In today’s economic climate, caring for your aging parents is tougher than ever.  Assisted living facilities (what used to be called “the home”) are expensive and really, how much bingo can one person play, especially when they’re hard of hearing and forgot what a “B” looks like?  That’s why, should your parents or “significant elders”, be unable to live on their own, we strongly recommend inviting them to live with you.

“Now hold on a minute,” you’re probably thinking.  “Gramps may be old but he still eats and Fixodent doesn’t grow on trees.”  Which is true, there may be some expense. But the benefits of having a senior citizen around the house will still prove to be a financial windfall.  Because seniors want to have a purpose.  And you’re going to give it to them.

Once Mom or Pop is settled in and stopped complaining about the two flights of stairs to their room in the attic, begin dropping hints that you’re having financial problems.  This can’t possibly be a lie, who isn’t?  Assure the “whatevergenarian” that it’s fine, things will work out, then drop the bomb.  We have, however, had to fire the housekeeper. (If that happens to be a lie, you should probably stop reading this blog now.  We’ve got nothing for you.)  So if you see a few dust balls on the living room floor, just try to ignore them. 

Two things can happen.  Mom or pop won’t care or understand and the dust balls will continue to multiply.  In which case, you’d better open a dialogue with your sibling about “sharing responsibility.”  More likely, the lovable senior will offer to help out, to once again be a contributing member of society, to… do the laundry.  Or clean the stove.  Or vacuum the kid’s bedroom.  If you’re lucky, that desire to earn their keep will extend to other areas.  Leaves need raking?  Kitchen door needs a coat of paint?  Who you gonna call, the local handyman at $55 an hour, or Grandpa Seymour, who’s sitting on the couch, chin on his chest, watching Lou Dobbs vent about immigration policies.  Gramps is going to get the nod every time, for his flat fee of $0.

The situation is clearly win win.  You’ll be saving dough on housekeeping, yard work, and minor home repairs; the senior will feel needed and get the kind of exercise you simply can’t get with water aerobics.  Plus, should the old guy or gal have a couple of bucks stashed away, you will probably be in line for it.  After all, no one lives forever, no matter how many picture windows they wash.



The current recession seems like a good time to buy a car.  Everywhere you look, commercials are screaming 0 % financing,  $0 down payments and rebates the size of an AIG Executive’s Golden Parachute.  Yet the truth, as is often the case, is not that simple.  Like hedgehogs and O.J. Simpson, car salespeople are locked into a pattern of behavior they are powerless to change.  Financing, rebates and recession aside, they’ll still try to hump you. 

It starts when you enter the dealership.  “Hey there, good afternoon.”  A lie.  “We’re not making any money on this.” Big Lie.  “Our best offer.”  The lies continue.  “The restrooms are down the hall.”  Right, in another building.  It’s not that car salesmen are bad people, they just can’t help themselves, anymore than a rat can ignore a glob of peanut butter.  Therefore, to emerge victorious in the primordial battle between sales predator and whatever money you have left in the bank, we suggest the following strategy. As you enter the dealership, inform your sales predator (don’t worry, they’ll find you) that you hate the internal combustion engine, never owned one, never will.  In fact, you don’t even have a license.  You’re merely killing time until your Sierra Club meeting starts down the street. 

The sales predator will be stunned, but recover quickly.  This is the challenge they have been waiting for their entire professional lives, including that stint selling times shares in a condo community on the hurricane side of Haiti.  First, they will try to sell you an electric car, which you must immediately reject, expanding your hatred of the internal combustion engine to every four wheeled death trap on the road.  Still, the predator will continue to preditate.  Undaunted, he will try to sell you a hybrid, a vehicle with outstanding fuel efficiency, a mini-car, a motorcycle, a moped, whatever he’s got on the lot.  All you have to do is keep insisting that you hate cars, never owned one, never will.  This will enflame the predator, who will then call in reinforcements, the Wizard of Car Dealership Oz, his General Manager, Hal Wicklinski.  “What if we could get you into a car for a great price?  A once in a lifetime deal?” Hal will ask. And with those words, you will know you have them. The predator’s ego has been engaged.  In his mind he’s already regaling colleagues, family and friends with the story of how he sold a car to a person who hated cars, had never owned one, and didn’t even have a license!  This vision will drive the sales predator to continue to lower the price, call in favors from the bank or other dealers, do anything within his power to force you into buying a car.  He will lose all perspective, all judgment, all business sense.  He will get you exactly what you want, for the price you want to pay, in a color you like, and throw in the GPS. Victory will be yours, including the factory installed Bluetooth.

Caution:  The sales predator will know that he has lost, yet firmly believe that he can still eek out a victory before you drive off the lot.  Whatever you do, say “no” to the undercoating.



Money to Burn?

At six to eight dollars a pack for Joe Camels or Marlboro Reds, if you are still smoking cigarettes, the time has definitely come to stop. Think about it – emphysema, lung cancer or heart disease is one thing (actually it’s three things, but that’s how the expression goes), but thirty to forty dollars a week up in smoke is another. In the course of a year that’s over a thousand bucks for the perverse pleasure of drawing smoke into your lungs, something any five year old or professional fire fighter can tell you is not a good thing.  Yet it is not our place to offer advice on breaking death inducing habits.  There are plenty of other blogs for that (see www.breakingdeathinducinghabits.dot).  Our objective, the thing that gets us out of bed no later than 1:00 PM every afternoon, is to save you money.  Therefore, if you are still determined to draw carcinogens into your system, here’s a delivery method that will instantly cut costs.  Head out to the City Dump when they are burning trash (we’re almost certain there’s no admission charge) and breathe deeply.  Most likely you will get a month’s worth of poison within a few lungfuls.  Be careful not to inhale too much (Sorry, no guidelines.  Every person has their own toxic tolerance), you don’t want to die before you get home.  We fully realize that finding and getting to the dump may be somewhat inconvenient so before you start questioning the practicality of our concepts (nothing irritates us more) try this handy alternative.  Start a fire (backyard, courtyard or private hearth will do) and toss in several large Diet Coke plastic bottles. Inhale the noxious fumes and exhale luxuriously, making sure there’s a bucket nearby in case you puke.  True it doesn’t have the glamour of Bogie standing in the fog somewhere with a butt hanging off his lip, but at least you won’t be making RJ Reynolds any richer. 

Yes, the price of gas has recently gone down,but now no one has any money so at best, it’s a wash.  That’s why, to truly stem the bleeding at the pump, we’ve developed a new technique that’s simple, effective, and guaranteed to work.  When taking a car trip, never leave your driveway. Everything else remains the same. Pack the car, make sure everyone’s belted in, then pretend to take off for points unknown.  Enjoy the thrill of the open road by memorizing landmarks you would have seen along the way and pretending to point them out.  Listen to radio stations you’ve never listened to, play word games that give you a headache, eat junk food, squirm in your seat and put everyone on alert for Route 744, that’s where we have to merge to the left. For an extra level of authenticity, pretend to get lost, pull out a map and argue about how to get back to the main road.  If you have kids, pile them in too and play a rollicking game of license plate poker with the cars driving past your house. Granted the game will be slow but it’s quality time with the family, and think of the benefits; little Johnny won’t get car sick,  you won’t have to stop when Amber Beth needs to tinkle. The rest of the family might fall asleep and you can skip their dinner. 

(This idea, by the way, is a companion piece to saving money on new appliances by watching your old TV without turning it on, and pretending it’s in HD.  “Oooh, it looks ever sharper than in person!”) 

USA Today reported in a recent edition that inventory in Pawn Shops is up 44%. That is good news for the buying public. Once the repository of musical insturments pawned by desperate and strung out musicans or their former desperate  and strung out  girlfriends. Pawn Shops now boast a sterling and bountiful selection of items hocked by, Investment Company Executives, Mortgage Company Executives, Auto Executives  and former Arena Football Players. This diversity is reflected in the merchandise that is now dangling from the hooks of every Pawn Emporium in this once great nation of ours. Pawn Shops now have top shelf goods, cashed in by homeowners facing eviction from those homes that they couldn’t really afford, but with those sexy sub prime loans, who could resist moving into a 6500 square foot mini villa with an Olympic sized pool and a 4 car garage for 5 % down and a monthly mortgage payment  of  $758 with a ballon payment that would only kick in if the economy faltered. Well, once we were all pantsed by the economy, desperate measures were taken, meaning backing up a U-Haul to YeOlde Pawn Shop where items such as; Gucci Puppy Purses, silk pajamas with ruby encrusted buttons, Bakhtiari Oriental Rugs, the length of airport runways or Piccaso print shower curtains, actually painted by Piccaso himself, are now selling at Big Lots! prices, because the Pawn Master is running out of room and more crap is arriving by the hour. 

 So, if you still have a couple of bucks left, hurry down to the nearest Pawn Shop and feast on the bargains.  And if you don’t have a few bucks, bring in those monogrammed custom weighted golf clubs you just had to have, and see what he’ll give you for them. If nothing else, you’ll be in good company.


You cannot walk down the street, drive in your car or wait on line at the unemployment office today without seeing dozens of people glued to their cell phones. When did this happen?  How did we become a people that must maintain uninterrupted contact with every person we’ve ever met during all of our waking hours?  Even worse, no matter what kind of plan you sign up for –  Friends, Family, Free Texting, Free Weekends, Free Nights, Free Phone with 1000 Minutes, Free 1000 Minutes with Phone – somehow or other the bill is always upwards of $100.  That’s one hundred bucks a month to hear about how your wife is mad at her mother again or your brother shot a forty on the back nine, information that certainly could wait until the next time you see each other or maybe never. That is only one reason among many that we are suggesting the following radical approach to saving money on your cell phone bill, or even better, eliminating it completely: 

Go Amish. 

The Amish Church, as you certainly remember from Comparative Religion or the movie,Witness, isn’t into modern technology.  They don’t drive cars, they don’t watch TV, four families raising a barn is their idea of swinging.  Most importantly, they don’t use cell phones.  Which means they don’t have to pay for them.  And neither will you, once you sign up with them.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that you go live on a…whatever you call it, where Amish people live.  This blog is dedicated to practical, working solutions to our current stinkbomb of an economy and uprooting your entire lifestyle to save a hundred bucks a month does not meet that standard.  If you did want to move in with the Amish, however, that would be your decision and should you then regret that decision and want to leave and they tried to keep one of your children or made you take one of their children, or have sex with their elders, or youngers, we would be absolved from any responsibility whatsoever, now and for perpetuity.

(Please forgive the above legal mumbo-jumbo.  Our team of crack paralegals scrupulously reviews all our blogs in order to protect us from the frivolous lawsuits that are sure to follow our nation-sweeping popularity.)

Back to the point in question (or is it the question in point, we can never remember), should people ever question why you don’t have a cell phone anymore, all you have to say is, “My religion doesn’t allow it.”  For most people that will be explanation enough.  In fact they will immediately change the subject or rush off to converse with someone who is not a religious zealot.  For those who instantly comprehend the reasoning behind this technique and reply that, funny you should mention it because they too have been thinking about tossing their bonnet into the ring with the Amish and do you happen to know where they can sign up, embrace them warmly, for you have found a fellow believer.

Bottom line: The Verizon Amish Plan, $0 a month and $0 annually.

Pass the Soap, Neighbor!

We all know the sniggering adage, “Save water.  Shower with a friend.”  And while we would never stoop to merely mimicking such a hokey slogan as a way to save money in the coming recession, we have stooped to revising it, in response to current economic conditions.  The new slogan: “Save water.  Shower at a friend’s house.”  Think about it.  Showering is a huge expense and water, unless global warming accelerates even beyond Gorian predictions, isn’t getting cheaper.  But rather than cutting down on showers or using that ridiculous shut-off-the-water-while-you-soap-up technique, our suggestion is that you begin taking showers at other people’s houses.  All you have to do is show up and say, “I didn’t get a chance to shower before I got here, do you mind if I jump in and take a rinse?”  Or, for a more visual approach, simply rub your hands over the tires of your car before you ring their doorbell and claim that you just changed a tire, or had engine trouble, and you’re “absolutely filthy.”  “A bird just crapped on me, I’m totally grossed out” is another viable excuse. Which of your friends or neighbors could refuse such a request? If they do, perhaps you should re examine your relationship with them…you are just pursuing “cleanliness” and isn’t that the next door neighbor of “godliness”?

Snap, Crackle, and Save

Want to know who started that propaganda about breakfast being the most important meal of the day?  The powerful Cereal Lobby in Washington.  Using classic fear tactics they have successfully panicked the unsuspecting public into believing that if we don’t have a bowl of cereal before we leave the house, we will fail at everything we do that day.  Teachers, parents, doctors, religious leaders and investment advisors are all in on it by now and there is no turning back, we are clearly stuck with this ridiculous notion.  But that’s not our issue. All we care about is saving money in the current recession and breakfast cereal, coming as it does at the top of the day, is a good place to start. 

In terms of portion control, breakfast cereal is a complete disaster.  The milk to cereal ratio is nearly impossible to get right so we wind up adding either more milk or more cereal, then leaving over way too much of one or the other.  And let’s face it, even if the recession descends into worldwide economic panic, there is simply no way to wring leftovers out of an old bowl of cereal.  That’s why you must take preemptive action. 

For starters, forget the milk.  After all, did anyone ever say that your corn flakes have to be floating in milk?  Well, actually the powerful Milk Lobby has been saying it for years, but that’s for another blog.  Cold tap water works just as well, the lack of a competing flavor actually brings out the subtle taste of every nugget or flake.  And that’s not to mention the significant price differential between tap water (free) and milk (not.)

Of course, using water does not eliminate the burning issue of portion control and you will still have way too much cereal left over in your bowl.  Which brings us to our second cost saving technique.  Forget the cereal.  Anyone with their ear to the nutritional ground knows that processed foods are to be avoided at all costs and what could be more processed than a shapeless shaving of corn or wheat or oats or whatever else they claim that little tidbit is?  Besides, once you get used to starting your day with a hearty bowl of water, you’ll never miss the cereal, milk or their inflated price tags. “The most important meal of the day” is now the cheapest.

Bonus Tip:  When the weather turns cold, try heating the water to a boil then simmer for five minutes,  pull up the kitchen bar stool and dig in to your hearty breakfast.


An easy way to save money on heating bills is to bring back the concept of the family bed.  It seems that many years ago, families would sleep together in the same bed, in order to stay warm at night.  This, of course, was before central heating, and may have even been before fire.  But no good idea ever goes out of style and the family bed is definintely a concept whose time has come… back.  True, you might get some resistance from the teens in your family but once you make them realize that it’s for their own good (“their own good” defined as, “anything that will put more money in their pockets”), they will most likely climb in and start cuddling. 


Expanding on the concept of the family bed is another way to save money on heating bills.  Simply introduce a “family winter coat” or “family hat”, even a “family pair of thermal underwear” that each family member gets an opportunity to wear.   True, it may limit family outings but the benefits far outweigh the extravagance of everyone having their own winter gear.  Those benefits include, bringing the family closer together (you can all hang out in the family bed while the person who is wearing the coat is out gathering firewood), encouraging responsibility (it’s bad enough losing a hat of your own, but the family hat?  The breach of trust would be irreparable.), and, of course, saving money in the coming recession.   And let’s not kid ourselves, it’s here. 

To borrow a phrase that certainly didn’t work for the War on Drugs, when it comes to American Express, “Just Say No.”

Y’see, American Express is tricky.  They have this thing called Flexible Payments, which they will give you whether you ask for it or not, should they happen to decide that you’re a person who has a sterling record for paying his bills.  Only now, considering the world’s economic anemia, they have instituted a new program called “Responsible Lending,” which is nothing more than an excuse to cancel Flexible Payments for those people whose record has dropped a couple of rungs down from “sterling.”  (If you’re wondering how we know this, it’s not because the good folks over at American Express have canceled either of our Flexible Payments benefits or written either of us a threatening letter about our account.  Given our strong commitment to fiscal accountability, that could never happen and if it did, we would certainly be gracious and understanding and not write an irate blog about losing a service that we depended on to see us through the bad times.  Really.)

So, getting back to our objective of saving money in the current recession, the key with American Express, or any credit card company, is to stop paying those oppressive finance charges.  Why?  Because it’s irresponsible.  After all, isn’t coughing up finance charges kind of like dealing with The Mob?  And who short of Pacman Jones would want to do that?  “Finance Charge,” in the end, is just code for “the vigorish,” the outrageous charges a neighborhood loan shark adds on to the payback.  The only difference between Big Head Anthony and Amex is they have Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesperson and Ellen is funnier then Big Head Anthony.  But they both can and will hurt you if you don’t pony up.

In light of the above, (and not, we might add, in retaliation for anything they might have done to us regarding Flexible Payments) we are forthwith calling for a nationwide “American Express Card Snipping Day.”  To participate, simply cut your Amex card into several pieces and toss them into the nearest trash can.  In the end, this might be the most effective method of saving money with American Express, other than, of course, leaving home without it.


As we approach the coming recession, we need some dynamic new, and radically cheaper ways to save money on paper.  The first step, of course, is to write less.  Use shorter words.  Omit punctuation.  Consolidate three of your thoughts in one really good one.  The trend has already begun with texting but why not extend it to business documents, school work, recipes, and love letters.  Soon, hopefully, the newspapers and magazines will fall in line and what was once a 109 page issue of Newsweek, will come in at around six pages. 

Another thing you can do immediately is reduce your number of friends.  Most so-called pals are nothing more than a birthday card waiting to be purchased and who needs that on your economical conscience?