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Dad’s Rules

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Yesterday I mentioned that my Dad charged us for waste when we were kids. I’ve gotten oodles of comments asking about the system. Ok, maybe I only got one question, don’t judge me.

Before I go into the factoids you should know a few things about my Dad. For starters, he has never thrown out anything in his entire life. This includes the swim trunks he wore in high school. He’s 64. He still wears those trunks. I’m not kidding.

He never, ever wastes food. He says that he grew up on a farm and they were poor and blah, blah, blah…I think he is just trying to prove something. I remember him throwing away some salsa once because it tasted like plastic. That was ten years ago.

He is a cardshark. Pinochle and Euchre. He can beat anyone. He will talk more smack about cards than anyone you have ever met in your life.

He drinks Milwaukee’s Best Light and Riunite.

He can fix anything. ANYTHING.

He’s awesome.

So back to the waste thing. I don’t remember why we started doing it, other than him getting mad at us for throwing away “good food” and “leaving the goddamn lights on day and night.” We started doing it when I was in the 6th grade. I still get nervous about throwing food away or leaving lights on. He is visiting now (playing Euchre with his wife and the twins as I type). They went away this weekend and I took the opportunity to throw away all the leftovers in the fridge. I’m 36 and still nervous about pitching food in front of him.


The charges for waste were relatively small. A few sips of milk left in a glass were 5 or 10 cents. If you left food on your plate it might be 25 cents. We did get to serve ourselves, so we took what we wanted. The only rule was we had to try at least a tablespoon full of everything on the table. So really, if you took more than you could eat it was your own fault.

Wasting electricity was a similar situation. Leave the light on in the bathroom it was 10 or 15 cents. If you left a light on and actually left the house or (God forbid) went to school, it was more like 75 cents or a dollar. My sister used to leave her curling iron plugged in (before auto-shut off existed) and that was an automatic loss of the curling iron. In the 80’s that really hurt.

We tracked the waste on a sheet on the refrigerator. Everyone in the household could, and did, get charged for waste. Including my Dad and Mom. At the end of the week we had to pay up. I think we got a $2 allowance, our waste was taken out of that $2. Whomever had the least amount of waste got all the money.

It paid off to not waste, that was key.

Most of the time my Dad won. However, we got him once in a while. He used to reheat his coffee in a saucer on the stove. (I AM SO OLD!!) Occasionally he would leave the burner on and ruin the pan. BIG MONEY!

So, that’s the system. It totally worked. When I went away to college my roommates used to get annoyed with me for shutting off the lights when I left the room, because they were still in it! No, I have never done it with my own kids.

I’m not so into the sensible parenting thing.


About Twinisms

I am the mother of two sets of twins that are ten years apart. Each of them has moments where they say and do hilarious, frustrating, and crazy things.I counter that by also doing borderline crazy things. It's a good time.

17 responses »

  1. That’s a good system esply when you get all the money! LOL. but can be quite troublesome to implement. I mean who’s to know who left the light on in the common room? It might be difficult for a house full of people.

    If your parents get caught, they should be charged more relative to what they were earning. 😀

    I’m so not into sensible parenting either! But feel pressured by my peers to “flash cards” and avoid Shopping centres to go to parks and breastfeed… =(

  2. This cracked me up !

    My mum was a nut about wasting electricity. We would get blasted for leaving lights on. I think it has to do that she grew up during WW2 in a country that barely had running water let alone electricity (Indonesia).

    Now I’ll go back home and she’ll have every heater on in the house, and wear a thin cotton house dress and no shoes or socks while there’s frost on the grass outside.

    Go figure…

  3. I can so still see that chart on the fridge! I remember you and Nicki giving me the heads up so he didn’t charge me while I was visiting.

  4. Order in the Quart!

    It seems you are in good company, friend. My step-dad freaked out if we left the lights on, too. I now have to follow every member of my household all over the house flipping the lights out. I didn’t appreciate his stance until I began to get my utility bills as an adult….

    • I have issues with it too. My husband’s family absolutely does not believe in cleaning your plate though…it can be a struggle.

      • Order in the Quart!

        Yeah, I had to retrain myself regarding the plate issue. My parents made me eat whatever it was, even if I gagged and, well, you know. Not kidding. I would have to sit there for hours sometimes. Fun. Times. You can see why I got married at 19….

  5. That actually sounds like a really effective way of encouraging kids to do chores – not that ‘we’ll pay you your allowance if you do it’, but ‘we might be giving part of your allowance to your sister if you don’t do it’ lol. That would have been good incentive to me when i was younger 🙂

  6. This is a very interesting system! I could still this working today… and now that people are getting very energy conscience it still makes since today!

  7. I remember a trip to the east coast for 3 weeks we took when I was about 9. My mom started us off with $20 and for every meal we didn’t finish she would deduct money from it. My sister was always leaving something (usually her milk, which Mom had them mix whole and skim so it tasted like low-fat), so she came back with almost no cash. I got my whole $20.

  8. Ahhh, deducting from the allowance. Nice strategy! We haven’t made up our minds about allowances yet, so that plan would require an actual decision. (Our family motto is: Give me ambivalence or give me something else.) But I am about to freak out about all the lunches that come home only half eaten, and yet they eat a pile of junk that Poppy gives them without even checking to see if they ate their lunches. Soooooo aggravating!


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