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.
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.