The price of progress


I front like I’m thrifty but let’s be frank here: I spend money like it’s plucked out of thin air. I will nickel and dime home furnishings and clothing, then turn around and warehouse club us right into the poorhouse. “Look, it’s a jumbo barrel of quinoa (never mind we hate it) for ‘only’ $44!”


I’ve been complaining about bills since I was old enough to have them. I remember, years ago, thinking we would “save” when the land line phone company went to unlimited nationwide long distance. I was sure we would be rich with the savings culled when we no longer had to pay to talk to grandma “long distance.”

I’m still waiting to get rich and nowadays we just have more phones. In the old days you had one phone, and while I’m not sure I know what the average phone bill was, I’m fairly certain it was not an arm and a leg or a kidney if you went over your data plan.

Now my family of four shares no less than five telephone lines. Our landline is dedicated solely to telemarketers really. They call as if I could ever afford whatever they’re selling.

At home I could make a cup of coffee for pennies per day. Then I became hooked on one-cup coffee dispensing system that turned even “homemade” coffee into an 80-cent per cup proposition. I drink half dozen cups per day. You do the math.

Iced or other “fancy” coffee exceeds $4 a cup and we act like that makes sense. The other day Girl Wonder and I stopped for cold drinks and my total was over $10. For two drinks. What? Shouldn’t I at least get a sandwich for that?

Eat up

In truth Mr. Wonderful and I realized a while back now that the children can no longer split a kid’s meal — “Two chicken nuggets and one-third of the fries each, with the extra third for daddy” — even fast food runs upwards of $40 to feed our family of four.

For reasons of the health of ourselves — and our pocket book — we find it beneficial to eat at better restaurants or pack from home more often now. This weekend we schlepped a cooler full of cut fruit, pistachios and vegetables over 500 miles and back. I saved a fortune — even with fruit priced like it is packaged in platinum too.


Meanwhile, we paid $2 for 16-ounces of bottled water at a sporting event this weekend. Generally, it’s cheaper by the case so I stock up and believe we are getting a real bargain.

I’ve somewhat forgotten a time when water, like air, was free. I don’t remember bottled water when I was a kid. Water used to come out of the tap, fountain, or garden hose. Sometimes it tasted cold, sometimes metallic and sometimes like eggs. That’s just what you got.

In my day a kid’s summer wardrobe was probably pretty cheap too. Your mom took your “high water” pants and snipped off the legs to make “cut offs.” Shorts with ragged, unraveling strings at the cuff were the fashion. You added a few T-shirts and some plain tennis shoes bought for a song at the local discount store. Done!

Now my kids wear “heat gear,” “cold gear” and “mildly cloudy with a slight breeze” gear. I made that last one up — but just barely.

Each fabric designed for specific weather conditions and sport performance and sold at sporting good stores for a premium price.

There are also special undergarments — compression type, costing upwards of $30 per pair — for underwear. The days of a plain white Hanes and a pair of scuffed up plain white Keds seems positively quaint.

Still, I love our fancy fabrics and bottled water, and in the wrong mood I will cut anyone who tries to get between me and my coffee — premium, iced or otherwise. I love modern life and the perks of living it — even with the bills due.

Progress is pricey

I’m sure our ancestors felt that way about sliced nickel bread and those old Keds too.

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