O’Connor: Forget the Pizza Rat — this Halloween, I’m going as a pack rat
To everything there is a season, the proverb says, and who’s to doubt that? Right here in the personal finance world, the world shrugs its shoulder away from the sun as it does each autumn and, just as surely, we find ourselves considering the Pizza Rat.
Pizza Rat, for those who don’t fritter away your lives on the Inter-tubes, is the star of a YouTube video in which a plucky, determined New York City rodent heroically drags an entire slice of pizza down the steps of the First Avenue L station.
Pizza Rat captured our nation’s poorly prioritized and deficiently disordered attention with his compelling journey. It was the story of a good-hearted, ravenous-but-lovable piece of vermin carving out a living in the brutal, unforgiving concrete underground of heartless, many-towered Manhattan.
New Yorkers were so enthralled with Pizza Rat, that they didn’t even gripe that the critter failed to properly fold his slice.
Some sexy, sexy savings
So, naturally, there is a Pizza Rat Halloween costume. What’s more, it’s a Sexy Pizza Rat costume, because all cheaply made discount-store Halloween costumes are sexy. Sexy Pirate, Sexy Tropical Fish, Sexy Referee. There is most likely a Sexy Former Speaker of the House John Boehner costume, which I assume comes complete with orange body paint and a large Bermuda onion.
But you don’t have to buy those and, in fact neither are a whole bunch of folks. According to the annual survey from the National Retail Federation, total spending on Halloween this year is expected to reach $6.9 billion, down from $7.4 billion last year. The reason? Halloween spending has increased in past years, and now Americans are fully stocked up on masks, capes, light-up spiders, glow-in-the-dark pumpkins and ancient dried-up candy corn which, let’s face it, tastes just like fresh, brand-new candy corn.
Spending less by using what you already have is a neat trick that’s a treat to anybody trying to better manage their money. And it’s one you can repeat all-year through with any type of seasonal or annual expense.
At Christmastime, don’t go willy-nilly stocking up on wrapping paper, lights and poinsettia-festooned paper napkins before you check to see what you’ve already got. Likewise at Thanksgiving, I’m betting several cans of those disgusting fried onions already lurk in your pantry, just waiting to be plopped onto that green-bean glop you call a casserole. If you doubt me, just recall last month’s back-to-school shopping. Anyone who headed out to buy the school’s approved list of classroom supplies probably overspent, forgetting that their kids already had rulers, calculators, unused notebooks and at least one glue stick that hadn’t been left to create a sticky disaster at the bottom of the pencil case.
How to pick up chick (peas)
This kind of duplicated, unnecessary spending is just a waste of money, and it comes in big and little forms. At the boat supply store this spring, I patted myself on the back for remembering that last fall I’d thrown away the old, worn dock lines from my boat, the SS MoneyPit. So I bought new ones. But if I’d checked, I’d have found that I also purchased replacement lines and hardware last fall.
On a more frequent basis, I bet there’s something you always pick up at the grocery store or drug store because you can’t remember whether you’re out of crushed tomatoes, kidney beans or mouthwash at home. Then you clean out the bathroom cabinet and find you have enough fluoride rinse to treat the entire water supply of New Jersey. A checklist on the fridge goes a long way to solving that issue (or a shared Google document, if you want to go high-tech). So does the occasional inventory of the cupboards at home, even if it does prompt you to wonder, “Why would we ever need 17 cans of chick peas?”
So, yeah, to everything there is a season, but it’s usually accompanied by a plastic storage bin and two rumpled grocery bags stuffed in a closet with leftover decorations, garden supplies, citronella candles, hardware or sunscreen and bug spray. Go through all that stuff and you might even find a completely serviceable old Halloween costume, like I did. This year, I’m not spending a dime, but I’m still going as a real classic — Sexy Alan Greenspan.