Sunday, January 8, 2017


This series is inspired by the "Words From
Unity" public service announcements
that ran on television (particularly in
Kansas City) in the 1970's and 80's.
The Queen Mother never had to worry about your servant getting hooked on dope as a child.

"You wouldn't want to pay for cocaine when you found out how much it was," she jibed. That was before cheap crack came along, but no matter.

Just the other day, I was with Mom and Dad as we were walking past the shops in Victoria Gardens, the high-end shopping community in Southern California's "909." I kept noticing all the ragged, scruffy clothing in the windows.

"I could probably go to Goodwill and Savers and get the same thing for less than half the price," I said.

"Yes, but it's the way those jeans are ripped that makes them fashionable," Mom observed.

She still wonders why I'm buying clothing at thrift stores when I can afford to pay full price. The reason is simple: I believe most people can't tell a pair of preowned slacks from a fashionably scruffy new pair, and going the second-hand route allows me to get two pair for the price of one. Pre-owned socks and underwear are out of the question.

The Queen Mother also can't understand why I buy cheap toilet paper, the kind that sells for less than a dollar per four-pack. When the folks were last visiting me in Tucson, the Queen of Clean insisted on refilling more than a few cleaning supplies -- along with softer toilet tissue. I don't particularly care for something priced as though it should be perfumed on each individual square, but Mother won that round.

Spending less money on toilet paper means more money is available to give to others and stash away for other goodies, including retirement. I also don't know how long my Kia Spectra will continue to chug down the road, although it has gotten beyond 150,000 miles at this point with remarkably few problems beyond normal maintenance. Your servant's goal is to get it to at least 200,000. I would at least like to top the 170,000 miles I got from my 2001 Kia Rio. That car was made as cheaply as one could make a car and still meet federal regulations, down to the cracking plastic all over the place. Still, I got nearly 10 years out of that car, and probably double its expected mileage, even though the compressor became a recurring pain in the behind during the last months of its life. I kept the costs down by ordering used compressors from a junkyard parts recycler and hiring an amiable, talented mechanic to install it.

"A lot of people buy throwaway cars and just keep on fixing them," he told me as he worked on somebody's Toyota that probably should have been taken around back and put out of its misery years ago. The owners kept on fixing them because they found it cost-effective given the choice of a repair versus a car payment. Dave Ramsey has said the most affordable car you can buy is the one you're already in, extolling the virtue of staying in a "beater." I hear people calling into his show regularly with $100,000 in debt, and they're making payments on a $40,000 truck.

I have very few rules for what rides I will consider when I get that next car: it must be pre-owned. And it must be able to hold a French flintlock musket.

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