Burns man learns to budget finances

Staff writer

George Spohn of Burns didn’t bother looking at the price of his bottled water; he knew it could be too expensive. And then, he got to the cash register.

“Your total comes to $10.28,” the store worker said, looking at him expectantly.

His jaw dropped instantly, shocked that someone would pay that much for “a little bit of aqua.” Still, he was thirsty and needed a drink. So, he begrudgingly got out his wallet and found a $10 bill and some change. It was then that he realized something: he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

George and Amy Spohn visited their children Emily and Alexander the week before Easter in New York City, and spent some time by themselves, looking at various tourist attractions in the city. They were able to see sights — like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building — but they said they learned a more important lesson: to budget more money when they go on a trip.

“I never thought things would be so darn expensive,” he said. “It was highway robbery. If anyone tried to pull that kind of thing around here, they would be out of business in a heartbeat.”

George Spohn said the only way they could stay on budget was to eat at McDonalds and other fast food restaurants in the city. Once, he said, their children took them out to dinner. It was a lovely meal, but it cost almost $200.

“I only ordered spaghetti,” George Spohn exclaimed. “You can buy that here at the store for 99 cents. Mind you, it was good but it wasn’t that good.”

George Spohn said the trip opened his eyes to the importance of keeping a budget.

“I haven’t always kept track of my personal finances; I just bought what I needed, when I needed it,” he said. “But now, I am more careful. Just seeing all that frivolous spending made me nervous.”

Spohn said he remembers one time in particular during the trip when he saw a man in his 20s buy a small bag of peanuts for $5 at a corner convenience store — and then threw it away seconds later so that he could go into a department store without any food in his hands.

“There were benches right there,” he said. “He could have sat down, eaten his peanuts, and then gone into the store. I like shopping as much as the next person — but that is just ridiculous.”

Amy Spohn said her husband hasn’t taken much interest in the household’s finances and welcomes his newfound desire to make sure that they have enough money for what they need.

“He’s no longer spending money on his sweet tooth; he used to go out and buy gummy worms every day,” she said. “Now he sticks to what we have in the house. He’s wants to balance the checkbook. I don’t know how I feel about that, but at least he cares.”

The Spohns are currently trying to persuade their children to keep an expense record and to care about the money they spend.

“They’ll go out to dinner or the movies every night — just because they feel like it,” George Spohn said. “That’s just not a good enough reason. They’re going to have to learn that one day they’re going to have a family and children to support — and they’ll want to have a little nest egg. A little planning goes a long way.”

He said he is proud of Gov. Sam Brownback and President Barack Obama for passing proclamations, encouraging Americans to be smart about their finances.

“We used to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt,” he said. “Now (almost 20 years later) were doing pretty good, if I do say so myself. We’ve paid off our mortgage and we don’t have six credit cards.”

He admitted that was mostly due to the dedication his wife had to keeping their cost of living low, but said he is now on board.

“If we are able to save now, we’ll be able to have a decent retirement,” he said. “If not, we might end up in the gutter. It’s a motivation, that’s for sure.”

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