Thursday, April 16, 2009

There are things that make me laugh

Like reading articles about how to "save money". It's not that the subject is not a serious and important one it's just that the ideas put forth in the article are either so blatantly obvious or so stupid, I can't believe people are paid to write them. (Obviously people who did not put themselves through college if you know what I mean).

Some examples:

1. Buy fewer clothes that need to be dry cleaned.

My solution: Buy as few clothes as possible, rarely go out in public and when you do have a large enough family and well dressed enough children so that you can stand behind them. If someone asks who you are your children can say that you are a homeless person they have befriended.

2. Use coupons.

Now this is an idea that never works because coupons are ALWAYS for brand name, processed foods. If you really want to save money you don't buy brand name, processed foods or you buy as little as possible. So little in fact that the time you've spent clipping, storing and trying to keep track of your coupons would be better spent making something from scratch.

3. For Appliance Purchases, check Consumer Reports and buy the most cost efficient.

Well, the most cost efficient is to do without the appliance if you can. You don't really need a dishwasher and I would never buy one. If you have one by all means use it but if it dies, get rid of it and glory in more kitchen cabinet space. If you seem to have more dishes than you can reasonably do, this introduces a delicate subject. The trick is to have enough children so that you never do a dish until the last child leaves the house. Though not much of a math whiz this is how I figure it [Mom = Cooking] and conversely [Kids = Dishes].

4. Money saving vacations.

This is a good one. You see pictures of trips to Disneyland, resorts, ranches and the happy Mom and Dad and kids doing nothing but spending money. To the family who is trying to save money there is no such thing as vacation. You might go camping, in a tent at a state park. You do not go to amusement parks, you do not eat out, you do not play miniature golf. You splurge on a fishing license that will provide 3 or 4 family meals. Your outings consist of going to the beach, going for walks, having a camp fire and making yourself sick on s'mores every night.

5. Save on Car Repairs by maintaining your vehicles.

This is a good one. Obviously written by someone with a car payment. Forget about car payments. Drive a beater for which any maintainance is laughably unnecessary. Your best bet is a car about 9 + years old with at least 200,000 miles on it. Any repairs except those to get it through inspection will not be worth it. This relieves the cost and stress of car repairs. This is also a way to find out who your real friends are- real friends are not embarrassed to see you, and be seen with you in your beater.

6. Clothing, sales, purchases and other follies.

You will invariably see a hard luck story about a family that 'gasp' is in so much difficulty they cannot even afford to buy their children new clothes. The horror of it is they have had to rely on "used clothing", hand me downs or resale shops. Well, let's cut directly to the chase here. Short of dumpster diving (and I qualify that statement by saying it could change next week) there is nothing beneath me in acquiring clothing. Forget "Resale Shops" unless you are going to a wedding or something. I have two words for you "Thrift Store" and another one is "Garage Sale". When you get into the underbelly of the frugal movement you will find that some of the best dressed people you know acquire most of their clothing from these two sources.

7. Gardening and raising animals for food.

This is an urban myth that must die. While there are many good reasons to raise your own food- you don't have to drive to the store to buy it, it makes your children do chores, you know the food is clean and you will just enjoy it, saving money is not realistic. I love to can tomatoes but have noticed that in tomato canning season the grocery stores lower their prices on canned tomatoes so that it is cheaper to buy them than to buy the canning jar. Still can, still garden and still raise chickens if you can but accept the fact that after you purchase the animals, buy feed, you will have spent about the same as buying the same thing from the grocery store. The feelings of moral superiority though, are priceless.

8. Sports, Lessons and other Childhood Expenditures.

Have you ever noticed that the masters in their field, Mozart, Beethoven, master painters had nothing. They were usually born into poverty and never achieved middle class status. And yet that does not stop us from expensive childhood lessons in music, art, sports, foreign languages etc. I'm not saying you don't get these lessons for your child if they really have any talent and interest but you find the least expensive way to satisfy these interests like free classes at the library, befriending artists and musicians, having college students who are studying these subjects give reasonable lessons. And completely rule out expensive sports- hockey, dirt biking, etc. It's not just the equipment, it's the trips to the ER, PT and specialists. (I know of what of I speak).

9. Hair Care

Your children need never see the inside of a salon. Buy a good hair cutting buzzer and learn while they are young and will not be mocked by their peers for your earlier mistakes. [Mothers are exempt from this and must visit the salon faithfully ever 8 weeks to maintain a shred of dignity.]

10. Saving for Your Kids College Fund.

I saved this for the last because it is the most laughable. If you can afford it and want to save for your children to go to college I doubt that I will be able to stop you. However, it is a guarantee that your child's grades will be mediocre at best. What is the incentive for doing well in High School if college is "paid for"? And once enrolled what is the incentive to do well in college, graduate in four years and actually major in something that will result in a job. No, sir, college loans taken out for your child and by your child and their "ghost of Christmas future" specter will guarantee excellent high school grades, good SATs and a zeal that cannot be matched when everything is taken for granted.


Leila said...

Very funny, Mary, and very true!

Ana Alexander said...

Haha I love it! It's soo true and so our family!

John F. Triolo said...

Great post Mary.

However, the comment on point 10 is a bit silly. Obviously college savings are not a reasonable priority for everyone, btu there isn't a thing wrong with them if you can afford it. My parents paid for my college (and boarding school) and I was graduated with honors AND without debt. A pretty good deal, all-in-all.

The idea that "handing things" to one's children somehow dooms them to low ambition and mediocrity is a fiction. A useful fiction, no doubt, but one that is not supported by those exmples we can draw from history. Particularly in the areas of intellectual and academic success I think it is easy to show that a list of the "greats" through history has been dominated by those who have had, to a greater or lesser extent, their education and position "handed to them." As Pieper would have it, leisure is the basis of culture.

I've never been able to discover how freeing one's decendents from the need (or at least some urgency of that need) to engage in the endless quest after lucre transmits to them a moral defect. In fact, I've never met anyone so obnoxious as a man who truly believes himself to be "self-made," whatever that phrase signifies.

I've always liked to think, that Newton, in his comment about the shoulders of giants, was speaking not only of those who came before him in science and mathematics but also those ancestors who had made it possible for him to devote himself to a life of the mind.

Petrus said...


sue said...

OK Mary,
I finally read this post and laughed all the way through it. I tried to read it to Kate and Joe but I don't think they got the part about the homeless person.
I think you can make a garden profitable if you get the manure for free and the seeds at Job Lot. :)
People do get sick of eating summer squash and tomatoes all summer though.