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April Fools Way of Saving Money

Happy April Fools Day! I know I am a day early but I wanted to be one of the first to wish you a good day. I like this holiday because it’s one of the few holidays Hallmark hasn’t wrapped its money hungry hands around yet.

April fools day is a day for pranks and tomfoolery. It is a day to tell your shy, recluse of a boss that you scheduled a meet and greet with his biggest fans and that he has to spend the whole day entertaining them. This is a prank I actually pulled on my old boss…I wonder if that’s the reason I don’t work for them anymore. Anyways, moving on…

The first celebration of April Fools Day is not known by historians. The earliest known reference to April Fools Day is in Chaucer’s famous book Canterbury Tales which was written in the 14th century. But nothing else is known about early celebrations. Some have surmised it began in France in the 16th century when Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar, which came to be known as the Gregorian Calendar. The Julian calendar, which had been used prior to this point, included a whole week of celebration for New Years that occurred around the end of March up through the first of April. When Pope Gregory XIII brought forth the new calendar to be used he shortened the New Year celebration to one day and moved it to January 1st.

As you can easily imagine communication in the 16th century was not what it is today. Messages and all forms of information took longer to disseminate to people. There was no television, radio, or website to announce the New Years celebration change. In fact it is surmised it took years for everyone to catch on to the change. And during those slow adopting years the traditionalists that continued to celebrate New Years around the first of April were labeled ‘fools’.

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On the last day of the weeklong celebration, April 1st, people in France and the surrounding areas of Europe would send these traditionalists on what were labeled ‘fools errands’, where a person would be invited to a party that did not exist or would be tricked into believing something that was false. The aim of these practical jokes was to embarrass these traditionalists into adopting the change of celebrating New Years on January 1st rather than end of March/ first of April.

Pranks back then were much milder than they are today. Some early examples of prank pulling on April 1st included hooking a paper fish to the back of someone (referencing the term “poisson d’avril” which literally means “April Fish” because a young naïve fish is easily caught.) Another example of an April Fools day trick happened in 17th century England when a few unsuspecting peasants were rounded up to “see the lions washed” in the foreboding Tower of London.

These tricks continued over the next few centuries and a custom of pulling pranks continued on the first of April. This tradition eventually spread across Europe and was introduced to the American colonies by the English and the French.

Today tricks are a bit broader and are generally designed to fool more than one or two people. In 1998 The Motley Fool , an financial services company, sent a note to its readers informing them that for the last several years they had been giving bad financial advice. They explained to their readers that in their zeal to drive home the idea that professionally-managed mutual funds made less money for its investors than the U.S. stock market average, that they had actually made a terrible mistake in interpreting their data. The Motley Fool apologized profusely and said that for the last five years it had been reading its data charts upside down, thus inverting the data to mistakenly show that professionally-managed mutual funds were not the money making machines everyone believed them to be.

And I’m sure most of us can remember the hilarious trick Taco Bell pulled on all of us when in 1996 they announced in six major newspapers across the country their intent to buy the Liberty Bell and rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. They claimed it was an effort to help relieve some of the U.S. national debt. So many people called in to Taco Bell headquarters and the National Park Service in Philadelphia, which cared for the Liberty Bell, to express their outrage that Taco Bell was forced to release another announcement in which they admitted the whole thing was a hoax and that they were donating $50,000 for the upkeep of the Liberty Bell.

So in the spirit of April Fools Day I would like to pass on to you several ridiculous and just plain ludicrous jokes. These jokes come in the form of ways to reduce costs and increase income in your life. Enjoy!

Impractical cost cutting measure #1: To spend less money, use less toilet paper.

Scientists in America have come up with the Toilet Paper Algorithm, which is a mathematical equation designed to alleviate the problem of always running out of toilet paper when it is most needed. This is not an April Fools trick, someone seriously studied this and came up with a mathematical equation involving the use of toilet paper. I do not jest. A similar type study was published in 1984 in The American Mathematical Monthly (yea I can’t believe I don’t subscribe to that magazine either) entitled “Toilet Paper Problem” which included equations and analysis of toilet paper usage.

These algorithms and equations have shown that most people overuse toilet paper. They use more than is needed to…ahh…errr…you know…wipe their bum. What’s even more ludicrous, is in 2007 Families.com declared that three to four sheets was sufficient enough to clean ones self. They also extolled the virtues of folding sheets together versus crumpling toilet paper together to wipe. Read cost saving measure number four, the squirt bottle idea is my favorite. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!

Another totally impractical, certainly ridiculous way to save money that somehow got published as an actual way to save money is eating less. I know we are in era akin to the Great Depression of the 1930’s, but this lean idea is just plain ludicrous. Still financial websites-as well as anorexia advocates- tout this money saving idea as genuine.

Most experts shy away from the positioning of these ideas as a money saving technique but rather try to position this as a way to trim your waistline and get healthy. Haven’t these “experts” ever been around dad at 5 o’clock when he is cranky, mean and asking when dinner will be ready? Any mother of a young child or baby know that when a person is whining or fussy that generally means they are hungry and feeding them will immediately stop this bad behavior.

The better idea is to stop buying empty calorie food. Foods like soda, candy, and snacks taste great but are high in fat and light on the amount of food. Instead opt for foods that are not processed and do not come “pre-cut” like heads of lettuce, bags of whole apples instead of pre-sliced, stalks of celery instead of the already cut versions, etc. These ‘do-it-yourself’ foods save money.

I was doing some research last week on cutting utility bills and a lot of the information actually said turn off the lights when you leave a room. Is this really the “no brain-power necessary” kind of information that companies and financial gurus are putting out there? Are we in such dark financial times as to suggest we sit in the dark and read books by candle-light to save money?

How about ideas that are actually helpful like switching to compact florescent light bulbs and lamps. These bulbs use up to 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer, according to Home Energy Saver. Or you can use fans instead of lowering the thermostat to cool your home in the summer. Air that is constantly circulating and moving tends to feel cooler allowing you to keep the thermostat at a higher temperature. Or install a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats allow you to pre-set temperatures for your house at different times of the day. This way you can set a higher temperature during the day when no one is home, and a cooler setting at night while you’re sleeping. According to the Home Energy Saver site, Energy Star programmable thermostats can save as much as 20% to 30% on your heating or cooling costs by automatically adjusting.

April Fools is a day meant for light-hearted joking and practical jokes. Have fun tomorrow reading about Google’s astonishing new 3-D web browser or whatever crazy pranks you come across. Just remember though, if you hear that Whole Foods is searching for investors for their new line of organic air which is sure to beat out the bottled water phenomenon, just remember that if it seems too good to be true, it surely is.

Keeping Money In Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson


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