Maybe I'm just crabby, but it didn't help to read the Sunday newspaper and have my teeth set on edge. Consider this story in the "Money" section, headlined "Retirees can convert TIME into MONEY." Being a retiree, I decided to read it, just to see what kind of stupid "self-help" ideas were going to show up. I didn't have high hopes -- this signaled from the start that it was going to be a patronizing discourse on how supermarket coupons can turn your poverty-stricken existence into luxury.
Sure enough, supermarket coupons were one of the clever ideas suggested in this column, along with patronizing the thrift store at off-peak hours. Yes, you read that right -- apparently this guy knows of thrift stores that give you discounts for shopping in the middle of the night or something. Wow, I feel richer already.
But then came the one that got me mad.
Here's a list of money-saving do-it-yourself activities. "It's easy to think of examples:" the guy pontificates, such as "growing your own vegetables, making gifts, repainting walls yourself, sewing clothes...."
Sewing clothes saves money? Has this guy ever been in a fabric store? Has this guy ever been in Wal-Mart? Has this guy ever figured out how much it would cost to make a decent shirt or dress or jacket, compared to how much it costs to get one made in Bangladesh? (Let alone compared to midnight at the thrift store?) Heck, even the pattern will cost more than the low-end jacket on the sale rack.
I know where this guy is coming from. Back in a former life I used to write consumer journalism, and I'm sorry to recall that some of it came from the same inadequate thought process: you sit in front of your computer (well, then it was a typewriter, but all the same...), you gaze out the window and you try to brainstorm any conceivable idea that might fit in with your theme, whether or not you have any experience with it in real life.
Hmmm. Ways to save money -- let's see -- my grandma was very frugal, she used to do laundry by hand at the riverbank, no, that won't work in this story -- oh yes, she used to sew clothes! Hey, that's frugal! Homemade is always frugal! The clothes sure looked homemade but it was sure frugal! And making gifts, that would be a good idea too.....
Yet the stereotype lives on -- pathetic-but-plucky, self-abnegating mom does humble homemade things on the sewing machine to save money. (And you poor retirees should do the same!)