Sunday, January 17, 2010

Old dog, new economy

I’ve been spoiled my whole life. Never been poor.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, no more than being poor is. It is simply our circumstance for a million reasons, including dumb luck - good, tragic or in-between. I’ve never been truly wealthy but until very recently I never had to pinch pennies, either.

And, brother, I did not!

About a year ago I lost my job and spent three months collecting unemployment checks. It put a temporary dent in our lifestyle and knocked a huge hole in my self-esteem which we won’t deal with in this report.

(You’re welcome.)

I did eventually get a new job but at just 25% the salary I had been used to for the past twenty years or so. 25%! Now we’re talking lifestyle dents Geico would just write off as a total loss.

And then — this is the really funny part, the Oliver Hardy-like, slap-yourself-in-the-face consternation moment — I recently lost that new job, got yet another, newer one, and am earning yet less!

Isn’t that a hoot!?

I just bought a big bag of dry kidney beans.

Dry kidney beans will be the metaphor for this epiphany and maybe my entire life.

When my best high school buddy, Ray Hunter, and I moved into our first apartment in 1969 we went to the grocery store and bought a lot of stuff we didn’t know how to prepare, including a big bag of dry kidney beans. Ray’s mom always had some so we considered it a mysterious staple, a necessity. We also bought two steaks to celebrate our new independence and our first meal in our shared home.

We bought chuck steaks and tried to fry them.

Since that glorious, giddy evening at Albertson’s forty years ago I have never again purchased dry beans or chuck steak. I figured they were a terrific waste of money.

And now, at 58, I’ve learned something drop-jaw amazing:

Did you know kidney beans in the can cost more than twice as much as if you’re willing to buy them in a bag and simply soak them in water overnight?

I know a lot of things about a lot of things but that’s something I didn’t learn until today. More to the point, though, is that even if I had known that, until now it wouldn’t have mattered a — well… a hill of beans to me.

I recently bought the Albertson’s generic-brand of Grape Nuts® and it was three dollars less than the same size Post® brand box! THREE DOLLARS SAVINGS ON A SINGLE BOX OF CEREAL!

For the first time in my adult life there is no such thing as “junk mail.”

I anticipate the daily arrival of retail coupons and supermarket ads as if they were Christmas cards or love letters!

I’ve learned to make beef jerky for our dogs in the kitchen rather than spend twenty bucks for it at the pet store!

The crockpot is my best friend!

Somebody stop me before I buy a Flowbee® and start cutting my own hair!

Saving money is wildly fun!

I’m clipping coupons, I’m rifling through cookbooks I’ve never opened, exorcizing all references to specific brands.

Bless me and yet save me, I am a born-again-for-the-first-time penny pincher!

And I promise –

…I swear to you!…

– when I start turning my underwear inside out I will seek help.

1 comment:

Christy said...

Hi Dave,
I'm a friend of Jim and Diane's, and Jim turned me on to your blog. I find this post terrifically precious. It's good to see someone embracing the challenge of this day and age with humor and flexibility, things we definitely need more of :) I love the kidney bean symbol!
ps I haven't tried the generic grape nuts lately, but I found them to be sub-par when I did. I hope for your sake they have improved!

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