October 2008

He Says, She Says: Saving Money

Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton

He Says by Keith Kelson

During a poker game at a friend’s house, one of the guys was bemoaning the fact that he was back on the dating scene after a very messy divorce. It goes without saying that he was taken to cleaners by his ex-wife—especially since she was a lawyer and from New York City. Talk about a recipe for disaster. But it wasn’t his ex-wife that was causing him to pull out his hair; it was the women he was trying to date.

It seems that a more than one woman raised an eyebrow when they saw him break out his coupon organizer while in line at Starbucks, McDonald’s and a couple of other fast food joints. “They acted like I sucker punched the Pope,” he whined. Nothing kills the mood at a poker like a guy talking about a messy divorce and his coupon organizer, so someone quickly changed the subject. I wanted to ask the dude what he was thinking, but I got dealt a pair of kings and had to concentrate on trying to make sure that numbskull across the table didn’t separate me from my hard earned cash.

I never did get a chance to talk to the poor chap with the coupon organizer; he was sent packing after going all-in with a pair jacks versus a guy with a straight flush. Ouch. I should have told him that there are some things you just don’t do as a man. It may appear to be unfair, but if you look closely you’ll see that the universe does know best.

For instance, there are certain things that women get away with that men simply can’t. Like wearing a pink shirt with yellow slacks. Go ahead, guys—I double dog dare you to try that ensemble and see what happens to your street credibility. Men also can’t cry in public. Unless, of course, you happen to be the brash wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, Terrell Owens. That guy cries at ribbon cutting ceremonies at shopping malls.

But if you really want to cause a stir, create a real hubub, just let it become public knowledge that you’re thrifty. You know: cheap. Like the guy with the coupon organizer. Well, like it or not, the double standard is in full effect. A cheap woman is seen as smart; a cheap man is seen as, well, cheap. A cheap woman will have suitors; a cheap man will be organizing his coupons on a Saturday night.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I look for bargains. I compare prices at different outlets and whenever possible save some money by haggling over the price. But I also realize that, as a man, you’ve got to be in stealth mode when you do. Even in these slow economic times, you can’t be too public with your thriftiness. You will be scorned. You will be made fun of. You will be dateless on a Saturday night. So, what’s a fella to do? How can a man survive these rough economic times with his pride and street cred intact without going into debt?

Well, first things first. Don’t ever let a woman see you produce a coupon to pay for a meal. A woman judges a man by his future earning potential as well as his current fiscal status. Using coupons at McDonald’s? Not a good look, dude. Especially since the good folks at McDonald’s have a value menu. If you can’t afford to be out on the town, learn how to cook and prepare your date a nice meal at your place. If learning to cook is too troublesome, you’re going to have to eliminate dinner dates from your arsenal. Invite a woman out for a cocktail and make sure you know the bartender.

Second, you should get rid of your gas guzzling vehicle unless it’s a bonafide classic. A Corvette? A ’66 Camaro? By all means keep it, but get rid any “Sport Utility Vehicle” unless you’re Shaquille O’Neal. Now, that guy needs the roomiest vehicle on the road, so unless you’re a seven-foot, three hundred pound dude like Shaq, get yourself a gas sipping vehicle pronto. You’ll be saving the planet and saving money.

Third, you’re going to have to cut your “entertainment” budget in half. That means if you go to a movie, you’ll be going to the matinee showing. Now, I know some of the sci-fi fanatics like to be in line for weeks in advance of a movie’s arrival. They just have to be the first to see a film. They also happen to be nerds willing pay top dollar for that privilege. Are you a nerd with a high paying IT job? No? Then you’ll be attending the matinee showing.

But won’t that make me look cheap? No, it’ll make you look busy and French. After all, matinee is French for “a musical or dramatic performance or social or public event held in the daytime and especially the afternoon.” You’ll wow your date with your mastery of all things French and save money to boot.

Using the stealth mode of penny pinching, you’ll find that women will be intrigued by you. Is he a man who likes the challenge of finding a bargain? Or is he a tightwad? They won’t know the answer, and trying to figure you out will drive them mad with desire.

Just remember to leave your coupon organizer at home; otherwise, the jig is up.

She Says: By Jean Wharton

It is clear that our dollars are not going as far as they were a few years ago. A simple review of my bank statement brings that staggering fact to reality. I’m not a betting woman, so a game of poker to get myself back in the black is not in my plan of action.

There are misconceptions about being financially savvy. Men who are educated about money and spend it wisely aren’t always considered cheap; they are financial advisors, accountants and stockbrokers. For some men, success is tied to the number of zeros in their paycheck and the diversification of their portfolio. But times are tough, and the zeros may not be adding up as quickly these days. So what does that mean for those men whose self worth is tied to their financials? It means they have to continue to use their knowledge to best serve their bank accounts, but they may also want to apply a few of the tactics that we women have been adhering to for generations.

Coupons are surely one tangible way to save dollars. But cutting coupons requires effort, and most men aren’t going to pick up multiple weekly flyers from various stores and clip away to save money for a new flat screen TV the way their grandma would. They will, however, research different outlets online to find the best deal and read up on Consumer Reports before they buy. One useful tip is to Google “coupon or discount code” with the item you’re looking for and the store you want to buy it from. If you’re lucky, a code may come up that will help you save.

I wouldn’t recommend selling your SUV right away, but do start to drive your oversized ride more wisely. You’ve got all that extra room—start a carpool! There is plenty of room in the back to tuck away a bicycle, so that during your work day, if you drive to work on HHI from Bluffton, you can hop on your bike for quick trips to get coffee, pick up lunch or run island errands. You’ll save money at the pump, get more exercise and help the environment. I’d hold off on selling your car until the electric, hybrid and alternative fuel cars start rolling off the assembly line for mainstream consumers in the U.S.

I don’t care who you are or what your current salary might be, taking a lady to McDonald’s is not a proper date. Unless you’re on a road trip or trapped in hurricane evacuation traffic, there is no logical reason why anyone’s girl should have to answer the question, “You want fries with that?” while on a date. A surefire way to look cheap in the eyes of a women is requesting that she order off the Dollar Menu. Make some sandwiches, grab some fruit and an inexpensive bottle of wine and take her on a picnic.

Speaking of wine, there are LOTS of affordable wines available on the market today. Sadly, our island doesn’t have a Trader Joe’s, where the “Two-Buck Chuck” Charles Shaw vino got its start. You’ll have to dig a little deeper to find the good deals, but they are out there. Budget your grocery bill accordingly, and you’ll be able to find wines for under $8; stock up and you’ll always have wine for dates, picnics and dinner parties.

During these tough economic times, we have to rely on our friends for support. Why not invite a few of them over for a potluck dinner party? Potlucks are a great way to pool resources, recipe ideas and gather with friends in an inexpensive manner. Once you have a good group of friends together, everyone brings a dish to share. That way, you’re only spending money to make your one dish, yet you get to eat like a king/queen. Play board games for the night or rent a movie; you don’t have to be out on the town spending huge dough to have fun or to impress a date. I always think that creativity and ingenuity go much further with modern women than just flashing cash.

Friends come into play over and over again while trying to keep your head above the financial waters these days. Survey your friends to make sure you’re getting the best deal on cell phone coverage, cable TV, trash pickup, haircuts and countless other services we use regularly. You may find that simply switching a few of your service providers will save you money each month. Women have been doing this for years. I hardly know a woman who can keep a bargain to herself. It must be an unwritten Lady Law that if someone compliments your shirt, if you got a great deal on it, you must reveal where you bought it and the incredible sale price. I suppose some women who want to give off the impression that they’ve got it all together don’t outlet shop. But most of us are more than happy to share that we bought something at T.J. Maxx for less than $20. I feel obligated to share a bargain.

Shopping at discount outlets will certainly help your bottom line, but in the end we simply must adhere to more conscious spending plans and make better financial decisions. Women need to educate themselves about all aspects of their money, even if they aren’t the sole breadwinner of their family. Look into education seminars with area banks, research investment opportunities and make informed decisions about how we spend. Men don’t have to clip coupons to save money nor do they have to spend lots of cash to impress the ladies. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it undoubtedly makes the road a bit easier to navigate.

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