Friday, August 21, 2009

Living Within Your Means

I got this from a good friend after I’d posted my article on Cash for Clunkers . While this was sent as mild humor; it occurred to me how most of the items listed pointed toward the idea of living within your means, enjoying that which you had without complaining for that which you couldn’t afford or did without. We could learn a few things from the past.

Someone asked the other day, ‘What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?’

‘We didn’t have fast food when I was growing up,’ I informed him. ‘All the food was slow’

‘C’mon, seriously. Where did you eat?’

‘It was a place called “at home”, I explained, ‘Mom cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn’t like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.’

By this time, the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage, so I didn’t tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table.

But here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I figured his system could have handled it:

Some parents NEVER owned their own house, wore Levis, set foot on a golf course, traveled out of the country or had a credit card.

In their later years, they had something called a revolving charge card. The card was good only at Sears Roebuck. Or maybe it was Sears & Roebuck. Either way, there is no Roebuck anymore. Maybe he died.

My parents never drove me to soccer practice, This was mostly because we never had heard of soccer. I had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow).

We didn’t have a television in our house until I was 10. It was, of course, black and white, and the station went off the air at midnight, after playing the national anthem and a poem about God; it came back on the air at about 6am and there was usually a locally produced news and farm show on, featuring local people.

I was 9 before I tasted my first pizza, it was called “pizza pie”. When I bit into it I burned the roof of my mouth and the cheese slid off, swung down, plastered itself against my chin and burned that too. It’s still the best pizza I ever had.

I never had a telephone in my room. The only phone in the house was in the living room and it was on a party line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and make sure some people you didn’t know weren’t already using the line.

Pizzas were not delivered to our home; but milk was.

All newspapers were delivered by boys and all boys delivered newspapers – my brother delivered a newspaper six days a week. It cost 7 cents a paper, of which he got to keep 2 cents. He had to get up at 6am every morning. On Saturday, he had to collect the 42 cent from his customers. His favorite customers were the ones who gave him 50 cents and told him to keep the change. His least favorite customers were the ones who seemed to never be home on collection day.

Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the movies. There were no movie ratings because all movies were responsibly produced for everyone to enjoy viewing, without profanity or violence or most anything offensive.

If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don’t blame me if they bust a gut laughing.

That part about having a paper route holds a great deal of importance. I had my own paper route after school. I picked up a bundle of newspapers from the drop off location which was about a mile or so away, if recollection serves there were either 25 or 50 newspapers in a bundle depending on the thickness of that day’s paper. I had one of those heavy duty work bicycles with the handle bars turned upwards, like an angry bull, to hold a canvass sack full of papers. I also had a small green ledger collection book listing each customer and how much they owed/paid.

The folks who ducked payment often were trying to be quiet as mice on the other side of the door when I’d show up. Sometimes I’d see the lights get switched off as if they thought I was that stupid. I learned to be bold and knock until they gave in. Can you imagine trying to hide from a paper boy, a debt so small as to make a grown up turn off the lights?

I learned basic principles of budgeting, payment for work performed, work ethic and doing things even when the weather wasn’t pleasant. I learned responsibilities and for that lesson it’s hard to put a ledger sheet or determine whether or not the pay scale was enough.

I’ll close with something I heard from a returning missionary a couple of week ago. Elder Lyon spent two years serving in a foreign land. One morning as he looked at the rain falling he wondered to himself, “Why bother going out today, folks aren’t going to want to let us into their homes dripping wet.”

His partner, a local, came over to him as he stood under the shelter of an awning, putting a hand on his shoulder and got his attention. “Your people in your country believed the teachings of the Prophet, Joseph Smith. They crossed the Great Plains on foot in the dead of winter, many of them without shoes. Are you going to tell me a little rain is going to stop you from going out to teach the Gospel?”

I may have gotten the quote off a bit, not having written it down word for word; but you should get the message regardless. We need to learn a proper work ethic, work hard and enjoy what rewards are provided through our own efforts; sitting back and waiting for better economic times, better weather or the winning lottery ticket isn’t much of a work ethic, now is it?

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