Hey, Where’s that Fifty Bucks You Owe Me?

Posted on July 6, 2011


About once a month I set a date to go over my finances.  This usually involves analysis of four categories:

1. Bills to pay

2. Savings and investments

3. How the kids could make me money, possibly through street busking or pick-pocketry

4. How to trick or guilt people into giving me money

The kids are a wash in category 3 since my ten-year-old, Optimist Prime, is much too ethical to beg or steal and usually convinces me to give money to the people I was trying to hustle, and my seven-year-old, The Fonz, is mostly lacking in ethics, but terrible as a pick-pocket.  A good pick-pocket earns a clever nickname like “Fast Hands” or “Lightning Fingers”, but The Fonz’s shaky hands have only earned him the moniker “Spillsy McCereal” because he’s never managed to get more than 50% of his breakfast into his mouth–not the strongest bullet point for a pick-pocket’s resume.

Their failure has forced me to focus on tricking people into giving me money, a part-time job I take seriously because if I do it well I have high hopes it could become my full-time job.  I  would suggest concentrating on the following methods:

1. Where’s that fifty bucks you owe me?

At the end of every conversation, instead of saying good-bye, I’ve developed the habit of saying, “By the way, where’s that fifty bucks you owe me?”  Most of the time my friend or family member replies, “I don’t owe you any money,” but a small percentage, especially those who are getting older and embarrassed about a loss of memory, will assume they’ve forgotten and agree to pay whatever I want.

Don’t limit yourself to conversation, you can also end emails with:

Happy birthday, Mom!
Love Paul
P.S. Where’s that fifty bucks you owe me?

Warning: Make sure you don’t ask this question of people to whom you owe money.

2. Clear your throat and rub your fingers together every time you do someone a favor.

If I open a door for an old woman, after she thanks me I clear my throat, rub my fingers together, and put out my other hand.  The recipient of your favor will feel awkward and hand over money just to get rid of you.  You probably won’t get more than some loose change or a dollar or a half-eaten sandwich, but if you do this ten times a day it starts to add up to a few dollars and maybe two halves of a sandwich.

I use this money-maker when I bring a neighbor her mail after I’ve finished reading it or when I bring my wife flowers or when I return something I’ve borrowed.  Trust me, it adds up.

3. Searching under couch cushions for loose change.

Look for these under very big couches.

This may not seem lucrative enough to be worth your time, but I’m guessing this is because you’re only thinking of your own couch.  Have you considered searching the one-hundred couches at IKEA?  And what about visiting all your friends once a month and searching under their cushions?

When I sit down at Todd’s house and he asks me if he can get me a drink, I always request a drink he’s unlikely to have like a Diet Kiwi Strawberry Shasta Cherry Twist.  When he says he doesn’t have it, probably because it doesn’t exist, I act really disappointed and remind him how I helped him get fired from his last three jobs, enabling him to pursue his dream of not working, and when he goes out to get the Shasta, this gives me plenty of time to search the cushions for change, also for the occasional Pop-Tart.  (Todd eats really unhealthily since his wife left him and he lost all those jobs.)

If you do plan to limit yourself to change from your own couch, be strategic in increasing your take by placing blocks under its front legs, ensuring guests always sit at an inverted angle thereby allowing more change to slip from their pockets.

ADDENDUM: To be completely honest, I’ve been closing with “Hey, where’s that fifty bucks you owe me?” for a decade and no one has paid me a cent, so I’m open to any more lucrative suggestions you may have in the comments below.

Posted in: Advice