I was recently talking to a friend—a mother of four daughters ranging in age from 18 to 5—about her departure for London, which would take place the next day. Her oldest daughter is starting college in the fall so the family decided it would be a good time to take one last “family vacation” before life got more complicated and her oldest daughter either spent extra time at school or toiling away at a full-time job.

I asked her what time the car service was picking up the family. She seemed surprised that I asked. “We never take car service,” was her response. Her husband drives everyone to the terminal, drops them off, and then travels to some remote location on the border of Queens and Long Island and parks the car in long-term parking. That’s four children, one mom, six suitcases, and six carry-on bags. And because they’re going to London, six umbrellas. He returns to the terminal, hot and sweating and shaky from the excursion, hoping that he can reconnect with the family on the ticket line. “How do you usually get to the airport?” she asked.

“Car service,” I explained. There is no way in hell that I’m attempting to drive me, or god forbid, me and the family, to JFK. Driving to the airport in the New York metropolitan area is akin to being stabbed to death by ten thousand paper cuts. It’s long, it’s tortuous, and it never ends well. But for my friend, whose family could afford the luxury of car service, taking said service is a non-negotiable. It’s just not something that they do. They’ve always driven themselves to the airport and always put the car in long-term parking and that’s what they’ll continue to do.

My friend and I started talking about the non-negotiables in our lives and decided that we had a few in common one being the combined ATM/Visa card. I received one of these recently from our bank and promptly put it in a drawer. Why? 1) Because I didn’t order it from the bank and 2) because I only want an ATM card that dispenses money when I need it. I don’t need any more credit. I also don’t want to complicate things by not knowing if I’m debiting or charging or both. I want to use my debit card to take money from my account and my separate Visa card to charge things for which I don’t actually have the money for on that given day. My husband, Jim, asked me about the combo card the other day, having fielded a call from the bank. “Did you get your combined ATM/Visa card?” he asked, innocently enough. After the diatribe he received from me about how I didn’t ask for it and would never use it, his eyes went glassy and he said that I could talk to the bank the next time they called.

Another non-negotiable? Paying ATM fees. I will walk a thousand miles before I use an ATM from a bank that is not my own and that will charge anywhere from $2.50 to $8.00 to take my own money out of my own account. It’s not that I can’t afford the charge but it just bakes my scrod to give another bank money to use my money to pay for something.

One more non-negotiable: getting my hair dyed professionally. I am a $6 box of hair dye girl and by all accounts, do a pretty darn good job. I just will not pay $50 or more to sit in a chair and have someone else dye my hair when the $6 bottle does just as good a job as the $50 or more colorist. And if you need proof, ask the northern half of Evelyn David; she’s always complimenting my dye job and although she’s a good friend, I don’t think she’s lying. (Are you?)

However, I won’t drive even two miles from home to get cheaper gas. If I need gas, I pull into the nearest gas station and purchase it, regardless of cost. And since I live in an area that is notorious for higher-than-usual gas prices, chances are that I’ve spent in excess of five hundred dollars or more over the last twenty years purchasing expensive gas. But I just don’t care. It’s not worth it to me to make an extra trip or drive further than I need to. My mother is always asking me, “What do you pay for gas?” just so she can hear me say (I’m convinced), “I don’t know.”

I know that not paying an extra $2.50 to get money from a non-sanctioned ATM does not jibe with someone paying extra for gas, but as I said, this post is about non-negotiables which basically boils down to what we can and cannot stand for. I’d love to hear what your non-negotiables are. Do you abhor cheap wine? (I love it.) Or do you not buy generic or less-expensive brands of toiletries? (I buy a lot of Suave products but just so I can hear child #2 ask where the “SWAVE” body wash is.) Weigh in, dear readers.

Maggie Barbieri

5 replies
  1. Vicky Polito
    Vicky Polito says:

    Butter or nothing–margarine is gross poison.

    Beautiful, high-quality yarn, not cheap acrylic crap that was on sale—if I’m going to take my limited time and energy to actually knit something, the yarn is going to be lovely and enjoyable to use, look at, touch, wear, etc.

    Fresh flowers not fake. Even though I admit that the silks available now are so much more lovely than the scary-ugly plastics of my childhood, I only have a very few of those for décor and LOVE clipping flowers from the yard and grabbing a bouquet at Trader Joe’s on occasion. I work to make that bouquet last and snip and divide it, etc., but I get the real thing.

    My insanely expensive haircut—if you saw the way I look, you’d wonder why on earth I think I need to spend $75 with tip on this, but I am addicted to the skills of the guy who cuts it and even when I’m sporting the simple page boy/bob that I have now, I am petrified of letting the local clip joints do it. I don’t wear make-up, am really not too much of a clothes or shoe horse, etc., but I have GOT to have my “good” haircut because I am vain about that to the extreme. And, really, it’s nothing special–my hair is really pretty basic and ordinary. Gray doesn’t bug me much—I tried expensive salon dying once ($90 without tip for “virgin hair!!), and bottles from the store (which seemed to me to work just fine), but I just don’t like using the chemicals on my hair, milder though they’ve become over the years.

    The hardcover over the paperback. Books are not just important and enjoyable and a way to pass happy and profitable hours, they are BEAUTIFUL and I always try to buy the hardcover if I can. Now, some paperbacks (trade mostly) are nice, too, but if the hardcover is available, even via a reseller, it’s mine.

    The best care possible for our pets. Two of our cats died this past year (ages 9 and 20), and so we’re left with our 17-year-old and we always take him for whatever vet care he needs, buy the expensive food that he needs to help his slowly failing kidneys, etc. We feel that when you take on having a pet as part of your house and home, you are responsible to them to give them the best you can. We’ll cut back on other things if necessary, but we never hold back on taking care of Desi.

    Gee, I thought I had more non-negotiables? Maybe some more will come to me. Maybe I’m not as high-maintenance as I thought? No, that’s not it!

  2. Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith
    Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith says:

    This blog made me laugh.

    I don't even have an ATM card. If I need money I head to the bank even if it is 17 miles away. And I'll do other errands while I'm there. I won't go to town for only one thing. When I go to town I map out where I'll stop first and so on so I don't have to back track. Hubby just goes willy-nilly, drives me crazy.

    We have a gas station in our dinky town but it costs a fortune. Down the highway about 6 miles the Indians have a station called Eagle Feather and the gas is way cheaper. Everyone goes to that gas station. It's always crowded.

    I pay my daughter-in-law $10 to dye my hair and I buy dye from the drug store. The one time I had it done at the beauty shop, I hated how it came out.

    Can't think of any other absolutes.
    Mostly, I go with the flow.


  3. Dea, Kia, Jake
    Dea, Kia, Jake says:

    I knew this post would get you all started! I love hearing about the things that others just won't tolerate and then laugh when they look at me as if I'm crazy when they hear my non-negotiables. Vick, I'm with you on all of yours. Marilyn, I can't believe you have to drive 17 miles to the bank! (I can walk to mine. But I don't.) Ok, Susan…I'm waiting on you. I know you'll have some good stuff to share! Maggie

  4. Susan McBride
    Susan McBride says:

    Okay, share I will (since I'm nearly finished with my COUGAR copy-edit and can take a little break)!

    Marilyn, I don't have an ATM card either (or any kind of debit/check card)! I pay with cash or a paper check most of the time. If I have to use a credit card, I will but it's rare (like if I buy online). I'd rather just know something's paid for when I buy it.

    Maggie and Marilyn, I found the coolest new hair color that works in 10 minutes! And it doesn't reek to high heaven. So that's my new "must"–it's called Perfect 10 by Nice 'n' Easy, and it costs about $14. Love it!

    Another "must" for me: buying good food to eat, and, yes, I'm into organic if possible after my breast cancer. I don't want chemicals or additives (or hormones) in anything I eat or drink…or put on my body, except the 10 minute hair dye! Just makes me feel better, and it's worth it for the peace of mind.

    Vicky, I'm with you re. flowers. It's fresh or nothing around here.

    I'm sure there are more things, but that's all I can think of at the moment.


  5. Vicky Polito
    Vicky Polito says:

    I feel compelled to say something positive about the ATM Debit/Credit concept:

    I've got an ATM/Mastercard from my bank. It lets me use it just like cash or a check at most businesses and stores–the money put against it when I use it as debit comes right then out of checking. So, that's like doing the old cash or check routine, but faster for me (and the people waiting behind me).

    When I use it as a charge card, the same thing really happens: the amount comes right out of checking BUT the business has to pay that 2-3% of the total amount to Mastercard. So, I use that judiciously.

    It used to cost me a fee to use the card as a debit, but not these days. I can always check the activity on this card via my internet banking access. I have a line of credit on my account/card that covers me and assures I'll never "bounce" a charge. I can avoid taking a "loan" from that line by going on-line and transfering around funds to cover from other savings accounts, etc.

    I've noted lately that many businesses are trying to help themselves out in this poor economy by either asking if they can run the card as debit or making that the first default choice, etc., so they can avoid losing the 2-3% on the sale. I don't blame them and as long as I can, I'll go ahead and use my PIN to debit the charge. But, my suspicion is that banks who issue these cards will soon start charging the card-holder like they used to for using the debit feature, so we'll want to push the charge back over to the sellers side by using the card as credit constantly.

    Bottom line: for me, I do pay for everything right in the here and now and it all goes against my checking account, which is easily monitored at home, and I don't have to carry much cash or my checkbook around.

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