Friday, February 15, 2013

A frugal husband makes for a fun dad on Valentine’s Day

As a parent of five children and an owner of one aging house, Valentine’s is that mid-winter rainy day for which I find myself soaking wet because my fiduciary reality has always been less meteorological and more astronomical.

I suppose I should be thankful that things seem to breakdown whenever I get a little ahead. Take for example last year’s tax refund – TV, washer, and refrigerator – all kaput within days of each other.
It seems any budget surplus I’ve ever experienced has been liquidated faster than a barfly on St. Patrick’s Day.

To keep our head above the flood waters, we focus on the unavoidable capital outlays throughout the fiscal year: insurance, utilities, taxes, mortgage, and the most demanding of them all: kids.
Then there are those other “unavoidables” where return must be weighed heavily against investment.

Valentine’s Day is one of those debits in the spreadsheet of life.

So, in these times of recession, I proclaimed to my adoring wife, we all must make sacrifices. Frivolous expenditures need to be, if not cut entirely, certainly timed back or deferred. But frivolous may have not been the right word, I said in response to the charming glare I received as she left the room.

Although I consider myself quite a romantic guy, I realize our current economy forces a working guy to consider his investment options very carefully when it comes to the lovers holiday.

Current economic conditions inhibit the acquisition of gifts that are consumable. These include going out to dinner and surprising her with the predictable heart of chocolate. Yes, these things contain lofty direct profits, but they are short term and what we’re looking for here is durable assets.
The flower du jour for this “holiday” is the expensive rose. I ask why not milkweed or dandelion. And what’s worse, roses are sold by the dozen. Sure, I could be one long-stem rose. That was fine when I was just out of college struggling to make ends meet. Now that I’m in my 40’s struggling to make ends meet, a single rose is just pathetic.

Diamonds are the raison d’être, the big kahuna of Valentine’s Day gifts and they offer significant returns. However, it is a hefty out-of-pocket venture with one big caveat emptor: size matters.
There are the lesser stones, your sapphires, emeralds, satin gypsums, but they are more like generic cereal at the breakfast table of jewelry. Just see what happens when you slam a box of Capt. Munch in front of your brand savvy kids.

Gold is generally a safe commodity. Its immediate value is quite high with a rapid return of investment, but that value can fade into the oblivion of the jewelry box as fashion dictates that next best gift. Then the initial venture depreciates into sentimental value which may spike periodically when cleaning out the jewelry box. It’s true that gold will always have its market value, but even the suggestion of liquidating unworn jewelry will surely cause a melt-down of another sort all together.

While there are many other choices to take stock in for us romantic but thrifty types – coffee mugs, gift baskets, books of poetry, bath salts, beer-of-the-month club – investor beware: A bear in the bull market of Valentine’s Day must advance cautiously in hopes his acquisition compounds a great deal of interest for his beneficiary lest your tear sheets bring about sheets of tears.

So to ease the undue pressures of Valentine’s Day, my wife and I have decided that it is all about the kids. We’ll run to the dollar store for some decorations and candy hearts with little sayings. We’ll make some pancakes in the shape of hearts, and maybe even a cake with pink icing and red and white sprinkles.
And there will be a little surprise for my wife, too, because I am not a complete idiot.

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