The most outrageous news story broke this week, about The U.S. Department of Justice and their over-the-top snacking habits: namely, serving $16 muffins, $10 cookies, $8.24 cups of coffee and, in another meeting, spending $32 per person for snacks that included Cracker Jack, candy bars and popcorn. And the cost to plan five of these culinary utopian snack-fests disguised as department meetings? $600,000.
In an interview with a U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman after the story broke, she explained that those expenses were approved before there were suggested limits on food and beverage costs for such events.
What? You need someone to tell you that a $16 muffin may be overpriced? Sometimes, I just have to shake my head in wonder.
Maybe the debt crisis isn’t going to be solved by choking more money out of individual taxpayers and small businesses, or even the super-wealthy. Maybe it will be greatly alleviated by curbing out-of-control spending and program fraud. Just a thought, but I am no expert.
In our household, we are currently in “conserve” mode. My husband and I are both fortunate in that we have jobs and can meet our obligations. As the primary shopper for our home, I have always actually thought about what I spend, even before the economy tanked a few years ago. I just can’t rationalize paying too much for something using the logic, “Well, we have it to spend, so why not?” I guess being raised by parents who survived the Great Depression has something to do with that.
Looking around at many of our friends and other families in the community, my husband and I understand without a doubt that the situation we enjoy now could change in an instant. To us, that means we need to tread lightly, to be careful. We cut back wherever we can, eliminating spending that seems frivolous now, but that we justified not too long ago.
I am horribly unorganized, so couponing is a tough one for me. Sure, I have fun cutting them out. It’s like a grown-up art project. But then I let them expire, or I pick up the wrong brand or quantity in the store, or I forget to take them with me at all. The old me would just get frustrated and forget the whole thing. But I am really trying now to cut costs wherever possible. I think I’m getting the hang of it, and I am even getting so brave as to combine coupons with other special offers and sales. Even if I just save a little bit, I feel good about it.
Our children get it, although they’re very young adults. They understand that they do not have a limitless supply of money to squander.
And that brings us back to our fearless leaders in Washington, who apparently feel that they do. I would personally volunteer, sacrifice my time, to go up there and teach a 30-Percent-Off class (although 30 percent off a $16 muffin is still no bargain). In other words I’d teach, say, meeting planners that if someone is trying to sell them a muffin for $16, bargain with them! Haggle. Whip out a coupon. Better yet, just run up the street to the closest supermarket and buy as many as you need. With any luck, they’ll be on sale.
Blind, reckless spending is never a good thing and cannot continue indefinitely, and I don’t believe it’s a Democrat vs. Republican problem. I believe it’s an “It’s not my money, so why should I care?” problem.
How can we insist they stop the madness?