Discovering the thrifty thrills of life-with-kids-on-the-cheap

January 05, 2003|By Mark Cloud

ATLANTA - Get my morning workout by shuffling to the end of the driveway in grass-stained running shoes now used for mowing lawn, bending over, picking up newspaper, shuffling back inside ranch house that needs a new coat of paint. Tired from the exertion, but it's a good kind of tired. Drop paper on counter and stop at coffeepot to pour Kroger brand brew into chipped mug. No cream or sugar, but for some reason, lots of foam. Aack, bitter.

Strip off Sears boxer shorts and shower with sliver of Publix brand baby soap fished out of drain of tub in kids' bathroom. Remove Target jeans, Kmart shirt and Wal-Mart shoes from hamper (can't explain shoes in hamper), and put them on. Burn generic motor oil all the way to strip mall for errands.

Go to Ace Hardware, Pep Boys and Radio Shack. Looking for something really cheap. At Pike Nurseries, find the latest in hip lawn maintenance - red mulch. Check out the newest toys at Toys `R' Us. Looking for something inexpensive. Non-choking. Decide to buy what may be Clifford the Big Red Dog talking doll. Or is that Scooby-Doo? Ruh-roh, it's Elmo singing, "La, la, la, la. La, la, la, la. Elmo's World!"

On the way home, stop at Blockbuster to rent a video. Get The Wiggles: Toot Toot for the kids. Think about renting Vanilla Sky for my wife and me. But don't do it upon realizing that we'd never actually get around to watching it. Plus, it probably really sucks.

Burn generic oil all the way home. Kids enjoy dinner of Spaghetti-Os, Sam's Club canned green beans, and toothpaste. (Don't ask.) My wife and I hurriedly dine on their leftovers before their baths.

The kids watch The Wiggles, then go to bed. This is when they're at their best - asleep. My wife and I would like to crawl between our Target sheets and reach for our latest issue of Parents magazine. But then we remember that we have to clean the dishes, do the laundry and straighten the living room.

Finally, my wife gets a shower and I sit on the couch to take my daily dose of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Feet propped on the coffee table we bought at a garage sale. Read the paper, which I didn't get a chance to look at earlier.

See an article on how single people without kids and with lots of disposable income can afford to buy expensive name brands like Starbucks and Evian and Nike and Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren and Saks. I'm not at all envious.

It's unfortunate, really. Those poor folks have no idea what fine things they're missing by limiting themselves to expensive name brands. Whew, I'm glad I've discovered the joys of life-with-kids-on-the-cheap. Then I have another sip of PBR that's gotten warm fast because the 20-year-old Sears fridge has been acting up. Aack, bitter.

Mark Cloud is a lawyer and free-lance writer who lives in Atlanta.

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