February 11, 2015
Budgeting with F. Scott Fitzgerald
by Kirsten Reach
Yesterday Scribner Magazine republished this gem of a budget from F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. First published in The Saturday Evening Post on April 5, 1924, and this week it joins a series to celebrate the 90th anniversary of The Great Gatsby.
The Fitzgeralds ran into the common problem of spending a bit more than they’d made. They calculated $55 a month on theater tickets, $70 on restaurant parties, and $70 on entertaining. Servants alone cost them $295 a month. They had to find a way to account for the $1,000 or so that seemed to be spent by “ghosts.”
Some budgeting tips from the finest:
- The amount you spend on the theater should be half your drug-store bill. (This enables the Fitzgeralds to see one play every five and a half months, or two and a half plays a year.)
- Cut down your allowance for newspapers and either buy a paper one Sunday each month, or consider subscribing to an almanac.
- Hire three-quarters of a servant. “We are on the lookout for a one-legged cook who can come six days a week,” Fitzgerald concludes.
- Go to the movies for a nickel.
- Get a shave for a dime.
- Write articles about your budget to bring in additional income.
- Blame any missing funds on robbers, ghosts, etc.
All the financial tips that run these days suggest you cut down $5 coffees. Who would have guessed we just needed to sell portraits of ourselves, cut down on the theater tickets, and subscribe to an almanac? Somebody call Suze Orman.
Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.