Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Yes, you read it correctly. Spend MORE rather than LESS.

You see, I’m of the old school, use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Absorbed by osmosis into my very pores since I was old enough to read letters on a page.

I didn’t know we, the three generations of us in a two-bedroom row house, were poor. The weekly delivery of a block of ice into our “ice box” was a fact of life, as was the outhouse in one corner of our lot in a hamlet of a couple hundred first-generation Americans and their immigrant forebears. I remember watching Dad shave in the “kitchen” at the deep sink which needed a pump to draw water. Other accoutrements in that room were a Hoosier cabinet that held dry foodstuffs, a round oak table and chairs, and a huge coal-fired stove on which Mom cooked and which supplied the bulk of heat for the house. Heat that didn’t reach into the attic where my sister and I slept huddled together in a double bed.

I remember the kind of “treat” we kids looked forward to, sitting on the back stoop on a hot August afternoon with Dad before he left for his four-to-midnight shift at the foundry: a tall glass of water with a few chips of ice in it. Didn’t matter that it was merely water, it was time spent with Dad, and crunching the ice at the bottom of the glass was indeed a treat.

Fast-forward to me now, an old broad on Social Security, after a lifetime of reusing bags both paper and plastic long before it became ecologically hip to do so. Of making do with one square of Bounty instead of two to pick up spills, of dribbling the shower instead of enjoying a mini-massage at full blast, of turning off lamps whenever I left a room. Keeping the Subaru for over a hundred thousand miles instead of trading up or even trading in before it was necessary. Cutting my own hair (gosh, how did I have the temerity to buy L’Oreal in those days? How profligate I was!)

You get the idea. I scrimped and saved and put whatever I could into an IRA for when I’m too old or too tired and cranky to haul in a paycheck.

So here I am, in the last ten? twenty? percent of my lifetime, husband buried (yes, I did buy a double gravesite and headstone), no children or grandchildren to leave a legacy for, and just like Mom in her lifetime, I’m still buying the cheap cuts of beef, still avoiding the fresh, plump asparagus at $3.99 a pound and instead, waiting until June when they’re ninety-nine cents. Never got into the habit of eating out or having a few drinks with or without meals. Anyway, even a single glass of wine makes me sleepy.

Kathy Kulig's legs, er, shoes
Jewelry? My wedding ring and a modest wrist watch mostly. The holes in my ears closed up long ago. Shoes? Sure, five-inch heels look great—on Kathy Kulig. For me, the bunions decreed old-lady shoes, which were far cheaper. My one extravagance was to keep myself supplied with Dove dark chocolate Promises.

This isn’t to say I’m a miser whose wallet emits moths when opened. No, I donate regularly to my church and other worthy causes, I send books to the troops, gave all my business suits and costume jewelry to Dress for Success. I help neighbors and far-flung friends in distress. I actually upgraded my DSL to FIOS in 2012, even though it cost twice as much. But that’s an expense necessary to my writing, to being connected to readers and fans and research, so maybe it doesn’t count. I attend three writing conferences a year (especially RomantiCon!), same rationale, even though it’s FUN to spend time with readers and other writers. It would be fun to sleep on the floor of the Grand Canyon too, but that costs an arm and a couple of legs.

I need to start spending some money on ME, because let’s face it, there are no pockets on a shroud. So. Having that New Year’s resolution in mind, I bought two 8-ounce lobster tails on sale at ten bucks apiece. That’s a start. And, as a Christmas present to myself, I replaced my forty-year-old paring knife with a genuine Wusthof and gave it a big brother as well. (Did I really spend a C-note on two knives?) I’m slowly replacing gadgets received at my first wedding shower in 1969: a new self-cleaning garlic press, ergonomic tongs, a bright red skimmer. I’m even thinking of replacing my 300-watt microwave that we originally bought for the RV in 1993. Yeah, I’m gonna go wild in 2013!

I’ve resolved to call the local spa for a full-body massage. Decided to use the toll bridge (E-Z Pass makes it easy to ignore the dollar here and there) instead of going a circuitous route to the local free bridge from the Farmers’ Market. Let’s see, upgrade my digital camera that’s too old to take a 4GB card? Get *gasp* a cell phone? Might even spring for a box of Moonstruck Chocolate at more than two bucks a mouthful. Because, as a totally unrelated commercial says, I’m worth it.

Whaddaya think? Should I go for it? What’s your New Year’s resolution?


  1. You go, girl! Spend your money on YOU and have a great time doing it.
    You're worth the extras and earned them. Live comfortably...and be a little wild and adventurous. Splurge on what you want now...can't use your money in the afterlife!
    Great resolution!
    My resolution? Find time for me away from obligations...I need more "me" time!

    1. Thanks for the nudge, Marianne. And I like your resolution, too!

  2. I am in the same age bracket as you. To paraphrase the old song, I've seen the days dwindle down to a precious few. When I retired, I was bulletproof except for the possibility of long-term nursing care. Like you, we scrimped and saved. We never took a vacation in the first 42 years of our marriage. What we owned, we used until it died. The old toaster was reduced to a guessing game of how would the toast turn out this time? The knives squashed tomatoes instead of cutting them. The old Subaru had seen the rain in Africa.

    Three years ago, we sold our only real asset---our paid-off house---and traded it even-up for a tiny condo in Miami Beach. The housing crash allowed us to live a dream---ocean view and located across the street from the beach. Over the course of the three years we have been here, we bought all new furniture---how much furniture do you need in a 1000 square foot condo? We bought top of the line kitchen appliances and a new set of cutlery ... and replacved our 20-something year old TV with a nice 46" flat screen model.

    Our daily lives are still the same. We do not eat the top cuts of meat. Both of us diet to keep healthy and physically comfortable so we eat out only once a week and then we still prefer diner food to gourmet.

    So, we have lifetime patterns that we broke and many that we kept. We now vacation 52 weeks a year without leaving home. Many of our spoiled neighbors believe they are deprived if they don't take at least 4 week-long vacations a year. We ask: Where would we go---Camden, NJ? We live by the beach!

    We still have that fear that the last of us standing might need exceptional help in later years if we are unfortunate enough to outlive the useful stage of our bodies or minds. Since I have always been crazy,I do not have to worry about dementia. For me, it would probably be an improvement!

    Thus, we still are careful with money, and even save a little. We do not deprive ourelves but that means little when your needs and wants correspond. I recently took a contract writing job that pays 35 cents a word. Because I write rapidly and edit on the fly, I can earn $500 in less than two hours of work and turn out a product that is diamond hard and razor sharp.

    Life is good. We need little and have enough. We do not worry about it. We call our lives "an asbestos situation." We do "asbestos" we can.

    1. Uh oh, you're making me look at my kitchen with new eyes, Milton. I've lived with it for 25 years now.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I loved hearing it!

  3. Great post, Cris. Loved the perspective into life you show and the contrast of then-now. Hard to break habits of a lifetime but little by little small changes can put us in a place we've been looking to get to know here and there. Best wishes, no matter your choice. Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks, Joanna. Happy new year to you too.

  4. You go girl! I've scrimped and saved most of my adult life, not becuase I was saving for retirement, but becuase I needed to in order to survive. I doubt I'll ever truly retire. The past few years have been much better and, like you, I've been treating myself to things I wouldn't have been able to in the past. It feels good to be able to do it.

    1. I hope 2013 treats you well, N.J. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Good for you! My mother-in-law always wanted to travel to England (her father's homeland) and see the country of her roots. Before she got around to it, her health got too bad. At her death, she left a surprising amount of money.

    Our retirement plans include something like "spend more money." Now that we're both non-employed and on Social Security (or, in my case, soon to be), my husband wants to eat out more often and take a couple more trips to Britain or Europe. His financial plan has allotted room for all that.

    One of my goals, oddly, is to watch more TV. With so many cable channels, there's lots of good-sounding stuff I just didn't have time for in the past. Old movies, for instance.

    1. I hear you about not doing things you were going to "get around to", Margaret. Enjoy all the old movies and those trips to Europe.

  6. Your story reminded me of some of the stories my father used to tell...he still calls a refrigerator an ice box btw...

    My New Year's Resolution is to get the year right when I write it on checks and the like...it'll probably take me to October or so, but I'll get it eventually...

    Happy New Year...

    1. Yeah, ice box, so did my Dad, Alan. And he always looked for lithiated lemon long after they stopped offering it.

      If you write a check to me, be sure to spell my name correctly *grin*. I'll live with the scribbled-over date.

  7. The Romance Man wrote: "Cris, I tried but your site will not let me comment. This is what I wrote. Cris, I knew an old couple once who saved and saved with the plan of traveling the world when they retired. As soon as they retired he got sick and they never did anything they wanted. My advice, start spending your money on whatever makes you happy, jewelry, traveling, strip clubs, who cares, you earned it now enjoy it."

    Note from Cris: This is TheRomanceMan's blog. He's funny and insightful and you should read him.

  8. Spend it girl and be glad you have it to spend.
    There are no pockets in shrouds. choked on my coffee over that one. It may become my favorite quote of the year, along with one my daughter learned from a guy (raised in Arkansas) at work when asked his opinion about something. "Not my pig, not my farm." I"ve been using that one a lot lately.
    Happy New Year.

  9. Love the pig quote! Thanks for sharing, Shelley. Happy New Year to you as well.

  10. Go for it! After being unemployed for a while and scrimping and saving, it was a lot of fun for me to spend for a change. When I went to book a trip last year, I realized I'd almost forgotten how. I think you appreciate it more when you've gone without.
    Afton Locke