ALFRED TOOMBS is the author of Honeymoon for Seven and Raising a Riot. A notire of Dallas, Texas, he worked on news papers in Washington and Chicago and now lives on an island in southern Maryland.
AT the time of our marriage, my bride with the innocent blue eyes was employed by the Federal Bureau of the Budget. She had been working there for five years and I considered it merely a coincidence that the Federal budget had been out of balance for five years. I know better, now.
At the end of our first year of marriage, the Federal deficit exceeded my own by only $2.73. By marrying this girl and getting her out of the Bureau of the Budget, I accomplished a saving for the Federal government which could be brought about now only by deactivating two air-borne divisions or moth-balling the Atlantic Fleet.
There is another point in the government’s favor in this matter — something that is reflected by the increased amount of money it is taking in these days. This is largely due to inflation, which in turn is largely due to my wife. She has done more, as a one-woman spending spree, to stimulate business in this country than anything since the attack on Pearl Harbor. I like to refer to her as the author and administrator of the Marshall Plan for America.
When we were first married, I gave my wife an allowance which would have been adequate to run the Republic of Panama for two years. Within six months, I began to get the uncomfortable feeling — as a result of a number of lawsuits filed against me — that she was spending more than her allowance.
“ Look, dear,” I said kindly, “what’s happening to it all
“ I spend it,” she explained. “ Buying things.”
“You must buy too many things,
“Well, if you think so,” she said, “I’ll keep a list of everything I spend money on this month.”
Sure enough, at the end of the month she came in with a list of her expenses. “Well, you can’t say I’ve been extravagant now,” she said. “I’ve kept track of every cent I’ve spent
She had done both — been extravagant and kept a record of it. Not only had she exceeded her budget by the normal 150 per cent, but she had added one new item to her list of expenses: “Budget book, to keep record of money spent — $1.”
“Look, honey,” I said, “this list is fine. But the idea of the whole thing is to try to spend less. Now why did you go over your budget this month?” “You can see for yourself,”she explained. It’s all written down there.”
The only thing I could learn from studying the list was that she had not lost money playing the horses, nor had her pocket been picked. We worked this subject over in eight - hour shifts for three weeks, but got nowhere. Then she came to me with a new light shining in her eyes. At first I thought she was going to tell me that we were getting a little dependent, but it turned out that the strange light in her eyes was merely the reflection of an idea.
“From now on, she said, “ don’t give me any money.”
“That is a fine, if not entirely practical, idea,” I replied. “But if you don’t have any money, how are you going to run the house?”
“I’ll charge things,” she said. “You can just keep the money you’ve been giving me and then I won’t waste any of inputting charge accounts in her hands, I knew, was like giving a baby a hand grenade for teething. So I talked her out of this idea, upped her allowance again, and told her not to charge anything. It was not long after this that she began to agitate for a television set.
“I haven’t got the money,” I said.
“Is that the only reason?” she asked.
“That’s reason enough, isn’t it?’
I snapped, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be.
The next day, we had a television set.
“I wanted it,” she explained. “So 1 bought it. With my own money.”
“Where did you get any money’
“Oh,” she replied mysteriously, “I had a little savings account when we got married.”
After this, I lost all control over what she spent. If I said we couldn’t afford some item, she bought it with her own money. We got a new davenport, a new bedroom suite, had the living room painted, enrolled in an art course, and acquired an expensively pedigreed dog.
When I added up the amount of her money she had spent, it came to around $2000. I was not aware that I had married a wealthy woman, so I began to ask a few questions.
“Say,” I said quietly one evening. “How much of your own money did you say you had left?”
“Oh, around $500,” she replied.
I was rather pleased to hear that she was getting this close to broke. “Not much left, eh?” I said.
“Oh, that’s about as much as I had when we got married,” she replied.
“Wait a minute!” I screamed. “You had $500 to start with. You spent about $2000 of that and you still have $500. How to do this is something which should be taught in all colleges!”
“It’s simple,” she said in surprise. “When I buy something for the household out of my own money, I always pay myself back with the money you give me to run the household.” '
“Oh,” I replied.
We went back on those eight-hour shifts again. I was only trying to make one simple point. “The way to stay within your budget is by saving money,” I kept saying. “Just figure out ways to save.”
One day she came home with a new dress.
“I think I’ve got your idea,” she said. ”I saved you $15 today.”
“Good,” I replied, rubbing my hands together, “How did you do that ? ”
“I got this dress for only $20,” she said.
“Well, I don’t see how you saved anything. You’ve got a $20 dress allowance.”
“But this was a $30 dress on sale. So I saved $10.”
“Granted,” I replied, “that by the sort of reasoning unheard of outside of the United Nations, you have saved $10. But you said $15.”
“Oh, I bought a $15 hat with the $10. Total saving, $15.”
The next day, as I was coming home, I saw a sign in the window of a grocery store. The place was going out of business and all items were on sale at wholesale price. I didn’t have too much money with me, but I decided to invest in a few cases of the sort of things we used regularly. I came home with a case of canned beans, a case of peaches, and a case of canned milk. I also bought a ham.
“Now,” I said triumphantly. “This is what I mean by saving money. I’ve spent $30 and saved you $15. That’s the way to do it.”
“ But it will take all my food money for the week to pay for this,” she protested.
“But you’ll save it over the weeks. You’ll be money ahead by the time this is used up.”
For breakfast the next morning, we had peaches, fried ham, and canned milk on the cereal. For dinner we had baked ham, beans, canned peaches, and canned milk in the coffee.
“Hey,” I said, after a couple of days of this. “Don’t we get anything to out but this?”
“ I told you it took all my week’s food allowance to pay for it,” she replied. “And you said we’d be money ahead when it was used up. So I’m trying to use it.”
At this point, I gave up on the whole thing. It was not until I made out my tax return that I came to understand exactly what had been going on.
“ Dear,” I said gently. “ I find that I have been forced to earn so much money to pay for the household this year that my taxes are something awful. I do not have enough money left to pay the tax man.”
“That’s too bad,” she said. “Can’t you just charge it ?”
“No, I can’t charge it,” I said. “I had to borrow $750.”
“Well, it’s nice of you to go to all that trouble,” she said.
“But don’t you realize what this means? It means that I have spent $750 more than I have earned this year.”
“How can you say that you’ve spent the $750?” she asked. “You just borrowed it, didn’t you?”
“Sure, I borrowed it,” I moaned. “But I spent it, too.”
“But how can you call it spent? You still owe it.”
In view of the foregoing, can any Collector of Internal Revenue think it unreasonable of me to deduct $2,357,405.37 for my wife as a dependent, instead of the customary sum?
Of course, I could always let her take her old job in the Bureau of the Budget.