Small Talk

Cost-saving measures seem to be worthless

I am fighting the urge to become a monk with vows of poverty. It appears to be the only way I will ever make ends meet.
Besides, the hairdo looks easy to manage and the robes really hide figure flaws. It’s either that or evict my entire family. Can you tell I finished paying bills?
I will recover, but it is no thanks to the really useless advice I have been offered by a host of experts with 25 really simple, really swell things I can do to cut back on my monthly costs.
They graciously offer suggestions like, “Cut your monthly water bill by shortening showers.” My showers aren’t the problem, but they never really tell you how to shorten your adult children’s showers. What a surprise. Each child insists their showers are already the shortest humanly possible. The helpful cost cutters just don’t understand that women under 30 have a lengthy ritual involving razors, soaps, shampoo and conditioners that simply cannot be hurried.
The weeks my son is home from college are easily tracked on the water and energy bills. His favorite refrain as he heads for his second shower of the day? “I’m all sweaty, mom!” With 20something boys, that’s a hard one to argue, but I wonder why it takes 20 minutes to remove young, male sweat when mine washes off in three. We have a team of scientists researching that phenomenon.
Meanwhile, I continue to despair as I scan the list of terrific ways to trim spending. I swear on my life, these suggestions came right off the Internet. The first thing is always, “Cut out that triple shot soy milk extra foam latte every day.” I make my tea at home. No luck there.
OK. Cut back on driving, use less gas. Ummmm, I drive a Prius and my job is within five miles of home. I suppose I could stop using the $5 drive-through car wash once a month, but the cost of laundry would go up every time I brush against the car.
Keep my thermostat low. I generally go one better and keep it off. My family moans and whines and shivers and I tell them to go throw on another sweatshirt. It sometimes works, but it cuts way down on the number of hugs I get.
Don’t buy lunch? I already eat lunch at home.
Sell unused items. That sounds so simple. It is not. I spent a week washing, folding, measuring all the beautiful table linens my mother left me. I spent an afternoon driving all over Encinitas and Carlsbad and could not find one antique, second-hand or what-not dealer who would touch them. eBay? Just because I have less money doesn’t mean I have more time to wrap and mail things.
Ah. Stop getting weekly manicures and massages. I dearly and truly wish I had this option. I just cut my nails short and live with neck tension.
Cut your own hair, they suggest. This may be possible for guys, but for women it’s just scary. I thought of starting a weekly Hat Day to put off washing my hair, but everyone thought I looked like a loony bag lady. This would apply tenfold were I to cut my own hair.
Never throw away food, they say. I think we all know you can lead your family to leftovers, but you cannot make them eat, or stop complaining.
Stop smoking? I don’t. Stop drinking? I scarcely do. My favorite on one woman’s list was “Never go out.” I am not known for my wild nights, but “never” is pretty harsh, don’t you think? I reacted the same way to her suggestion that we wear no jewelry beyond our wedding band. Let’s see. When was the last time I shopped at Tiffany’s?
Then someone said, in jest, “Why don’t you just stay in bed for a few days each week.” I think we have a winner.XX

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A realistic Engineer February 10, 2010 at 6:47 pm

You want to do the one thing that your article has hinted at that will save you $? Ditch the Prius.

For the tiny number of miles you drive a year, the additional cost of a hybrid, to include the limited maintenance options and battery replacement long before you hit the payback on gas savings, is your largest unnecessary cost.

A very efficient small car, like the Honda Civic VX, or a plug in electric street-legal golf cart, if you have another vehicle available for when you need to take the brood or go longer distances, are much more cost effective that the ‘Pious’, which is more about “Driving your politics” for most of its owners than any real cost savings.

You would also have the added benefit, for the Civic VX, of a residual value long after you have to replace the Prius battery, or the Prius is inevitably surpassed by the next generation hybrids. This is not even taking into account the problems caused by the recall.

Just the facts: the premium you are paying for owning that car, for your situation, far outweighs any $ savings. The environmental benefit, especially as compared to a street legal golf cart, are dubious, given the manufacturing and recycling effects of the battery, which will end its useful life long before it saves its total life-cycle cost in emissions, given your usage profile.

So: you want to save money, and be green: be practical, as opposed to driving a badge of honor.

Jean Gillette February 12, 2010 at 10:23 am

Love that your reading us and love that you took time to comment. I understand your points, but in 2007, it was the best the world had to offer. I bought it to lower my emissions for my children’s future world, not to save money on gas. I do travel a bit farther than a golf cart would allow, and I value life and limb a bit more than that as well.
When I win the lottery, I will have cars for every distance and occasion, I suppose, or a clean burning diesel. For now, I just do what I can.

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