Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Tale of Two Twenties

Last night before I headed out to a meeting, I handed my husband $20. He would be handling the taxi service to gymnastics for the girls, and the subsequent feeding of the children. In my absence I was 99% certain that the feeding was going to take place at Taco Bell – hence, the $20.

When I got home last night, he informed me that all but some loose change from the $20 had indeed been spent at Taco Bell, to feed the five of them. He expressed some outrage at the prices, and I agreed with him that it was, indeed, pricy.

So pricy, actually, that I had stopped taking the girls out after gymnastics several weeks ago. Instead, I let them pick what I will make for dinner when we get home (almost invariably Kraft Mac-n-Chez), which they find just about as nifty and which I find to be about $18 less expensive than a trip to a fast food restaurant.

Twenty dollars, gone on a single meal of doubtful nutrition. Poor little twenty, we barely knew ye…and I shall try hard not to think that at the supermarket, I could have bought a whole chicken, a bag of potatoes, some fresh broccoli and carrots, a couple onions, a bag of granny smith apples and some milk, and then made a classic roasted chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and an apple pie to boot, followed by a rich and savory chicken pot pie for the following night and probably lunch the day after that…

I’ll try really, really hard not to think about that.

Today, I took Captain Adventure for an outing. We went to the library for some brain-food for mommy and some books with CARS! in them for Captain Adventure, and we ate our snack and ran like maniacs around the rose garden for a little while, and then we pulled into the hospice thrift store.

For $18, I picked up three brand name women’s sweaters and one turtleneck, all looking like they’ve never been worn, a skirt and a book for Eldest and a two-piece set of Osh-Kosh jeans and button-down shirt for Captain Adventure – brand new, tags still on it. The women’s clothes were all marked down 20%, because the weather is starting to warm up and we won’t need the sweaters for much longer.

This season has been hard on my winter-wardrobe. I’ve ruined four different sweaters in one way or another (including one pure wool one that somehow got into the regular wash and was felted to about a size 000), had holes ripped in my turtlenecks by such random things as orange tree thorns and a flying kitchen knife (heh heh, yeah, apparently soapy water makes things slippery and if you’re gesturing wildly while holding a soapy-water coated kitchen knife, it might fly out of your hand and drive its point right into the fabric of your shirt, which will then go zzzzzzzzip! and run from right below your left breast all the way down to the hem – who knew?!) (it wasn’t a BIG HOLE, but it was a mighty long little zzzzzzzip), and decided that a couple other things were just a little too tired looking even for me and tossed them into the rag bin…

Gosh, I pondered as I put the last shirt on the last hanger and slipped it into place. I don’t even have enough left to warrant a space bag this year! I’m going to need to make some replacements, next winter…

This second twenty provided for next year’s need, and (assuming I am a little less clumsy next year) (which is, granted, a rather large assumption) will continue providing well beyond that.

The value it provided will stick around for a long, long time.

So there you are. A tale of two twenties. One vanished quickly into a single meal for five that tasted good, but wasn’t very nutritious (you are not going to try to tell me that a Nacho Bell Grande meal is ‘good for you’, are you?); another is going into my closet for (hopefully) (as long as I don’t take up chainsaw juggling) a very long stay indeed, a stay during which it will be actively useful for months of the year.

How long does your money stick around and make itself actively useful?

Discuss amongst yourselves. I’m off to keep working on that flaming shell border on the Pacific Northwest Shawl. I also noted this morning that after the shell border, I then have to do i-cord along the top.

I predict that they are going to end up burying me with this still unfinished project someday.

(EDIT: OMG, I just realized something about this shawl pattern! It, too, is going to be providing me with YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS of frustration entertainment value! OK, just had to share my little 'let's think about the positive side of this flippin' flamin' shell border thing' revelation. Carry on.)


Science PhD Mom said...

In the interest of forwarding your frugality, I've been checking out a blog called "frugal families", and I noticed that the author is calling for the frugal to stock up on wheat flour and other flour products as there is a wheat shortage which will probably affect prices for a few months. I just thought since you bake your own bread you might want to know so that you can stock up whilst you have the chance!

Anonymous said...

I love this post :-)

And actually, just earlier I was discussing something rather similar, with my husband.

We don't have a lot of discretionary income, so we choose to spend out 'allowances' in different ways. He's a smoker (boo, hiss!) and at $4 a pack, he can get 4 packs of cigarettes. He smokes about half a pack every day, so he's getting 8 days of 'pleasure' (if smoking is even pleasurable) out of a $16 investment.

I buy yarn (shock! Awe!). For the same $16, I can buy a few skeins of Lion Wool and make a scarf and hat set, or a skein of luscious sock yarn, or enough laceweight for a good-sized shawl. My $16 buys not only yarn, but the finished product as well as the enjoyment and entertainment that come out of the process of knitting.

When cigarettes are gone, they're truly gone--all that's left is filters. When yarn is 'gone', there's a shawl or a pair of socks or a hat or mittens in its place. Which is the better investment?

Caitlan said...

Wow. I agree that fast food is more expensive than homemade, but $20 at Taco Bell is crazy! In highschool (last year) I'd go there with friends and we'd spend like $2 each, and we had the 5 dollar challenge, which is to try and eat $5 of food from Taco Bell at one sitting, and no one ever did, even the guys.

Amy Lane said... lost me at math...but I totally admire you for taking care of your family.

Anonymous said...

Way to go on the sweaters! There's a thrift store near my Mom's house that I absolutely love - last trip I got a Land's End Squall jacket for $4. All I did was wash it up. Clothing is so ridiculously expensive that if I can find decent stuff there, you better believe I'm going to bring it home. Leaves me more money for yarn! :-)

Yarnhog said...

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. I spend $20 without even leaving the house most days. We routinely blow $20 on lunch for two of us on the average work day. $20 might get two kids into a movie with some grocery store candy. I'm pretty sure I've never bought a sweater for less than $20, much less three of them, plus other stuff to boot. Some days I feel like we ooze money the way water oozed into the Titanic.