Champagne Tastes

When I was growing up, my Dad used to complain about one of his cousins, invariably after those big family get-togethers. “She’s got champagne taste on a beer budget.”

He said it like it was the worst thing in the world. What he meant was she had a taste for high-priced stuff while having a blue-collar income. Or rather, her husband had a blue-collar income. Women didn’t work much in those days. (That gives you an idea about the generation I grew up in.)

As I’ve grown, I don’t see anything wrong with liking champagne, even if you’re on a blue-collar budget. You just can’t drink very much of it.

Personally, I think we should all have champagne tastes. While I certainly can’t afford a Ferrari, I love looking at them and I enjoy the hell out of listening to that fabulous engine howling its sweet song at high speed. That doesn’t cost me a thing.

I took my youngest son to an Indy Car race this spring, actually the Saturday practice. Only 8 at the time, he’s a car nut like me. I took his older brother at the same age, who’s not a car nut, and he loved it. My youngest and I spent the day listening to sports cars, Indy Lights cars, Indy cars, screaming their howling best to be the fastest. We loved it. I bought some food, a hat, two tickets. My son scored two t-shirts, I got another, I got pictures with him in the Indy 2-seat photo car, in a Mazda open-wheel car, playing a racing simulator, getting autographs from all the drivers. Cost? Less than $100. My son turned to me in the late afternoon and said, “This is the best day of my life.”

Makes a father’s heart go thumpa-thump.

Champagne taste? You betcha.

I drive a BMW. It’s not new, but it looks like it. It’s older than my youngest son. It’s got a stick shift. It’s a nice car. I bought it for a whole lot less than you’re probably guessing. That looks like champagne taste on a beer budget to me.

I live in a nice house. It’s not worth much after the recession, but I sure do like living there. It’s got a fieldstone fireplace in the living room that rises all the way up to the cathedral ceiling. The master bedroom has a master bathroom with a tub and a shower. I never use the tub, but I sure do like that shower.

I’ve outgrown the suits I used to wear before casual dress was de rigueur. But I have one really nice suit and a great sport coat that looks as good as the expensive price.

I think we should live life with passion. No, I’m not talking about love or sexual desire, but the first definition of passion that appears in the dictionary: “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling.” Gusto, bravado, passion, call it what you will, I think we should live life with great feeling, great commitment, great participation.

Not just sitting on the couch watching football and guzzling beer, but out there doing stuff and enjoying the hell out of it. Do things you love doing. Spend time with people you enjoy being with. If you enjoy sitting on the couch watching football and drinking beer, then drink great beer. And get a nice big-screen, on a close-out sale of course or from Craig’s List that looks like new but for half the price. I bought mine as a return. Big discount. It’s ridiculously large but the kids and I enjoy the hell out of movie night drinking Orange Crush or root beer.

If it’s going to the beach with the kids, make it special. Bring an umbrella, bring some Gatorade, stop for ice cream on the way back. Enjoy the hell out of it.

Buy your wife flowers for no good reason. She might think you’ve done something wrong the first few times, but then she’ll come to appreciate the little extra. If you’re a woman, get your husband chocolate chip cookies that are just for him. Or his favorite ice cream. Give him a back rub when he least expects it. A touch of champagne in everyday living.

Whatever you do, do it with champagne taste, do it with passion. It’s those little extra details that make life special.

If you’ve only got a beer budget, don’t do it as often. You don’t blow your entire wad on some frivolous item or activity, you plan for it. And get really good at finding great deals!

To those with champagne tastes on a beer budget, I salute you! Reach for the stars! Live life with passion! Make enjoying life on a small budget an art form!

It’ll be the best champagne you ever tasted. You deserve it.


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