Dad, what’s a family budget?

SO, POSH canceled last week’s attempt at a ceiling fan installation when she realized it was just a giant, spinning aphrodisiac, and our summer of love ended in the third week of July. Just ahead: a long and lonely winter.

“You OK, Dad?”

Yeah, give me a week to get my breath back. I’ll try to forget the way the strap of her nightgown hangs off the shoulder just so, or the way her nostrils flare when she sleeps. Lovely as a Matisse, this mother of four. To me, she is just a very sexy tulip.

“Dad?” the little guy asked the other morning.



“How old are you?”


“Whew, that’s old.”


“Tell me about it.”

Truth is, I still feel half my age. I bounce out of bed at sunup, lift heavy cups of coffee without complaint, chase the kids around the house, smacking them on the butts with a broom for hours on end.

“Get off the couch!” I scream at them. “Get away from the computer! Run, run, run!”

I seem to have vast reserves of energy most men my age lack. Which is a shame, really, since I have no ceiling fan.


But I’ve moved on. There are so many more pressing matters. Like the economy, about which I know next to nothing. I know so little, I could almost run for president.

First, a confession: I am the cheapest, most frugal dolt you ever met. I take my lunch to work. I make my own toothpaste. I weave rugs from the leftover lint I find in the clothes dryer. Seriously, I am one buggy whip away from being Amish.

Used to be my frugal ways were enough to help us squeeze by. Not anymore.

So we’ve adopted a new economic stimulus package in our family, designed to improve our fortunes and broom the entire U.S. economy in the butt, so to speak. I think it’s safe to expect a full turnaround in a couple of weeks.



1. Limit dining out to five times a week.

We are a ravenous family of unfathomable appetites (see ceiling fan). Sometimes we just wander from restaurant to restaurant in search of food. No more. Occasionally, we will eat at home.

2. Funnel all financial transactions through the tiny nation of Lichtenstein.


This is a tax-saver I picked up from a Beverly Hills mogul. To me, moguls are the best, the brightest, the shrewdest Americans we have left. From what I hear, many don’t pay any taxes at all. I say we should get all the moguls in one room, nail the door shut and many of our biggest problems would just solve themselves.

3. Adopt the peso.

We had adopted the euro but that proved too expensive. So instead we settled on either Chuck E. Cheese tokens or the peso. I always feel like I get my money’s worth in Mexico, except maybe in Cancun, where they can’t seem to build enough luxury hotel rooms. Cancun makes me crazy, all that concrete.

4. Reduce costs around the house.


The first thing we did was to fire all the help, a major money saver.

“Honey, we’re going to have to let the pool man go,” I warn my wife.

“Um, we don’t have a pool,” Posh says.

“Then why’s that pool guy hanging around so much?”


Anyway, we have taken the desperate measure of asking the kids to pitch in around the house. That’s a little like teaching penguins to play the trombone.

For instance, the other day I was explaining the trash system to one of our little Einsteins. In summer, all young people have mono, so there was a lot of yawning going on, and they kept scratching their hair -- scratch-scratch-scratch -- as if it were on fire.

“This,” I said patiently, “is the kitchen trash can.”

“Wow, Dad.”


“This is where all our garbage goes,” I said.

“Not all of it,” grumbled one of them.

I explained to the teenager how to tell when the wastebasket was full. Lately, I explained, I’d awakened to find it brimming with In-N-Out burger wrappers and soft drink cups from the night before.

“When you can’t put any more in, that means it’s full,” I say.


“Somebody should empty it,” the teenager says.

“My point exactly.”

Then, I held a little clinic on the lawn mower. For years, our kids had no idea how the lawn even got mowed. They thought it mowed itself, probably. Or shed its tallest blades, like some sort of spaniel.

Me: “So tell me, how do you think the lawn gets mowed?”


First kid: “Um, are you serious?”

Second kid: “Yeah, Dad, how are we supposed to know that?”

Me: “Just guess. How do you think the lawn gets mowed?”

They think for a moment. Hmmmmm. Scratch-scratch-scratch. Hmmmmm.


“Lawn stylists?” one of them finally says.

Lucky guess.


Chris Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes .com. For more columns, see