When I tell friends that I have solar water heaters I assembled myself – with parts from the store, things friends gave me and stuff from the dump – a quantitative person will clear his throat, take off his glasses, nibble pensively on the stems and ask, “When will they pay for themselves?”
Before I met Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, I worked full time for 20 years avoiding marriage, and yet no one has ever asked, “When do you expect to break even or turn a profit on your wife?”
Don’t expect me to tell you that both are losing propositions. You might not get married or put up solar panels to save money, but don’t be surprised if it happens.
Yes, there are easier ways to save money than getting married. My friend Duane told me to get a credit card that offered a 2 percent kickback on purchases. For years I was satisfied with 1 percent, but now I’m twice as satisfied with 2.
Credit card companies will pay almost anything for a new customer. Although you might pay off your balance every month, they are willing to sit back and wait until you lose your job in the next carefully engineered recession, and are stuck with a $900 balance at 25 percent.
My wife is a saving woman. She has memorized the prices of everything she buys in three grocery stores and won’t shop until she’s read the colored circular that comes in the mail. She might spend $80 in one store and then drive 3.7 miles to another just to save a dollar on a pound of bacon – and who knows what on a bunch of grapes.
For years she bought her gas with a plastic card that she got from our favorite gas company. After buying so many gallons, she got a few cents off. It sounded good, so I got one, too. For a couple of months all went well, but one day the pump rejected my card.
I wasn’t surprised. Technology is out to get me. The cashier in the store put my card in her machine. There was nothing wrong with the card. But it wouldn’t work at the pump. There was nothing more she could do.
If you are married, you know why my card didn’t work: I didn’t know how to push the buttons on the pump. Marsha would show me how to do it.
My card wouldn’t work for her, either. I very prudently said nothing.
About this time, Marsha said that we could save a few more pennies per gallon by getting another plastic card that would permit the gas company to deduct each purchase from our checking account.
This looked good, so a few weeks later, when I got around to doing it, I brought the applications home and we set about activating them on our respective computers. I couldn’t do it. The page locked up and wouldn’t continue when I typed in my email address. Marsha couldn’t activate her card, either.
The experience confirmed my contention that corporate web pages are designed by criminally insane teenagers who are kept chained in musty Mongolian cellars.
No stranger to purple prose, I wrote to the president of the company, outlined our problem, mentioned that there were probably many other loyal customers with an email that offended their template and suggested that they make their web page user-friendly.
Management quickly replied by phone and email. For a couple of weeks a capable young man took us in hand and, after several emails and phone calls, he finally managed to activate our two plastic direct debit cards.
It was about this time that I broke out my little hand-held calculator and crunched some numbers. Our projected savings for a year would be around $18.
That’s a hot turkey sandwich at Moody’s Diner, so it’s nothing to sneeze at.
My first fill-up rewarded me for our many hours of labor. I was charged $30.35 for the $30.77 shown on the pump – a savings of 42 cents.
I quickly multiplied $30.77 by 2 percent. The kickback on my credit card would have been 61 cents.
When I showed Marsha the figures, this thrifty woman, who can easily quote you the price of green and purple grapes in three stores, had no problem with the math.
I quickly went online and requested a duplicate credit card.
Because she’s a saving woman, Marsha will use it with a vengeance.
The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website: