Thursday, August 19, 2010

A penny saved is about what I've earned.

My family wasn’t “poor” growing up, but we didn’t splurge on certain amenities. For example, we didn’t have a furnace in our house. Well, my mother, who occasionally reads this column, would correct me by saying we did not have a “working” furnace in our house. We used a wood burning stove to heat our home. Which made my room a sub-50 degree ice box by morning after the stove went cold. We also did not have air conditioning. Actually, I’ll make a point here; we did have air conditioning in one room. Yes mom, I’m going to tell on you. It is true; we only had a window unit air conditioner in my parent’s room (so selfish).

My first car was what I believe was a ’81 Chrysler LeBaron sedan. The LeBaron was Chrysler’s lowest priced model. Yes, my first car was a rebadged Dodge Diplomat (another low selling car). After only a couple months, the felt lining in the ceiling of the cab started sagging down. It wasn’t long before I had to use staples to keep the lining out of my line of vision. Yes, you read that correctly, I did not take the car to the dealership, I simply got a stapler to solve the problem.

This continued on into college where these skills became valuable. My freshman year, living in the dorm, I made great usage out of my hotpot. I lived off of Raman Noodles and macaroni and cheese without milk (to my wife’s dismay, I still prefer it that way). The milk was a luxury my budget couldn’t afford and I could get macaroni and cheese for $.33 a box. Not a bad price for a one course meal.

I still have some of that, what I will call frugalness, in my blood. That could drive a spouse insane, but I think my wife finds it a valuable asset to our family. She was introduced to my thriftiness when we were dating and I pulled out my wallet. Now this wasn’t any wallet, it was my favorite wallet. It was also covered in Duct tape. Yes, Duct tape, the poor man’s fix everything tool and it fixed my wallet nicely.

Today, I drive my wife’s college car, a 1998 Chevy Cavalier with nearly 200,000 miles on it. About 2 years ago, we lost the air conditioning in that lovely land ship. I took it to get an estimate on fixing this chariot, but it came out to be an approximate $1000 fix. A $1000 fix for a car that Kelly’s Bluebook valued at about $600. Yes, you guessed it, I did not ante up the cost for the air conditioning. Instead, for the past two years, I’ve been driving around quite comfortably . . . in the winter. In the summer, I simply try not to sweat through my clothes.

Why do I do this, why do I drive around in a college girl’s car with no air conditioning? It’s really not a character flaw, or mindless penny pinching, really it goes back to my family. My mom and dad worked very hard to give me what I needed to succeed in life. I am the man I am today, because of their sacrifices. It seems only reasonable that I follow their lead, make sacrifices of my own to give my children the same gift. However, I think maybe I’ve sacrificed enough; it may be time for a new car. Then again, it will be winter soon, maybe I can make it another year.

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