If you are like me, you will remember wishing when you were a kid that there was some way that you could send those nasty Brussels sprouts* to those millions of poor, starving Chinese children that your mother kept telling you about. Also, if you are like me, you remember when we used to fix things instead of throwing them away and buying a brand new replacement. You may even remember the time when there was a small fixit shop in every local shopping center. This was the place where you would take your “broken” toaster, leave it there a few days and then come back to pick it up, fixed, for $3.15. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were still places like that today? Instead, what we have now are places where you take stuff, leave it there for a few days and when you return, they charge you $35.00 to tell you that it will cost $175 to fix the thing that you paid $219.99 for about 18-1/2 months ago – just one half month beyond the 18 month warranty.** This is what is known as progress.
Some of us grew up in a time when we fixed things, we conserved things, we made things last and we often bought the less expensive brand. I think that Warren Buffet belongs to my generation. I also bet that in spite of his multi-billion dollar fortune, he still squeezes hard on his toothpaste tube to get those last few brushes out of it. I am fairly comfortably retired with just a few dollars less that Mr. Buffet but I know that I can get about a week’s more use out of that “empty” toothpaste tube before I finally admit that there is no more left in it. My wife asks me if I need a new toothpaste tube and I say, “No thanks, I think I can get four more squeezes out of it.” And she says in frustration, “Oh, honestly!”
I was 45 years old before I even thought about buying strawberry jam for my morning toast. You see, growing up, we were not exactly poor but we watched every nickel that we spent and we never had anything other than grape jelly in our house. (I know now that’s because it was cheaper than any of the other options.) I also grew up never having anything else for breakfast than Aunt Jemima buckwheat pancakes, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and Silvercup white bread – all because they were the least expensive available. Thinking about it now reminds me of the Rodney Dangerfield remark. He said, “When I was a kid we were so poor that if I wasn’t a boy, I wouldn’t have had anything to play with.”
And guess what? In spite of those hardships, I made it to my now advanced senior citizen status. (Please don’t call me elderly.)
And now a few words about how to save money. My wife has it all figured out. She saves money every time she goes shopping. She comes home from the grocery store and proudly announces, “I saved $23.76 on the groceries today.” (I think that’s because she used our grocery store “membership” card and that’s what the clerk told her at the checkout counter.) She also saves us many dollars every time she buys stuff at Macy’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Nordstrom’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and other expensive women’s clothing stores. It’s a good thing she is saving us so much money because that check I’ve been expecting from Publisher’s Clearing House seems to have been delayed somehow.
So I guess I’ll continue to squeeze the hell out of my toothpaste tube.
* And now I really like Brussels sprouts. Go figure.
** Editor’s note: The author is a retired engineer whose job it was to make sure that your device with the two-year warranty worked for exactly 25 months. He says that no thanks or accolades are expected.