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Issue Date: November 2008


Tied to Saving Cash

I like ties.

I wouldn’t call it an obsession, or even a weakness. But it’s one thing I have a lot of —89 ties in all.

(It’s not that many compared to the number of baseball cards I still own, but those were bought when I was a kid —and are an investment — so they don’t really count.)

Besides, many of my ties I don’t even wear. Some have fallen out of fashion, though I’m never quite sure what’s in style. A good dozen have stains on them, but still hang in my closet waiting for some miracle cleaner to be developed.

Others are special-occasion ties: one with baseballs for opening day, a blue one with the Grinch for Christmas and one with Tigger hiding in a jungle print for my next lunch with Winnie the Pooh.

My collection started about 15 years ago with a maroon tie with little gold otters that I saw in an environmental gifts catalog. And though I rarely had occasion to wear a tie, those playful little mammals were tough to resist. Plus, part of the proceeds went to help save the sea otter.

These days, I have a rule: no ties that cost more than $15. That may seem extreme if you flip through the pages ofEsquire or other men’s magazines, where the least expensive tie pictured in their fashion spreads is $75.

But I’ve found that $15 isn’t even a tough limit: Marshalls and TJ Maxx have a wide selection of regular-priced neckwear and plenty of clearance stuff in my price range.

Cheap, you say?

Maybe. Probably. But I feel like there’s something else at work, too.

As a kid, I can vividly recall shopping with my mom. She always had these manila bank envelopes in her purse, each one marked with a category: gas, groceries, clothes. And when it was time to pay at Patton’s Sparkle Market or JC Penney, she’d take the cash out of the appropriate envelope and deduct the amount from the total written on the outside. The change went right back into the envelope. Always cash, always from the proper envelope. I almost never remember her using a credit card.

Twenty-five years ago, her budgeting strategy seemed a little odd. But I don’t recall wanting for anything either.

In today’s plastic-driven, consumable world, however, her manila envelopes feel like something out of the Great Depression: I hardly carry cash, pay all my bills online and use my bank card at stores whenever possible.

And though we do our best to put money away for retirement, the kids’ education and a rainy day, I certainly don’t manage a budget like my parents did. It makes me wonder how many of us do — especially considering that as we were wrapping up this issue the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered the worst week in its

112-year history.

There was a discipline, a thoughtfullness in her system that seems lacking today.

So that’s why we’re offering a smart shopper’s guide with advice from the experts, unique gift ideas (some that are even good for the planet) and a few splurges mixed in, because, like my ties, we all have our little indulgences.

Sorry, though, you’ll have to get your own manila envelopes.

*Yea for us.

The Ohio Society of Professional Journalists recently named Cleveland Magazine Best Monthly Magazine in the state and tabbed art director Jennifer Kessen as the Best Graphic Designer in Ohio.

Other first place winners included Erick Trickey in explanatory journalism for “Welcome to Foreclosure Central,” newsmaker profile for “The Missionary” and media criticism for “The New Dealer”; Andy Netzel in best social justice reporting for “Can Anyone Save Slavic Village?”; and Colleen Mytnick in best sports profile for “Planet LeBron.”

Second place honors went to John Hyduk in criminal justice reporting for “The Long Goodbye”; Jacquie Marino in medical/science reporting for “White Coats” (part 3); Andy Netzel in investigative reporting for “Harmony and Discord” and the Feast! staff for best special publication.

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