The following originally appeared as the opening to my "Tony's Tips" column for Comics Buyer's Guide #1653...
"It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow."
- Aesop (620560 BC), "The Ant and the Grasshopper"
I'm writing these opening remarks in late January, which means you're probably reading them a few months later. I really hope the economy is better when you are, but, in my now, it's a scary situation. Much as I wish otherwise, I suspect it'll still be a scary situation when I catch up to you.
A recent - my time - AP story reported Americans are turning frugal. We are saving more and spending less. Which is certainly a good thing for people, but not necessarily a good thing for the economy. This "paradox of thrift" makes bringing our economy back to health something of a tightrope walk. If there's a safety net to these alarming acrobatics, let us hope that it is woven from our own good common sense.
Amy Dacyczyn, author of The Complete Tightwad Gazette, has written that "frugality without creativity is deprivation." Since we are all presumably reading this magazine because we love comic books, our mission objective must be to figure out how to be frugal without depriving ourselves of creative works that fill our lives with something beyond the bare necessities. I don't know if some of the steps I've taken will be applicable to your situations, but I offer them for what worth they might have for you.
I took a look at my online and print subscriptions. I'd been paying for three online services I rarely used, so those were easy cuts to make. I cut several magazine subscriptions as well, either because the stacks of unread issues were never getting any smaller or because, when I read an issue, I didn't find it entertaining or informative. These cuts didn't save me huge amounts of money, but I'm not looking for or expecting to find a quick fix.
In the same vein, I cut my Netflix plan from three movies to one. I love Netflix and its service has always been terrific. But I have hundreds of hours of unwatched TV shows and movies on my DVR and in the stacks of DVDs I've bought or received as gifts. Until that backlog gets whittled down considerably, a single-rental plan makes more sense for me. Again, while it's not a large savings per month, it's enough to pay for two comic books.
I was ready to cancel one of the three daily newspapers I get every day, but grocery coupons from the Akron and Cleveland papers offset the cost of those papers. The third paper isn't a very good newspaper, but it's the local paper and, theoretically, has news we don't get from the other two.
I pay just under a hundred bucks per month to keep much of my accumulation of stuff in a storage unit. My biggest savings plan this year is to get all that stuff out of storage and then sell 80% of it on eBay and elsewhere. I'll save the monthly "rent" on the unit and whatever money I accrue from selling this stuff will make paying other bills that much easier.
I now factor in travel time and the cost of gas when deciding where to shop. For example, does the 10% greater discount I get at "Comic-Book Store A" make up for the fact going there is a further drive than "Comic-Book Store B"? Discount and travel expenses are not the only elements in such decisions - selection and service are still key factors - but they are increasingly part of my shopping decisions inside and outside of comicdom.
The toughest decision I'm in the process of making is whether or not to renew the rental on the post office box I've had for over two decades. These days, to save on gas and travel time, I only go to the post office once or twice a week. Since I work at home and since our terrific postman - and his occasional substitutes - are happy to bring packages to our enclosed back porch, I don't really need the box. In fact, if you've been paying attention to the copy that appears at the end of each installment of "Tony's Tips," you might have noticed I haven't been listing my post office box as the address for review items.
Not renewing the box rental will save $60 a year, but it also means less opportunity to see and chat with the nice folks who work at the post office. Writing is already a solitary enough job. Do I really want my cat Simba to become the only more or less sentient being I talk to until Sainted Wife Barb and Blessed Daughter Kelly get home from work and school? Am I just asking for the crazy to take over more of my brain? It's a tough call.
Anyway, the moral of the above is, that if you're sending me review items, don't send them to the post office box. Because it will be gone by the end of April.
Consumed as I am by both my country's and my comics industry's economic woes, I'll be returning to this subject sooner rather than later. In the meantime, please feel free to share your frugality suggestions with me and the rest of the CBG gang. We are truly all in this together.
Just a quick reminder that today is your last day to vote on our current Tony Polls questions.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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