Anyway, they did, and still do, have a unified approach to getting good stuff for less by spending as little of their own money as possible. For example, there is no way that either of them paid retail for what they are wearing in this photo. In fact, I'm pretty sure my dad bought my mom this dress on one of his excursions. I will have to get the story and update this blog after they return from A/C this weekend (and no, they aren't paying for the hotel room at the Borgata either). Part of the strategy is holding on to what little money you have for dear life. How does one do this for decades? Some tips and tricks include:
- PAY CASH for EVERYTHING - I'm pretty sure that store owners all over the tri-state area think they are in the mob. Purchases of furniture, TVs, reupholstery...whatever...all in CASH. This means you never owe anybody anything, especially credit card companies with insane interest rates. While we have major credit cards, we have never not paid our entire credit card bills IN FULL, every month, ever. This means you can never buy something unless you know you have the cash in the bank to cover it. A crazy notion for most people, I know. I thank my parents for this unAmerican approach to finances.
- Get a job that provides a company car - My parents bought two cars between 1971 and 1993. No, that is not a typo. TWO CARS in 22 years. My dad bought my mom a 1971 white Plymouth Duster for like $1,500 with AM radio, no air conditioning, vinyl interior and seat belts that snaked along the window frame and were completely unusable. She had this car until 1987 or '88, at which point she was able to buy her own car - a 1983 black Buick Riviera with grey velvet interior. That car was badass. Otherwise, my dad was given whatever middle management mobile his company got the best deal on every 2-3 years. He didn't even have to pay for gas.
- Take the family to annual corporate conventions and call it "vacation" - Almost every summer my mom and I went with my dad to his annual company convention in various North American cities - Atlanta, Toronto, Montreal, Detroit (woo hoo), Chicago, Boston, Hawaii, San Diego, Reno, etc. Most of the time we drove (refer to point above, this means we got there for free), but I finally put my foot down when my dad thought it would be a good idea for us to drive from NJ to LAS VEGAS. These conventions were held at posh hotels, which we also got to stay in for free, since my dad was working the entire time. Funny, but I always managed to return from these trips with more money than I brought - I guess I was an eager young Jedi.
- Bring your own liquor - A continuation on the vacation tip -- we all know how exorbitant mini bar prices are in hotel rooms. How do you avoid this? Bring your own Dewars and Absolute fifths from home.
- Make friends with rich, generous people - I probably don't have any idea of how many social events - dinners, shows, parties, drinks - that my parents got for free from their wealthy, generous friends, but I do know that one particular couple bought me my first bike, my second bike, Colecovision and a color TV. So this particular strategy directly served me well.
- If it ain't broke, don't buy a new one - Keep furniture, dishware, even clothing until they literally break or fall apart. It's only fairly recent that my parents started buying furniture. During my whole life the house was furnished with items that they had from before they were married. They still eat off of the same and only dishes they ever had (a wedding present)!
- Buy a "how to prepare chicken in 125 different ways" cookbook - My mother has prepared chicken, the lowest-priced meat product, in more ways than even Rachael Ray could concoct.
- Don't go to the movies - EVER - I mean, you can't get out of there for less than $22 per couple, so why not just wait 5 years for it to come out on TV? Don't bother renting videos or DVDs either, just be patient! They'll show it on TV...eventually. The last movie my mom saw in the theater? Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985.
- Save supermarket bags - and use them as garbage bags. I myself have about 18,000 D'agastino's plastic bags in my coat closet.
- Wait until your kids move out of the house before you install central airconditioning - self explanatory.
If you follow these steps, you will have more of your own money than you should with which to purchase fancy clothes at outlets, discount stores and sample sales that will make you appear as though you have more money than you do.
My dad, for example, is literally a Democrat in Republican's clothing. Ha ha suckaas...we're infiltrating the GOP in our fancy pants and then BLAM! How do you think the House and Senate so easily went D this year? That's right...SYMS!