke says:

    Maybe you were suspicious *because* you were going the speed limit. I heard that a lot of drug runners actually really try to follow the law when they’re running drugs because yaknow, they don’t want to get caught. Most drug arrests on the highways probably get found through expired plates, license, speeding, etc.

    Doesn’t mean that you being a frugal weirdo doesn’t throw him for a loop though!
    Brooke recently posted…Would You Use Your Emergency Fund To Pay Down Debt? Brooke’s Big Student Loan PushMy Profile

  17. J. Money says:

    Wait, why were you driving through Iowa again?
    J. Money recently posted…Side Hustle #53: I Self-Publish Children’s BooksMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I give up! Officer Money, there is a kilo of uncut Colombian hidden above the gas tank. You got me!

  18. Mr. 1500,

    “Don’t tase me bro!” – Hilarious.

    That sounds like a brutally uncomfortable exchange. I’ve had limited interactions with police officers in my time, but every single time was really uncomfortable. You sometimes wonder if they forget that they’re there to serve and protect. I get that they have a tough job and all that, but one imagines there might be a better way to go about it.

    Best regards!
    Dividend Mantra recently posted…Income/Expenses For September 2014My Profile

  19. This story cracked me up. Frugal weirdo, hahaha. I’ve actually had a couple of speeding tickets in Iowa! Fortunately, they’ve never caught up with my Tennessee driving record. Shhhhh! Those speed tracks are ridiculous!
    Kate @ Cashville Skyline recently posted…Seeking Mindfulness at WorkMy Profile

  20. Myles Money says:

    So this was the dummy run, right? Next time you’ll stock up on “supplies” for the trip and wave to the cop as you drive by, wafting thick smoke out of the passenger-side window. Good plan.
    Myles Money recently posted…Peeing In The ShowerMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Dummy run, ha! I’m picturing the Element with a big trail of smoke behind it, reggae music blasting out the windows.

  21. Rob says:

    I’m not going to lie, I was hoping this story would end with you leading Iowan cops on a car chase. Something about a Honda Element leading cops through cornfields just seems amazing.

    • 1500 says:

      Oh, that is planned for when I’m > 80 and have lost my mind. Hopefully, I’m driving some kind levitating device by then. The scene will be like the end of the Blues Brothers movie, but 75 years into the future.

      • Zaxon says:

        I know a handful of upstanding decent human beings who happen to be cops. I would hate to tar every one with the same brush. That being said even those individuals will admit they work with a bunch of arseholes. If i had to pick my top 3 mortal enemies from highschool they all work in that town or the next town over for the police department. Unfortunately i think number 4 and 5 are in prison if you listen to scuttle butt.

        Did i mention i’m very pleased i moved 1000 miles from my home town?

        Great article as always 🙂

  22. Excellent blog post. I absolutely appreciate this website.
    Keep it up!
    Elite Forskolin recently posted…Elite ForskolinMy Profile

  23. Hilarious!

    But seriously, is our society so spendy that even the police think it’s weird to make choices that save money?

    /Sad times
    Louise @ Good Financial Choices recently posted…Net Worth 2 – October 2014My Profile

  24. Jeff says:

    This guy sounded really bored. I got pulled over on I80 rolling through Nebraska and State Patrol pulled me over for 2 MPH over the limit. . .seriously, your margin of error on your gun is probably at least 2 MPH. He literally did a Smokey and the Bandit move across the grassy median to snag me and give me a “warning”. Yeeehaaaaa! If only, I were in the General Lee, I would have smoked him and done a couple jumps over bridges, gullies, washed out roads, etc. Then you compare that to California where I’m getting passed on both sides while I’m going 80. . .;-)

    • 1500 says:

      Whoah, that Nebraska officer was a tool. That is completely ridiculous.

      Dukes of Hazzard! Would you have done the “frozen in mid-air” thing too? Cue Waylon Jennings: “Let’s see if this Jeff is gonna get outta this one…”

      • Jeff says:

        Oh, heck ya. . .freeze frame it up and put on some Waylon. . .I can hear Rosco P. Coltrane in the background fake swearing. 😉

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