Mr. Cheap Stuff: Who do you think you are?

Dean Takamine is the smart-shoppin' blogger and handsome face behind the deal-finding, coupon-clipping site, Mr. Cheap Stuff. Dean spends his spare time searching for, then posting, the best online shopping deals. As a tech-loving guy, Mr. Cheap Stuff can be counted on to give you the lowdown on some of the best gadget-grubbing, money-saving opportunities on the web.

I asked Dean to share his motives, inspiration, and goals with Wise Bread readers. Also, I had to find out how he can possibly stand living in the tropical paradise we call Hawaii. I can't help it — it must be SUCH a hard existence.

When did you start your blog, and what was your impetus for starting it?

The reason I started in 2004 was that so many of my family and friends used to ask me where the best deals were online. Instead of having to tell them one by one, I decided to create a website and update it with current deals, freebies, and coupons to help them save money.

Over time outside traffic started to pour in and the site has been growing very rapidly ever since. In fact, I am in the process of switching over to a new server to handle the traffic.

Do you blog alone, or do you have other people helping you? Your blog occasionally says “we,” and I’m not sure if that’s the royal “we” or not, as in “We are not amused.”

I am currently the only one who posts on For a time I had someone else also writing but I had to let him go because I felt the quality of the postings were not up to my standards. So I guess you could say I am the only Mr. Cheap Stuff.

How do you find all these great deals? Are you just super-adept at Googling?

I probably spend most of my time for the site in finding good deals. Anyone can find a deal but finding a deal, coupon, or freebie that is actually worth your time takes some hunting. I receive most of my deals directly from the merchant via email. I have been able to lock up some great exclusive deals with many top online merchants for my readers.

I also search though a bunch of deal web sites and blogs to see if there is anything worth writing about. I like to think is about quality not quantity. I don’t like to bombard reader with stuff instead just the good stuff so you are not overwhelmed by all the noise.

Do you make a living off of blogging, or is it more of a hobby? If you have another day job, what is it?

I do not make a living off blogging, although that would be pretty nice. When I’m not wearing my Mr. Cheap Stuff hat I do real estate investing and online search marketing for dot-com companies. I was doing software engineering prior but left to follow my passion which is online marketing and real estate investing.

What are you plans for Mr. Cheap Stuff? Do you want to expand it, or would you rather keep it smaller and easier to manage?

My plans for Mr. Cheap Stuff is to continue provide great value for my readers. I have a bunch of things I would like to add. I would love to expand but I also want to stay focused on my core audience.

In a recent post, you talked about the high cost of living in your hometown (Honolulu) as compared to other cities. Every locale has its secret money-saving spots. How would one live on a budget in Hawaii? (I’m certainly not asking because I intend to move there, buy a shack on the beach, and spend the rest of my life serving. Scout’s honor. Nope, just asking a totally innocent question, with no ulterior motives whatsoever.)

Well, as you know Honolulu is not only beautiful but it is an expensive place to live. Off the top of my head these are some ways to live here on a budget.

1. Life’s a Beach – Last time I checked, going to all the beautiful beaches and a scenic place here on the island of Oahu was free. After work and on the weekends, I enjoy going to the beach to surf or swim. It is fun, great exercise, and there is no admission price.

2. Enjoy the Ride – A lot of people don’t know but Hawaii has one of the best public transportation systems in the nation. It pretty much takes you every where you need to go on the island plus unlike many large cities, Honolulu’s transportation system is very safe and clean. Honolulu also just started planning for their new multi-billion dollar rail system.

3. Cheap Vacations – Last week I was in Maui for a weekend getaway and my one-way ticket was only $20. Island hopping is a cheap way to get away from paradise to paradise. You have to check with the local airlines in Hawaii such as Hawaiian airlines or Aloha Airlines to get these deals. As I write this I am currently on the Big Island of Hawaii I was able to get $20 flights. Also there was recently $99 flights to Oakland, CA so anyone in the Bay Area that would like to come to Hawaii should check it out.

4. Work From Home – Well that is what I do. If you are able to work from home you can save a lot of time and money. I work from home and it has so many benefits. I probably don’t eat out as much and I save on gas. Gas in Hawaii is pretty expensive $2.81 as I write this. Also Honolulu has one of the highest parking rates. I believe in the downtown region you have to get on a waiting list and parking spaces right now average about $200+/Month.

5. Stay Away From the Tourist Traps – This is pretty much goes for any city but avoid the tourist traps. I have my list of favorite restaurants that I love to eat and they are all not in Waikiki.

Do people really eat that much Spam in Hawaii, or is that a myth?

No, it is not a myth, and I’ll tell you why. In Hawaii, Spam is not frowned upon as it is in the U.S. mainland because back in the early plantation days (early-mid 1900s), Spam was one of the more easily transportable products to Hawaii.

Hawaii just made use of what they had access to just as in any culture has. I would say that younger generations probably don’t eat as much because of the changing culture. One of the most popular Spam products is a Spam musubi (rice ball) which is sort of like a big Spam sushi. Personally, I don’t really care for Spam because I find it salty, and it's probably not very good for you.

Do you consider yourself to be a frugal guy?

I personally don’t like the term frugal, to me it sounds like someone that may have a scarcity mentality, or a world of "not enough." Instead of focusing on cutting back or savings, I like to focus on investing and giving.

For example, if you want to quit smoking don’t focus on smoking less, instead focus on having better health, vitality, and having extra money. Another good example is if you want to save money to buy a house don’t think about having to spend less and cut back on this and that. Instead focus on how great it will feel to have your own house. It is an optimistic view rather than a pessimistic view.

I also believe saving money is great but it’s what you do with your savings that really makes a difference. Again, I don’t think you should just saving money just to save money, I believe investing it or giving it away is what will really make you “rich.”

What are some things that you simply can’t help buying, no matter how hard you try?

I’m a sucker for technology gadgets. I always have a running list of tech toys that I want. I recently purchased an iRiver Clix MP3 player to listen to music and audio books while I train for the Honolulu Marathon in December.

I also enjoy traveling. I am currently trying to plan a trip to Japan next year. I have a funny way of justifying a lot of my purchases. For example when I purchased my MP3 player, I told myself it is not just buying this to listen to music, rather it is an educational investment that allows me to listen to my favorite business and investing audio books. When I travel I like to also think of it as a personal investment in myself to learn more about other places and cultures and most importantly, myself.

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Will Chen's picture

Welcome to Wise Bread Dean!  I love what you said about frugality.  It certainly carries a weird negative meaning in our culture.  I hope that will eventually change.

P.S. Love the question about Spam Andrea.  I've always wondered about that....

Guest's picture

I am orginally from Hawaii and this was refreshing. And I think I actually seen Dean somewhere when I was living back home (maybe we went to the same college.) Anywho, price of living is expensive there, but the tips Dean has are to par. You can live in Paradise AND afford it if you're frugal.

Gosh I miss the beaches. And I make (turkey) Spam musubi's about 2 times a year, here in Atlanta.

Guest's picture

Thanks! I am researching eating frugally in Oahu and I stumbled on your blog! Hi! I love saving people money! Thanks for all you do!

Guest's picture
Charles Borgstede

Hi, I enjoyed reading your article. I want to take my 5 year old Grandauter to see the Battleship Missouri which my Father built (with a couple of other guys) and took me to the launching at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, NY. 4 Senior, 2 Adults, and my 5 year old - Total of 7, want to go in July 2010. The prices are sky high for me to treat them all. more than $5,000.00. How do I look for lower prices? Thank you. Charles