Mar 132013

The El Dorado Problem is that pitiful state of affairs reached when a truly superior rum appears on the shelf, demurely winking at you to buy it….and you don’t have the cash because it’s just outside (or way outside) your price range. It comes from yours truly, who realized he had such a problem when attempting to buy the El Dorado 25 year old a few years ago.

Many of us netizens and lurkers in the rumiverse are at that stage where young families are the phase of life – children still in the single digits, a wife whose ring still has some sparkle and shine, and who might even still love you a little (instead of treating you with the sort of  gentle condescension reserved for congenital defectives).  First houses or starter homes (or rentals).  Pennies are watched, and we are slowly climbing over the bodies of our contemporaries in the quest to attain that dubious distinction of clerkdom —  the corner cubicle.

It is generally at this time in our lives that we cast around for time-wasters and hobbies to take our minds off the daily drag: for me, the club is something like that.  Some guys I know are into photography; others moonlight in bands; one friend has a thing for hats (I think he wants to be the Imelda Marcos of headwear, but with less expense and taste), another is into mountaineering, whisky and a book club. And some older folks have grandkids, a country home to maintain and a position in society to uphold in keeping with their dignified geriatricity. Ka-ching.

The thing is, this rum hobby of ours, or the side interests, involves – especially at the inception – a fair amount of expenditure. A good camera body or a guitar is probably close to a thousand bucks or more. Having seen friends’ whisky cabinets, I estimate many have got maybe two or three grand in there.  I myself have occasionally been overtaken by bouts of insanity and blown a few hundred on some choice (and not so choice) rums that caught my eye.

Our spouses mostly consider us as half-tamed hobos who, by dint of firm discipline, a smack or two and occasional love, can be tamed and house-broken from the vagabondage of our bachelor years (fifteen years with my significant other has not cured her of this delusion, which I am at pains to foster).  And nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the beady-eyed, cold glare with which they double check everything we buy. And given how carefully they monitor our expenditure, it’s a real chore to pass off our toys not  as wannabes or spur of the moment expenses we can casually shrug off, but as necessities.

However, my experience and anecdotal evidence suggests a few avenues we can explore to pretend we are doing mankind a service by buying the things we do. And this is the core of my essay that suggests how we poor slobs could possible address the El Dorado Problem

1. First and foremost, we can have a separate bank account.  This is frowned upon in more polite circles (my geriatric sire is aghast that my wife and I have our own accounts), but I find it invaluable. Stops long-nosed wives from checking up in things.  If you have internet banking with online statements, you can actually have an entirely private transaction record.  Spouses being who they are, they will inevitably be curious, but so long as you don’t have to borrow from her (definitely a no-no), all will be fine

2. If discovered, say the purchased object was on sale.  And not just any sale, but a sale to end all sales.  Make gargantuan (and hopefully unverifiable) claims like “the rum was 50% off, how could I resist, a deal like that will never come up again!”

3. Hint at gift-giving time that you would like a new velvet smoking jacket (or whatever).  And be creative about this – don’t limit yourself to standard birthdays and Christmas, but father’s day, valentine’s day, anniversary time, Halloween (“I need the thousand-buck rum to lend gravitas to our picture of Junior at Halloween, hon,” you can just hear someone saying plaintively) and whatever else you can think of.

4. Just shrug and refuse to answer niggling questions on why you  had to buy that $500 one-of-a-kind rum (or gold-plated classic Canon F1 film camera you know you’ll never use, but you had to have it because that thing went to space, man), but if you don’t want your bed to turn as cold as my new freezer, I’d recommend against this practice, which is usually only good for new arrivals whose wives haven’t cottoned on to local divorce laws yet.

5. Hide receipts, hide the evidence, and trot your hideously overpriced rum out casually months later with an “Oh this old thing? Always had it, dear…since last December I think.” I actually did this with the English Harbour 25, once. Can’t be tried too often, however…wives get suspicious and no matter what you think, they aren’t stupid.

6. For the wussies out there, run home crying and throw yourself at her mercy and beg forgiveness, saying “I don’t know what made me do it, honey.” Promise never to do it again (until next time). Incompatible with point number 3 or 4 .

7. Give your purchase to her as a present – the trick here is to actually give her something she might want but which you want more. I have given my wife bottles of wine I particularly like (rum would be a dead giveaway and way too obvious), a GPS I get to use, a small digital camera I take along when I don’t feel like schlepping a massive pro model and lens around, and TVs I assured her we absolutely needed for our bedroom. (I like to think I’m fooling her, but truth is, I think she sees through me like I was Saran wrap). This point is a case in plausible deniability – “It was all for you, hon.” And you smile winningly.

8. Make her give it to you.  This takes some skill, to be honest, because it is not only a matter of hinting around the edges of “oh I could really use a new Velier rum”, but making her say “Oh, you know, I think you really need a new bottle,” as if it was entirely her idea.  For a real touch of subtlety – artistry, really – you can protest a little at the expense and modestly claim you don’t deserve it. (Well, strictly speaking you don’t, but you must take one for the team once in a while and sacrifice your finer feelings for the good of the wife’s happiness).  And to add a touch of extravagance, make sure all your relatives with money are in on this so they can all chip in for you and upgrade.

9. Keep her informed.  And I really mean that — tell her as far as possible in advance that if Bottle X of Brand Y ever comes on the market, it’s one of those seminal moments in your drinker’s life, and you have to have it.  Not only does this dovetail neatly with point 8, but when you do, at some stage, walk into your home cradling this beauty like your newborn child, she may shed a happy tear for you.

These are the best ones, but the ones below are also pretty decent, if pedestrian: I mean, if you actually have to work at getting money together, it sort of defeats the purpose of having it handed to you, right?  But in a pinch, these are tried and true, so I have to be fair and list them

— My favourite method is to siphon off a little cash now and then from leftovers. Since I pay all bills online, I can also set up a small savings account  without paperwork and transfer a fifty or so every two weeks or so into it. After a few months, I have enough to afford a new lens, a two hundred dollar rum, or any other kind of frippery.  “Frippery” is a rather elastic term and fluctuates in quality.  Currently, it stands for “Mercedes”. Note that since my bank does not pay me to advertise for them, I won’t tell you which one it is.

 Cut out the crap! It really is amazing how seemingly insignificant steps can net you bucks that turn big in a hurry. Don’t buy coffee at Starbucks but bring a Thermos with your own vintage, don’t buy lunch but make one at home. That can save you maybe ten to fifteen dollars a day. Twice a week, and conservatively, you could ring up over a hundred a month…that’s one of the hippie’s bottles right there. Turn off lights you don’t use, don’t leave the sprinkler running, sell stuff you don’t need or use (Kijiji is great for this), pay off all credit cards on time, don’t have large lines of credit balances….I estimate that on average, I make maybe $350 per quarter or more on insignificant steps which result in no negative cash flow, and then I just siphon it off.

If you can, bank your overtime instead of getting paid for it immediately. It’s a nice nest egg.

If you’re single, move back in with your parents.  I’m sure they’d be glad to have you.  Offer rent below that which you currently pay and throw in some chores for free.  The difference is free money. Not really recommended, but it does work.

Now keep one thing in mind: do not spend money you don’t have, no matter how good the deal or the steal.  If a cask strength top-of-the-line 25-year-old rum comes up for sale at a price not commonly seen, but you don’t have the money and you know your credit card can just barely be paid off with next week’s paycheque – resist! Don’t do it!  You survived for 30+ years without this ambrosia….I know you won’t believe me, but you will and can live without it on your shelf.  It’s the fish that got away.  On the other hand, if you are connected like a Boss, get samples and maintain relations with people, and maybe they’ll lay it away for you…good luck with that.

There’s very little I can’t get if I save enough, and if I can’t save or don’t have it on hand, then I won’t buy it – it really is that simple.  My wife thinks I’m an absolute ass with money (when I absently mumble “I bought what last week? For how much? Oh. Okay.” it drives her bugsh*t), but the truth is, I actually have a really good idea of how much I need from one month to the next, and more importantly, where it’s going.  I have zero compunction about spending a few hundred dollars on three bottles of rum (or even more on just one)…but only as long as the needs of my family are met and nothing else is competing for my attention.

Granted, I may not be buying really expensive rums just now…but that’s just because I’m in full saving mode at this point.  After all, I can always buy the low-class crap, and review it as part of my commitment to the Single Digit Rums.  But I’ll tell you this – the day you see me pulling up to a RumFest somewhere in my spanking-new mid-life-crisis on Potenza tyres, well me boyos, that’s the day you’ll know I’ve solved the El Dorado Problem.

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