I had a little mishap with my checking account last week and it scared me into taking drastic measures. “Mishap,” in this particular instance is defined as “apparently tried to use more money than I actually had.”
While this isn’t the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever revealed on this blog, it’s right up there. I balance my checkbook every month and generally keep a good eye on it. I haven’t been overdrawn in several years. That’s why this is particularly galling to me.
At this point I’d kind of like to rant about being charged an overdraft fee, but it detracts from my main intention. But, seriously – if a dude is out of money, how does charging him $32 help anything? Yes, yes, I know, that $32 covers the fact that the check was paid to whoever it was supposed to be paid to and saves you from all sorts of grief down the road, but the logic escapes me. “Well, Mr. Jones, we see you’re out of oxygen and have died. That’s going to cost you 14 cubed feet of oxygen.” Bah.
Anyway, I don’t want to get distracted from my main point, which is this: I’m reverting back to childhood in one more area.
See, from kindergarten through at least eighth grade (and probably into ninth or more, I don’t remember), I ate the same thing for lunch every day. With very few exceptions, I had a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich on white bread for lunch for nine years. The side items varied from chips to applesauce to juice boxes and all manner of other things, but that sandwich was my staple. In fact, I can actually remember quite vividly a few of the times when I had something else for lunch. One time, for instance, I was allowed to get a slice of pizza from the school cafeteria. They microwaved or cooked it inside a plastic wrapper and the wrapper got burned and gave off a terrible smell, which affected the taste of the pizza for me. I can actually still recall the smell, even though I don’t remember what year of school in which that happened. There were a few other times when I got a different sandwich (bologna or braunschweiger), but I would guess that during my elementary years, I had something other than PB&J less than 20 times.
And I loved it. I never got sick of it. There’ve been foods since then that I’ve loved but have overdosed on and couldn’t have for a long time (Hostess Orange Cupcakes, for instance), but I never got sick of PB&Js.
So when I was going over my budget (which is more of a theoretical budget rather than a written-out statement of policy) to see what I could change, the first thing that popped up was food. I eat out a lot. Most meals of mine, in fact, are prepared by some sort of eating establishment. I’m confident that I could cook if I needed to, but the hassle of cooking for just myself combined with all the extra dirty dishes it produces makes it not worthwhile to me. Also, food prepared for me by someone else tastes better to me than food I’ve made myself, and this includes things like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. I don’t know why this is, it just is.
When school is in session, I can get a school lunch for around $2.50. It’s usually pretty good, and $2.50 certainly beats $9 at a local restaurant, even if they DO have the best coconut cream pie I’ve ever had in my life. Right now, though, school isn’t in session. For some reason my brain spoke up and said,
“Hey, you could eat PB&Js. You always liked them and they’d be cheap.”
“But,” I answered, “I’ve always had a really hard time spreading jelly and I hate it when it’s clumped up in the sandwich.”
“So why not try these squeezable jellies they have now? No muss, no fuss.”
“I suppose I could, but this means I’ll have to wash a knife at work – you know, from the peanut butter.”
My brain lets out a sigh at this point. It’s had to deal with this kind of behavior its whole life. “Yes, I know. Unfortunately, you just might have to wash a knife at work.”
I decided to give it a try. I bought a loaf of white bread (but was sure to get the one that said “Only 30 calories per slice! Not as bad for you as other white breads!” – turns out it’s because the slices are half the size of other white breads), some Peter Pan creamy peanut butter (creamy is easier to spread), and some squeezable Smucker’s grape jelly, and took them to work.
Know what? It worked. I actually made a sandwich. No one’s surprise surpassed mine. And the really neat thing is that the squeezable jelly has a slit rather than a dot-type spout, so it lays the jelly down in strips. I don’t know why, but I thought that was really, really cool.
While I haven’t figured out exactly how much each sandwich is costing me, I know it’s saving me a lot of money. Like, a really lot. Plus it’s a daily reminder of a sense of security I had in childhood, so I’m getting full, I’m saving money, and I’m getting a sense of peace a few minutes out of each day.