By Glenda Price: CNJ columnist
Have you noticed all the newspaper supplements and magazines suddenly printing stories about “saving money,” and coining new words like “staycation” for not traveling someplace for a vacation?
I notice they’re using words like “savings” and “spend less.” I wonder what happened to “spend nothing.” After all, if you don’t have any money at all, “saving” is not a particularly useful concept.
We older folks are sons and daughters of Great Depression survivors, and thriftiness has been drilled into us our whole lives. Those of us who didn’t actually live through that terrible time can’t really understand the full horror of it even though we try.
We don’t have to look far, though, to see the results all around us. My husband was even worse than me about resisting throwing anything away. Our barn became home to: a no-good riding mower because we might need it for parts someday; a bathroom sink we might use as a replacement if one in the house ever died; a perfectly good saddle tree, rescued after all its leather covering got used for other things; and all kinds of rusty tools and parts of tools.
Some of those tools had uses so esoteric many of us don’t even understand them. For example, would you recognize a tire tube patching kit? It’s got a little scratcher part to rough up the rubber and a certain kind of glue to stick the patch you’ve cut to size over the hole in the tube.
I knew a guy, Herb, who found a wonderful use for his brace-and-bit tool (cheap drill). We were all college students then, with no money. Those were the days before Pell Grants, so you either got a scholarship or a student loan. Most of our friends, like us, could only afford one student at a time in the family so one (usually the wife) worked while the husband pursued a degree.
That made sense because it was before women’s lib, and the good jobs did not go to women. We laughingly called the wife’s degree a PhT — Putting Husband Through. Student wives were at the mercy of employers because they had to work, so sometimes there was no money. Period.
Also, asking parents for financial help was a no-no in our culture.
Herb and his wife had a trailer house. He was a good fixer-upper — except for washing machines. They had a year-old child, so there was plenty of laundry.
Their washing machine leaked — all over the place. After angrily flinging tools following his unsuccessful fix-it attempts one day, he had a flash of genius.
He got his brace-and-bit, crawled under the trailer house, and drilled a hole through the floor directly under the washing machine. Then, inside, he built a funnel of aluminum foil that guided all errant water to the hole.
Voila! Didn’t cost a dime. Nice, because they didn’t have a dime.
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org