Monday, April 8, 2013

Stereotyped again

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.....

Of course life has changed, and sewing your own clothes is no longer a way to save money.  Express yourself creatively, get higher quality craftsmanship, make those pants fit perfectly, indulge your love for fine materials, yes, but save money, no.

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!)


  1. You hit the nail square on the head. Ouch! Made me laugh. The suggestions you mentioned are so worn out they need to go to the thrift store. I'd like to add that depending on what you try to grow in a home garden, you can end up spending tons of money for little return. Our resident ground hog would love a nice garden. That gives me an idea! Ground hog stew. Lots cheaper than the grocery store. Good post.

  2. The writer probably thinks it is cheaper to make your own bed coverings, aka quilts, than to buy them in the store too.

  3. I always love this crap.....most of it I have been doing all my life....and so what am I supposed to do now??? Eat more beans that I soak myself? Oh...wait....already do that. OOPs!(not retired....just no income in the house).

  4. I guess that the money saved depends on where one shops and what one's sewing skills are. I follow this blog:
    She went on an RTW 'fast' for a year and only made her own clothes (purchased undies and socks). She apparently saved enough money to go on a nice vacation.

    The thing was, she usually bought expensive things at famous stores. If you'd like a Kate Spade skirt
    but do not want to pay $250 for it, you can copy it for much less, with a better finish, and likely it'll fit better if you're any good at sewing. The skirt in the link could be made even for a largish size with less than 1 yard of material. If it was expensive $20/yard silk twill and $8/yd nice lining, one would still be saving a ton of $$. On sale a similar skirt at this store was still $139.

    I usually shop at Kohls or Target. I wouldn't save enough to walk to the end of the block for a vacation.

    The other problem is that one doesn't save much making wadders (wad up and throw away) at the beginning during the learning process. And no one wants to spend any time learning.

    The dude is full of cr@p, but it IS possible to sew and save $.

    1. I'm sure you're right -- but I don't think many penniless retirees are buying Kate Spade skirts to begin with, especially those eight inches above the knee. But if they did, stand back!!!

  5. What irritates me the most are the "energy-saving" tips that tell you to stop doing things I've never dreamed of doing in my life, or start doing things I've been doing since before I was in kindergarten.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  6. I am with you and your readers all the way! What really burns me up though is that these were supposed to be suggestions to "turn time into money!"

    Just like everything else, it is just a list of ways to get MORE STUFF. Coupons and sales only save you money if you would have bought those items anyway.

    If you want to save money, don't spend money. Do they really think we are THAT stupid.

    Cranky in NYC

  7. Hmmm. Turn time into money. Truth is that I would rather have more time than money....

    1. the paradox of modern life -- those with time wish they had more money, those with money wish they had more time. and some people don't have enough of either

  8. My time is usually someones gain. Meaning I give, and give until I am too pooped to care for myself. I am trying to have more time with less money. I concur with most of the comments written above. Good post!