by Elise Seyfried
My first paid position came about when I was six years old. Every summer, my sister and I would spend two weeks down at the Jersey shore with my Nana, who was a total sweetheart but rather set in her ways. Her favorite thing in the entire world was sleeping, and at age six, that was my LEAST favorite thing to do. So, Nana paid Mo, my sister, and myself $5 for every single morning that we stayed in bed until 9 a.m.
Great gig, huh? But at that age, money meant less than nothing to us, and it was even more uninteresting because Nana often wrote us checks! We would arrive back home in NYC, suitcases bulging with signed slips of paper with Five and 00/100 written on them. After months of inaction on our part, Nana would plaintively ask us to PLEASE cash the checks. When we finally did, the bounty went for Archie comic books mostly, maybe a little gum.
When I was 12 and babysitting a lot, I spent every single dime I earned on the Columbia House Record Club. Columbia sent you a record every month if you didn’t tell them not to do so by a certain date. Month after month, the deadline would come and go, and another unwanted LP would arrive on my doorstep. As a result, my vast, expensive collection was filled with music I never listened to.
Things didn’t improve when I grew older and worked in restaurants. “Easy come, easy go” was the motto for me and many of my co-workers as tips flowed to us and then, magically, away from us and towards things like after-work beers and pizzas. For heaven’s sakes, I was 20 years old! Ever heard of a savings account, Elise? Apparently not!
When our own kids were young, we had a change jar in the kitchen (quite optimistically) labeled “London Fund,” as that was our lofty travel goal. We’d heard from others that their pennies and dimes added up steadily, leading to all sorts of wonderful adventures. That would be us, too! We figured that soon we’d have enough to jet over to the land of Big Ben and fish and chips. But alas, the London Fund was a little too close to the front door when our quickly exiting, hungry little students needed cafeteria money. Eventually, the change jar emptied to the point that we just gave up and relabeled it “Luncheon Fund.” So much for THAT plan!
Nowadays, although we are on a tight budget, I don’t clip coupons and neglect to scour the sales circulars before I shop. Every time I get in line behind a dedicated couponer, I envy the low number on her receipt (even as I am tremendously annoyed at the way she holds up the register). Much better to zip through, I think, always paying top dollar! I may be spending scads more than I should for my canned corn and Honey-Nut Cheerios, but at least I can get out of the store in record time!
It’s all about my short-sightedness, I’ve concluded. I simply fail to look ahead and plan accordingly. Oh, I’ve read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and other books that try to teach people like me to manage money. I just don’t take any of it to heart. And so on I go, living paycheck to paycheck, doomed to keep working until I am at least 105. But maybe…
Maybe I’d better go on eBay and see what the market is for a mint-condition recording of “Sing Along with Mitch” from Columbia House. Who knows? It might be worth a fortune!
Ed. Note: If Elise wants cents-off supermarket coupons, I have drawers full of them which I would be delighted to give her — for a very fair price, of course.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. She can be contacted through www.eliseseyfried.com.