2001 Pulitzer nominee Life Lessons

Penny Wise, Dollar Smart, Grand Genius: Regis, Pound Me

Loose Leaves, 1st run Sunday 22 October 2000 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas

By Ben S. Pollock
Copyright 2000 Donrey Media Group

Penny wise and pound foolish is not a recipe for gluttony. Who needs to follow a recipe for that?

We heard it from our elders, who got it from a bloke named Robert Burton who coined the maxim in the early 17th century.

Those of us who remember the 20th century may know people who saved remnants of bar soap to eventually combine into a mass big enough for a few more washes.

When the toothpaste is almost out, how much time do you spend squeezing two or three more dabs? Two minutes? Ten minutes?

That’s as compulsive as molding soap — and penny wise.

Your family size toothpaste costs around $2 and lasts, what, four months?

That’s 120 days, 240 brushings. You putz in the bathroom for less than a penny’s worth of mint polish? You’re late to work, go already!

We are still so economical that we comparison shop for bottled water.

We gauge home computer models for features we might need. Do I need video-editing software when I don’t own a digital camcorder — but I might.

Back when a dollar was worth a dollar (I’m almost 43 so my dollar was worth a dollar in the 1970s), I mused to my childhood best friend Dana Daniel how you can’t compare worth and price.

My example — I don’t know how Dana put up with me — was that for three drive-in lunches you could buy an album. The meals would be long digested and gone while the LP would last for years. One record equals a couple pounds of burgers and fries and Cokes (no Perrier in Fort Smith at that time).

We were only 16 or 17 so no revelation came from such musing, unless we concluded I was nuts.

The nation may be at record-high employment, but with little effort you can spend yourself broke.

Since my wife calculated that she spends $50 an hour at discount super stores, she goes just once a month. She’s there 2 1/2 hours and it costs $125.

Me? I am much better shopper. I can spend $125 at Wal-Mart in half the time.

Being armed with coupons helps just a little. Coupons work only when (A) you need the item and (B) you need that name-brand form of it. After that, discounted items are frills, which is why manufacturers still offer coupons.

Our hunting for bargains keeps the economy robust.

Does it make sense to go to Kmart for odds and ends, among which is spray cleaner, then later go to Wal-Mart to finish out the shopping list and see the same cleaner for over $1 cheaper?

Meanwhile, you discover some of what you bought at Kmart was a buck cheaper, proving the total at either store still works out about the same.

Would you buy a second bottle of the spray at Wal-Mart and the next day return the first to Kmart?

Well, it was a dollar.

Gas costs almost $1.50 a gallon, and the extra shopping trip takes 40 minutes of valuable time, not to mention killing a lunch hour.

Factoring in all of the costs to evaluate the multiple excursions is the true waste of time. I’d rather just assume I am dollar smart.

To live in America, we don’t need to act like paupers. Times are good, let’s enjoy all we can buy. Nice paper to write on stirs my creativity. My favorite is 8 cents a sheet, including shipping for the mail order. For 8 cents, however, you make a photocopy down the street that already has writing on it.

A basic computer today can be $1,500 or $1,800. Why not get the bigger one?

Then it will be too small in five years instead of four. It’s just $300. Not counting sales tax.

You buy a car, a few grand more than others because among other attributes it has side air bags. What price safety? I’m a grand genius.

Life insurance? First you sign. Then you pay. Last you undergo a physical.

“You mean my having to take a little cholesterol pill despite being in ‘excellent’ health kills the ‘preferred’ premium, and I have to pay $400 more?”

For that $400 I might as well enjoy eggs, yolk and all, a few times a week.

Eat, drink and surf the Net, for tomorrow we pound foolish.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email