Sunday, May 3, 2015

Budgeting Tips from Helen Gurley Brown!

This vintage book is why I will never own a Kindle.

I picked up Sex and the Single Girl, that classic from 1962 by Helen Gurley Brown, for a buck at a used bookshop in Ithaca and am having a great time reading it, especially her budgeting advice in the chapter “Money Money Money.” Helen really believed in living as cheaply as possible and saving for the finer things in life, which I love. Her advice was hard-earned—she writes that her father died when she was 10, her sister contracted polio a few years later, and the medical expenses related to the illness wiped out the insurance money left to Helen’s mother. She said years of lean living taught her to be a “really ruthless pennypincher.”

I never expected a book about how to live it up as single gal to contain such gems in regards to money but I am finding myself agreeing with a lot of Helen has to say on the subject!

She introduces her rules with this thought:

“Some people, especially the poor, seem to think it is unattractive and miserly to watch pennies. Did they pay $5,000 cash from savings for a Mercedes-Benz 190 S.L. when their yearly income was $9,600? I did. (And I wasn’t kept!) But I drove a vintage Chevy and rode the streetcar for years.”

A 1963 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL. I love that HGB saved up and paid cash for a car like this! Photo source.

Some more of my favorite HGB advice on money:

Scrimp on what isn’t sexy or beautiful or really any fun, so you can afford what is.

Don’t spend a sou on anything you don’t need. (You need iridescent gold eye shadow, but what about that essence-of-pine air purifier somebody was selling door-to-door?)

Never pay more when you can pay less.

Economize on things that would bring you no extra happiness units if you spent twice as much.

Under my system you start funds for the things you want—car, vacation, hi-fi, television, fur coat, furniture. You sneak up on these luxuries. When your fund is over the top, you buy! Or just have a general savings account, deplete it for the major purchase and pay back your bank account, sans interest.

More money has been squandered at sales in the name of thrift than has been loaned to underprivileged countries.

As for picking up odd little dresses for $13, that is a luxury you can’t afford, at least in my opinion. You need to look glamorous every minute.

HGB in 1965.

Give big parties with one or two friends but don’t B.Y.O.L. anybody. Who needs a party that isn’t free?

Hand lotion and shampoos are pretty much alike. Buy big cheap bottles.

Don’t undertip. This little economy is unworthy of you.

Don’t try to have too many clothes. Buy important things. A girl can have enough blouses and skirts to outfit the WAC and never have anything to wear.

The larger your collection of junk jewelry, probably the worse dressed you are! Take the pledge. Your saving the first three months should net you an important piece of costume jewelry.

Wear old clothes or no clothes at home alone.

Wear everything you buy. No hoarding.

Let me know if you read HGB’s book or what you think of her tips on money!


rosie said...

Hi Jill,

I read HGB's book a long time ago & still remember so much from it, particularly the money parts. It was such good sound advice. then as it is now.
HGB states she tranformed herself from being plain & mousey (her words) into a glamour girl. She also had brains, common sense & tons of ambition. And, I think HGB always took care of her sister & mom. So, she was a good sister & daughter.

Hard to believe that secretaries (like HGB once was) in the 60's 70' & 80's could actually afford to live in Manhattan. Not now.

Isn't that Mercedes gorgeous. Vintage cars have so much class & pizzaz.

Thanks for reminding about HGB's lst book-it was a changer for so many women, including myself.

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

Love her tips! I tend to be split in my habits. I don't buy endless classic tops bc you end up with 35 black skirts and white t shirts at 40 bucks a pop which is false economy I say!! X

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

These were great, Jill! Thanks for sharing!

Gracey the Giant said...

I love this book! I bought a copy for a friend a few years back and we had the best time reading it. It's so fun!

PinkCheetahVintage said...

I like her tips!

GSL said...

Fab post Jill and HGB did get a lot right especially with regards to these money matters. I make even a little more than HGB's salary but haven't yet found a mint condition Mercedes 190 for 5 large

RueSue said...

Oh, I remember buying her book on the sly at Woolworths after school and hiding it under my bed. It was a look into a different world. She was so fascinating and daring. No one I knew talked about what was sexy and what was not. It really influenced my attitudes.

Anonymous said...

Love all her tips, they stand the test of time. Even more so in this credit card age.

Jill said...

Hi Rosie! I am really enjoying HGB's book, I think I want to read the one that she published in the 80s. I have to get my hands on a copy the Brooklyn Library doesn't have it (boo hiss). You are so right about secretaries and Manhattan. Even as a legal secretary (what I did before my son was born), and I was doing alright, I could not have made the rent without my husband! I love the slightly madcap quality of HGB's writing, it's conspiratorial and fun. I also love that she bought her own Mercedes! xx

Jill said...

Hi Naomi, I totally agree with you re the false economies. I am back to really asking myself with every single purchase--do I REALLY need it? And am finding, once again, that plenty of times, the answer is no! Then I pat myself on the back and stick a buck in the H or VCA or Cartier fund. Ha. HGB would be proud! xx

Jill said...

Hi Pam, did you ever read this book? I wonder what you thought of it if you did! xx

Jill said...

Gracey, did you read the book she published in the 80s (I am forgetting the name of it just now)? I want to read that one too! xx

Jill said...

Hi Becky, you should read this, I think you would get a kick out of it! xx

Jill said...

GSL, oh HGB has plans for YOUR money, my dear. Since you are a gentleman you are supposed to be buying the drinks and the diamonds! xx

Jill said...

Hi RueSue, oh I love this story of you reading HGB's on the sly! I also love that you bought it at Woolworth's and hid it under your bed. I understand why it was a groundbreaking book at the time, it still feels relevant today and the tone she achieved is great, it's a hard one to pull off. She was some writer! Did you read that other book? Would I like it? xx

Jill said...

Hi Helen! You share a name with the great HGB! There is a great part in the money chapter where she talks about credit and has a very negative attitude towards it. She actually says something like, Who are you borrowing from and why? HGB would definitely want me to save up for that Cartier Tank. Right? She liked the finer things in life! xx

Lauren Adams said...

I really like how clearly the subject of this article made her point. It is important to budget. That being said, you don't need to stop having fun. That seems to be something that a lot of people don't understand. However, if you are willing to budget a little, you can still be very generous and fun.

Jill said...

Hi Lauren, I think HGB definitely believed in having fun AND having a budget. xx