The Gift of the Magi
How we cite our quotes:
One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. (1)
The very first line of the story emphasizes just how poor Jim and Della are. It's agonizingly difficult to even save up such a small sum of money. Della's poverty also means she has to humiliate herself in front of others by being a penny pincher.
A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad. (3)
Jim and Della live in a very humble apartment indeed. The narrator uses both the word "beggar" and "mendicancy" (a mendicant is a beggar). You might think that Jim and Della would benefit from the generosity of others, not from giving their own things away.
The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. (5)
Here we get the meager figures of Jim's salary. The remark about the name on the mailbox also shows that Jim and Della are self-conscious about their poverty, and that they're humble. They care about how they appear to others, and they're currently so poor that they're even embarrassed to have a name that might sound pretentious.