October 26th, 2011
Sound Advice from Unlikely Sources: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”
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Halloween is upon us, and with it comes kids in mutilated bed sheets, Milk Duds getting traded for the vastly superior Junior Mints, and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” on TV.
Regardless of whether you think Peanuts is a meditation on innocence or childhood alopecia, the cartoon has a wealth of advice on personal finances and fiscal responsibility. Sound like a stretch? Read on:
Lesson #1: Caveat Emptor
Situation: Charlie Brown, dressed as a ghost with a dozen eye holes, goes trick-or-treating. Adults at every house punish his inaccurate costume with a rock instead of candy.
Solution: Had Charlie Brown checked to make sure he actually received candy while he was still at the house, he could have asked for something other than a rock.
Real Life Application: It’s up to you to make sure you get what you’re asking for. When you’ve made a purchase, make sure you’ve received the item you wanted for the price you expected to pay. For example, price scanners aren’t perfectly accurate, as a recent FTC study found. If you’re shortchanged, it’ll be much easier to deal with it before you’ve left the store.
The same goes for credit cards. Read the terms and agreements so you end up with the rewards card you wanted instead of the high-interest, high-fee card you didn’t.
Lesson #2: Waiting for the Godot Pumpkin
Situation: Linus squanders Halloween after Halloween waiting for the Great Pumpkin who never shows up… most likely because it doesn’t exist.
Solution: If Linus had reflected on past experiences, like the fact that the Great Pumpkin always leaves him waiting in a cold pumpkin patch and freezing to death, he might conclude that his time could be better spent doing different things.
Real Life Application: Everyone has a great pumpkin that he or she waits for. Maybe it’s the perfect airfare for a flight to Cancun or a bargain HDTV. If you search for 15 minutes a day for two months, you’ve racked up nearly two full work days. That Pumpkin isn’t worth waiting for.
Not only will you waste a ton of time while waiting, but you’ll miss out on some pretty good times while you’re at it.
Lesson #3: Only You Can Prevent Dishonest Liars
Situation: Lucy van Pelt, sadist extraordinaire, promises Charlie Brown that she won’t pull the football away before he kicks it. She even gives him a signed document that says as much. Of course she still pulls the football away, claiming the document was never notarized.
Solution: If Charlie Brown had investigated the matter further, he would’ve discovered that notarizing a signed promise was unnecessary he could still claim damages. Alternatively, if he had remembered that Lucy is pure evil and not to be trusted, that would have worked as well.
Real Life Application: People will get away with anything if you don’t hold them accountable. If a credit card has wronged you, call up customer service and negotiate. Write a letter to the company. Type up a bad review in Credit Karma’s credit card review section so people will be warned. File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Companies run by the Lucys of the world only get away with treachery if we let them.
The Moral is…
The lesson from Peanuts is to learn from your mistakes, something these characters are incapable of doing. Snoopy’s always going to get shot down by the Red Baron because he’s flying a wooden dog house, a structure not known for its maneuverability. Charlie Brown’s going to be betrayed by Lucy and gravity until the end of time, and Linus will freeze to death in a pumpkin patch before he stops waiting for his benevolent squash.
Luckily, you’re a person and not a cartoon from the ‘50s, thus you can learn from your errors. To celebrate your freedom this Halloween, take a moment to notice the tricks you play yourself and make an effort to change them. That treat is way better than a rock.
Ezra Fox, Credit Karma Contributor, Great Pumpkin Agnostic