Money never sleeps, but it does pass out

Where did all the money go that we used to spend developing vacation pictures? Not that I can afford a vacation anymore, but back when my house was worth three times what I paid for it, I’d come back with rolls of film, drop them off at the local pharmacy and pick them up a few days later for $7.38 a roll. They’re all in photo albums now, neatly labeled and titled, at the bottom of some closet under some exercise equipment. It would depress me to see some younger, better-looking, wealthier version of myself.

I’ve had a digital camera for seven years now. It’s got a chip in it that lets me put 300 shots at a time into my computer without having to pay developing charges. The digital photos will never fade; they will never curl. I can crop them, fix the red eyes, erase completely the people I don’t like and insert a grove of trees where they used to be, and it’s all pretty much free and fast. So where is all that money I saved?

Where did all the money go that people used to spend on fax machines and VCRs? Betamaxes started out at $2,200 in today’s dollars. The blank tapes cost $15 and could hold an hour-long show. Now my cable company lets me record a hundred hours’ worth of shows for $5 a month. Where is all the money I saved from that? Almost everyone I know shops in big box stores and outlet malls where everything is half off. Where is the money we save by not paying full price for 300-packs of Stella D’oro?

I quit smoking cigarettes hit $1.75 a pack. It was just too high. I couldn’t afford it then and now that they’re $7 or $8 dollars a pack, who can? Almost the only people I see smoking anymore are convenience store clerks who huddle up outside, beside the ice machine, taking quick drags during their breaks.

“Who could afford to smoke less than a convenience store clerk?” I asked my friend Tyler recently. He said, “Why do you think they work there? I’m not accusing, I’m just saying.” I did see one man buy a pack of cigarettes last year – he paid with a check. So where is all the money I have saved by not smoking these past 17 years? I can’t find it anywhere.

My 5-year-old car gets 30 miles to the gallon. When I first learned to drive, my car got 12 miles to the gallon, and I had to put a quart of oil in it every 200 miles. Where is the money I’m saving by being energy efficient? Sure, gas costs more than it did, but I get paid more than I did, too. What about e-mail? I haven’t bought stamps in a dog’s age. When was the last time I bought a suit? When was the last time I bought a tie? Just the money I used to spend on dry cleaning should pay my mortgage.

With all the money I’m saving from photos, cigarettes, fax machines, e-mail and outlet malls, I should be rich. Well, I’ve got to get off this phone – I only get 1,500 minutes a month on my plan. I don’t want to use them up on the first day. Again. Bye.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

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