MyStoryYourStory: $50 doesn’t buy you much these days

When my husband, Brian, recently ran for city council, he rang up a whopping $50 bill for his entire campaign. This was an accomplishment he truly was proud of, since he ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and new blood a non-politician like himself would bring to the position.

You see, here's what he got for $50: $21 in door hangers, $21 for one-page handouts, $7 worth of business cards and 34 cents for a hand-painted yard sign for a grand total of $50.34.

Unfortunately, the one thing it didn't get him was a win. Since losing his first-ever election, he has contemplated long and hard, how and why his impressive door-to-door campaign did not register.

Transfixed on what he could have done differently and given the number of votes he received, Brian actually spent about $1.50 for each one. So, in the throes of a post-election spiral of would've, could've, should've, he began to wonder…

"If I only would've spent another $18, that might have put me over the top," he contemplated, challenging his frugality.

"Or was it my introverted personality? " he continued with a blow-by-blow analysis, scrutinizing his every move in the six weeks of campaigning leading up to the election.

"I'm not a volunteer fireman, like the incumbent. Suppose that could've have made a difference?" questioning the man in the mirror. "Or is it just too downright difficult to beat an incumbent? Maybe it's unrealistic in a three-way race with two hometown boys with votes coming out of the woodwork. With extended family, including first, second and third cousins, in laws, aunts, uncles, not to mention former classmates, co-workers, former co-workers and friends, I didn't have a chance." 

Believe me, once he got started, the guy just couldn't stop. So, today, nearly one month later, he's still searching for some answers.

While pondering his run for city council, Brian also spent a bushel basket of time considering that $50 really doesn't buy much these days. Grateful for this sweet distraction from his humiliating loss, I took notes.

Let me tell you, $50 today is chump change for a lot of people. It will buy a meal for two in a moderately priced restaurant, including one appetizer and non-alcoholic beverages.

It's said if you shop around, you can buy 15 pounds of hamburger for $50. I'll believe that when I see it.

At the local butcher shop, it will get you six and a quarter one-pound T-bone steaks or going in a different direction, a three-month newspaper subscription.

For 50 bucks, you can still get a room at Motel 6 and have some change left over to fire up the in-room magic fingers massage bed several times a night.

You could take in six first-run movies at the cinema-plex for 50 bucks, 16 at the cheap seats theater. A decent circular saw costs $50, as does two oil changes, a haircut and style or a massage.

Traveling back in time to the good old days, circa 1960, Brian lamented that a pair of Oxford men's shoes cost $12.95. Pitch in a little extra and you could afford four pairs, one for every week in February.

Fifty dollars back then would get you five men's pocket watches at around $9.50 apiece. I don't know why anyone would want five pocket watches. Same goes for automatic can openers and electric blankets, costing just under $10 apiece.

As some of you know, when it comes to dollar value in 1960, $50 bought a whole lot of groceries, including 52 dozen oranges. At 89 cents per dozen, the left over change could go toward an oven-ready turkey at 39 cents a pound. What the heck, at that price, why not throw a small turkey in the cart?

Brian's right; these days $50 dollars doesn't buy much. It'll get you a tank of gas, a weekend of fast food, an antique lamp, a dozen roses and a box of chocolates, two best seller books, but definitely not a win in a three-way race for city council.

Now, a sixty-eight dollar campaign? Well, maybe.

2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email  boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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