Tag Archives: dollars

A lesson in money management

I still vividly remember the feeling I had when I first lost a substantial amount of money. I was probably about twelve years old, and my sister and I were visiting my grandmother’s house with She Who Was Born To Worry (aka my mum). My grandmother lived just outside Chester, and I often used to be allowed to take a short walk to the corner to get a newspaper or some sweetscandy. Walking back from one such mission – no doubt with a sherbert fountain or a quarter of chocolate limes in my hand – I reassuringly patted the back pocket of my jeans to check for my money, only to find it was no longer there.

Obviously, I retraced my steps in an attempt to find the little leather wallet, getting more and more frantic as I remembered the £10 note (a birthday gift from one relative or another) that had been neatly folded up within. But it was nowhere to be found. I tearfully walked back to my grandmother’s house, and dutifully received the ten minute lecture on looking after my money. All I could think about for the next five days was the lucky git who had picked up my wallet, and was now probably sitting smugly in their house surrounded by what felt like a lifetime’s supply of cola cubes or wine gums.

Of course, since that day I’ve lost plenty more money. Sometimes it’s fallen out of my pocket, and on others it’s been willfully extracted by The Best Man, The Beancounter or Sickly Child playing poker on a trip up North to see Manchester United. I’ve also found money, although wherever possible I’ve tried to hand it in just in case it belonged to another forlorn 12 year old with an inability to keep his cash safe. That’s not to say that I haven’t seen a twenty quid note floating on the breeze with no one else in sight, and deftly pocketed it. I mean, I’m an idealist but I’m not a fool.

As a result, maybe last night was karma wreaking its revenge.

Picking up a few items at the local supermarketgrocery store in order to feed a sickly Special One, I pulled a twenty dollar note out of my jeans pocket at the cash desk. Given that the dollar is like toy money, and you can pick up a notebook worth of dollar bills in any one day, I have a startlingly bad habit of stuffing all my bills into a pocket in one giant (but worthless) wad. Sadly that wad sometimes includes a few coins, and last night three or four quarters came flying out and scuttled across the floor.

More embarrassed at the noise than anything else, I quickly picked up the three coins that had fallen at my feet. Another had rolled no more than a couple of yards away, and a man in his fifties kindly bent down to pick it up for me. I smiled self-consciously at the shop assistant, paid for my shopping, then turned to the good samaritan for him to return the coin.

Except the man wasn’t there any more. He’d picked up my quarter and walked off with it.

Community spirit – you can’t beat it.

Are there dollars in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

When you’re a Brit exiled in America, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that the dollar has about as much value as the Zambian kwacha. For a start, whenever your friends come to visit, you have to endure the tales of how they spent sixteen straight hours shopping, and bought two pairs of jeans for the price of a bag of Maltesers. If I hear the cry of “of course, everything’s so cheap over here” one more time, I swear I will shove their over-active credit card where the sun doesn’t – and more importantly, wouldn’t want to – shine.

The flipside, of course, is that when you earn your salary in dollars and you spend any time in the UK (as I am doing for work at the moment), you find that buying a sandwich costs about as much as a Paul Smith suit. And don’t even think about having that bag of crispschips to go with it. It’s no wonder Americans don’t leave the country that often.

But the fact that the dollar is barely worth the paper it’s printed on isn’t my only problem with the US currency.

When I got to the UK earlier this week, I collected up all my dollar bills, carefully folded them up and placed them neatly in my wallet. OK, that’s a lie. I grabbed them all, scrunched them into a ball as I normally do, and stuffed them into my jeans. My pockets bulged in a frankly inappropriate fashion, such was the sheer amount of paper involved. Though I hadn’t counted it, I was fairly sure that the cash would be enough to get me a taxi home from the airport at the weekend, and still leave me change for a bagel.

Having changed jeans this morning, I totalled up the cash and found $13. It’s barely enough to get me out of the environs of JFK, let alone to buy me breakfast at the end of my journey.

It’s fair to say that the United States has an obsession with paper currency. If ever the country decides to get its arseass in gear about saving the environment, they could do worse than look at the amount of paper used to create their notes. And given that every TomBrad, DickDirk and HarryLarry in bars and restaurants gives you your change in dollar bills to ensure that you’ve got no possible excuse for not tipping, walking around after a night out can sometimes feel like going for a stroll with a ream of company letterhead in your back pocket.

Personally I’d love the US to abandon the dollar bill in favour of a coin, yet repeated attempts to introduce the dollar coin into general US circulation have failed. Probably because you’d need to be an Olympic standard clean-and-jerk weightlifting specialist to carry round all your change after an evening in a bar.

Sadly I think we’re stuck with one dollar notes for a considerable time for come. I’m seriously considering getting a large rucksackbackpack to carry around a week’s worth of change in.

Maybe when it’s full, I’ll be able to use the cash to buy a single round of drinks in Britain?

I can but dream.