Remember the Ant and the Grasshopper

A few years ago, I saw “The Grasshopper and the Ants” (Disney’s short film of 1934 based on Aesop’s fable, “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, available in various book, audio, and video formats) and I was reminded how well Aesop’s fable, even in Disney’s presentation, teaches a valuable lesson.


Aesop observed nature, which to him seemed to show that ants are industrious insects who work all summer and thus have plenty of food set aside for winter.  Grasshoppers, on the other hand, spend their summers frolicking and making music, and come winter are seen withered and dead.

When I first heard this fable as a child, I am sure I grasped the idea that we need to work during the summer so we have food in the winter.  My mother grew up on a farm and I visited her parents’ farm enough to get some idea of the cyclical seasons of farm life.

But when I saw Disney’s  “The Grasshopper and the Ants” recently, from a vantage point well past life’s mid-point, it suddenly seemed clear that the message, the real moral of the story, doesn’t pertain only to the seasons of a single year, but rather to the seasons of an entire life.  During the spring, summer, and fall of life, you work, gather, harvest, and save (you know, pay yourself first) … and during the winter of your life, what you have set aside provides security and enjoyment.  Or, be like the grasshopper: play, spend and set nothing aside when you should and suffer the consequences later.

One more thought: Some commentators say that the Disney version changes the meaning of Aesop’s original fable because instead of leaving the grasshopper to starve, the ants invite him in to share their food and hospitality.  I think this is partially moderated by two things.  One, sharing is part of the enjoyment that can be derived from having.  Two,  in return for his supper and a place by the fire, the grasshopper is obliged to make music for the ants, literally singing for his supper; this shows he might have finally learned the fable’s moral.

Here’s an English translation of Aesop’s original:



Questions for a Boy or Girl

strive_and_succeedAt one time or another most children will say, “I want to be rich” or something similar.  When you hear children say that, you can plant a small seed in their minds by asking them a couple questions.  Say something like:

I can tell if you will be rich or not by the way you answer a couple questions.  But remember, even if you give the wrong answer, you can always change your answer if you change your way of thinking.  Would you like to try to answer the first question?  Good.  Here it is:  What is the purpose of money?  What is money for?

The child will probably answer that money is to buy things.  You can then check to see if they mean things like toys, clothes, houses, vacations, etc.  If they say that’s what they mean, then you say, I’m sorry, you probably won’t be rich.

The child will then want to know the right answer.  With proper seriousness, you say:

If you want to be rich ,you need to remember: Money is not for buying things.  The purpose of having money is to make more money.  If you always remember that and act accordingly, then you will have plenty of money to buy things.  But always remember, money is for making more money.  That’s the kind of thinking that will make it possible for you to become rich.

You Have 24 Hours

ticket_counterI recently learned that the Department of Transportation has a “24-hour reservation requirement” rule for airlines that, “requires carriers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be canceled within 24 hours without penalty”.

More information:
Guidance on the 24-hour reservation requirement

I foolishly assumed that a teenager could find the best flight to get to a summer activity in another state and I allowed that teenager to make a reservation for connecting flights and and a long layover.  Then I found that Southwest had a less expensive direct flight.  But all was well.  I was able to cancel the more expensive flight, get a refund, and book the better alternative.

Thanks, Department of Transportation!

Which Movie to See?

On Father’s Day, I thought it would be the thing to do to eat hamburgers and see a movie with the kids and wife. There’s one place I like to go for burgers, so that was the easy choice to make. The movie, however, was another matter. So many choices. Which to see? It so happened that two movies that I was interested in seeing were in theaters that weekend. One was a new release, in theaters for only a short time. The other had been in theaters a couple months and had found its way to the second-run discount theaters (which used to be called “dollar theaters”).  Which to see?

I thought of “The Richest Man in Babylon“, in which wealthy Arkad speaks about the many things that we won’t be able to do:

“… consider them but a part of that great multitude of desires that must go unsatisfied and regret them not.”

Arkad is making the point that there are an infinite number of things we might like to do, but we will never have the time, the appetite, the stamina, and (not to mention) the money to do them all.  We need to make choices.  The smart thing to do is find things that are equally enjoyable.  Things that provide equal amounts of utility as economists say.  Then choose the one that’s least expensive — especially if it’s free.

jungle_bookIt’s fun to see the just-premiered movie. But when you think about it, a movie that’s been in theaters for a few months is just as new to you if you haven’t seen it yet.  I spend a lot of time watching movies that are new to me but were made before I was born.  That recent Father’s Day, it seemed that both movies were likely equally enjoyable.  Pay more than $10 per person to see a movie just because it’s new?  Not me.  Why not see the movie at the discount theater and save over $6 per ticket?  And that’s what we did.  (And we enjoyed “The Jungle Book” very much.  Maybe we’ll see “Finding Dori” when it’s at the second-run theater.)

Board Games

battleshipBoard games are a very low-cost form of entertainment.

Years ago, I got the classic “Battleship” game at the local Goodwill for $2.  My kids must have played it at least 100 times when they were young.  A penny per person for each time they played.  Compare that to the cost of going to the movies.

When my daughter went to college, she found some friends who liked to play board games.  She learned of a game called “Settlers of Catan”.  Because other people had purchased the other games that she’d played, she decided she would like to treat the group to the “Settlers of Catan” game. She asked if I’d get it for her for Christmas.  It cost about $40 (after a coupon discount).  Later I asked her about it and she told me her group had played it at least a few dozen times.  Even without buying from Goodwill, it was still a great value.  Assuming it takes 4 people a couple hours to play one game, that’s less than 20¢ for each person’s hour of play.  And that’s just while she was in college.  She still has the game, even after she’s graduated and started her first job in the big city.  The only thing that’s a better value than that is a walk in the park.