When Being Poor Warps Your Thinking

I remember when our income was so meager that I didn’t bother to look to see how much something cost, because I didn’t have even five extra dollars to buy it. When more money started coming in, I remember the astonishment when looking at an item and thinking I’d done without that little thing all these years, when it only cost five dollars! I guess I’d thought it cost a lot more.

Last week, my boss asked me if my youngest son could do some volunteer work for my job. I work at a non-profit and typically, we’re always broke. Every year we hold a dinner dance for our clients and we design our own dinner/raffle tickets. Since I’ve worked there, one of my coworker’s son has worked at a local print shop and has gotten our tickets printed free of charge. But he’s moved on to a different line of work.

So my boss asked if my son could perforate the tickets, cut them and staple them into bundles of six. She claimed it would save us hundreds of dollars. She said the perforating was easy, just use my sewing machine. I inwardly cringed at the thought of using my sewing machine for sewing thick cardstock paper. But she assured me that’s how they USED to do it. We make up 8000 tickets, and there are six tickets on each page – roughly 1300 sheets total. Two lines of perforation and four cuts for each sheet.

My coworker’s son was able to print out tickets again, he asked us to pay for ink and the paper, but he didn’t have access to a perforating machine, or anything to cut them.

So I brought home this box of tickets, and our big paper cutter.

My son was sick over this past weekend and I thought I’d get a start on the tickets.

I reluctantly set up my machine, and sewed through the first few sheets. After the first sheet, I knew this was going to be a laborious, ridiculous, time consuming job. I timed myself after a few sheets, and discovered it was taking a full sixty seconds to sew through two sheets (four lines). I’m muttering to myself the entire time.

I stopped and did some calculations. I figured at this rate, it was going to take 11 hours to sew through the sheets. I stopped immediately and put my sewing machine away. I had looked on the Internet earlier for a perforating tool and discovered there is something called a pounce wheel that would do the job. I tried calling the nearest Joann’s and Michael’s, but neither place knew what I was talking about. No surprise there. No one seems to know where anything is anymore. I had actually been to a Joann’s and saw that they have a plastic paper cutter for scrapbooking, and you can buy perforating tools to go with them. So I called my boss and asked for permission to buy one of those. Oh, and ironically, she informs me that my coworker’s son was asked to work for his old job that day, to fill in for one of his ex-coworkers. He would have been able to perforate and cut the tickets free. But instead of calling me, and asking if I’d drive the tickets in, they just let it go. Grrrrrr.

I bought a Sunday paper for $2 and found a coupon for 50% off. I got the paper cutter for $20 and the rotary wheels were 50% off, so I got the one for $3.50. But not without confronting the sales person, who assumed since the cash register didn’t automatically give me 50% off, the item wasn’t included in the sale ad. He tried to give me some lame excuse about how the sale items on the back of the ad are only for the three day sale, like the middle insert of the ad. Right. He ended up having to call the manager to find out what he should do, when the item I bought had the name brand displayed, an image of the item and it was supposed to be 50% off and the ad came out just that day.

So I got back home and started working on the tickets again.

The perforating cutter was much easier to work with than my machine. It cut in a straight line without my having to carefully guide it, and at first I could perforate through three sheets at a time. But as the blade dulled, I had to go down to cutting 2 sheets.

My son and I worked together and it took us 90 minutes to put together 100 books. I did some more calculations and figured it was still going to take us 19 hours to put together all the books. By this time, I was very annoyed and couldn’t believe I’d taken on this volunteer job for my son. I had no idea what I was getting him and myself, into.

We stopped at that point, having given it a good try, and I determined to call one of the popular printing places at work the next day – that would be yesterday morning.

I called first, and then emailed the PDF over so they could give me a price estimate for perforating and cutting the remaining 1200 or so sheets.

I almost fell over when the lady told me it would cost THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS, yes, that’s $35, to perforate the sheets. And… drum roll… an additional FIFTEEN DOLLARS to cut them. So a total of $50!!

I became even more aggravated at that point.

I told the lady, just for fun, how much will it cost to staple them together? She admitted that is where the big money would come in, because they would have to count out six tickets and hand staple each bundle. She said it would cost about $325.

Okay, stapling’s nothing. I could even give each of my coworkers a stack of 300 books and have them staple them in their spare time, and we always have volunteers who could help stapling bundles.

But that is what happens when you are poor so long. You stop thinking about the other options, because you don’t even have FIFTY dollars to spend. The perforating and cutting is the most time consuming. One could sit and watch television and staple six tickets together.

I’m glad I called to see how much it would cost. It will save a lot of time and frustration. I know we have at least $50 to spend, and even if we don’t, I’ll make a $50 donation to get it done professionally.

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4 thoughts on “When Being Poor Warps Your Thinking

  1. You know, it’s amazing how many shortcuts I’ll take that probably would be better off for everyone if I just pulled money out of my pocket and spent it.

    I’m a very handy guy, so there’s just loads of things I can do on my own. The problem is that I simply don’t have the time for everything, so if the car’s making squeaky noises I can’t just take the engine apart because I simply can’t fix it in less than a week or two. I still need my car every day!

    This is something we constantly have to work at.


  2. I know, I know. I can relate. Working more hours now, I can also understand more easily why so many people use the services of others. For example, if I get a computer problem, I figure it out myself. But some days I wish I knew of a good computer guy and could afford to throw the money at him to fix whatever is wrong. Mr. A and I are also pretty handy. You can also usually make something a lot nicer and higher quality if you have the time to do it yourself, especially in this day and age of plastic and junk everything. Thanks for visiting, Mr. Debtbeater!


  3. OH, and guess what? I discovered that we’ve never paid anyone to do the stapling. We’ve ALWAYS done it ourselves. So maybe it was the printing that cost so much? Or maybe it was just a lot more costly years ago. Who knows? Mrs. A


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