Updated on 08.26.09

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Mad Men Edition

Trent Hamm

Recently, I dug out a copy of Mad Men: Season 1 on DVD that I’d received for a gift a long time ago and never watched. And now I’m thoroughly hooked.

For once, the hype was right on. The only problem now is that season 3 is airing on television and I’ve yet to see season 2. I’ve watched a couple season 3 episodes, but there are clearly some pieces of the puzzle missing.

Guess I know what I’ll be spending my “mad money” on next month!

Work to Live or Live to Work? What are you working so hard to achieve? Are you sure you don’t already have it? For me, I worked very hard to build a great career so that my children could be secure, but I found that my children were actually LESS secure because of all the time I was investing in that career. So I walked away. (@ bargaineering)

Get Less Done: Stop Being Productive and Enjoy Yourself This article points to the same place that many such articles on doing less point: IGNORE the urgent but not important tasks in your life. I’ve been doing this by strongly applying email filters so that I don’t have to even look at a lot of emails. Doing this means you have time for the “important but not urgent” things in your life, like true leisure. (@ zen habits)

A Cheapskate’s Guide to Eating Out There are several good tips here for reducing the cost of a meal out, but a few of them wind up in something of an ethical gray area. I agreed highly with seven of them, but felt the other three ideas really merited some further thought and discussion (but that’s what comments are for, right?). (@ wisebread)

Rethinking the ideology of carrots and sticks Rarely do traditional motivators work over the long run. Instead, the best motivator is freedom. If you want someone to excel, give them the freedom to do so. I think this works for a lot of people, but some people simply function better in an organized hierarchy with clearly defined tasks. (@ presentation zen)

Cooking from Scratch: Where’s the Work? The “work” for me cooking at home is the chopping. I’m just not very good at it and as a result I usually dread recipes like ratatouille, where there’s a lot of chopping (even though I love the finished dish). My solution is usually to look for “cheats” for chopping (like overusing the food processor) or to try to offload it to someone else, like my wife who’s better at it and doesn’t mind it as much. (@ wisebread)

You have an income crisis, not a spending problem Some people truly have cut all they can, but they’re in a living situation where their baseline cost of living approaches their income. That’s an income crisis, not a spending problem. In that case, you need to focus on earning more – get a second job, try to jump-start a side business, or even do odd jobs. (@ gather little by little)

When You Try To Be Frugal And Hit The Wall If you “hit the wall,” you might not be doing frugality correctly. Similarly, if you “hit the wall” with a diet, you’re probably not dieting right. Frugality shouldn’t be like a crash diet, but should be a steady process of maximizing the value in your life. (@ queercents)

The Seven Enemies of Financial Success Lack of discipline, materialism, debt, taxes, inflation, investment mistakes, and emergencies are the seven enemies. I think some are much bigger than others – lack of discipline and materialism top the charts, in my opinion. (@ get rich slowly)

How to Respond to Criticism – Learning from Dr. King This is a great essay on how to deal with criticism, inspired by Martin Luther King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.” One passage still gives me chills: “when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people.” (@ four hour work week)

Why you should outsource your chores I think, in some cases, it does make sense to outsource your chores. The real key to all of this is to get a firm grip on what your time is worth in AFTER TAX money and also how valuable you believe time spent doing things like Twitter etc. to build your business really is. (@ msn moneycentral)

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  1. Catherine says:

    Depending on the prices you can find on the Mad Men DVDs, the number of times you think you’ll watch them, and the number of other TV shows you want to watch on DVD, you might find a Netflix subscription to be a good option.

    We’ve been getting Mad Men from Netflix, and we love it, too. But we don’t have cable, so no danger for us that we’ll see season 3 before we finish the others. Netflix is how we watch almost all TV shows–for us, it’s really convenient.

  2. DivaJean says:

    This season’s Mad Men is set for a slow build. I prefer it that way- the pacing is unlike any other show.

    I am especially liking the contrast between Jane and Joan this season- how one gal is not fitting in with society (Jane) and the other is clearly married beneath herself (Joan).

    The battle royale for head of accounts is not yet underway, but we can see glints of where this will be going.

    Love Mad Men!

  3. lurker carl says:

    I was recording Mad Men on Tivo until AMC began deleting episodes stored on the DVR for 7 days. So I only caught part of the first season and nothing for season two. AMC stopped that foolishness just in time for the third season, I guess AMC and Tivo had angry viewers to contend with.

  4. MegB says:


    Was that dinner party scene with Joan not painful to watch? Her husband is such a dud, and everyone was just tip-toeing around it.

    I, too, love the slow build. One of our local TV critics calls it a “slow simmer.” So true!

  5. Johanna says:

    Which three of the restaurant tips do you think are unethical? The only one I see that possibly could be is sharing a drink and getting free refills. As some of the commenters over there have noted, that’s like sharing a portion at an all-you-can-eat buffet. And as other commenters have noted, if you don’t want to pay for a drink, you can order water.

    I’m guessing that splitting a main dish might be one of the others that you disapprove of (since the price of each main dish includes a “cover charge” of sorts, which is why a half portion costs more than half as much as a whole portion). But the way I see it, the impact on the restaurant (in terms of food cost, time, effort, and table space) of two people going in and ordering one main dish is about the same as the impact of one person going in, sitting at a table for two (since I’ve never, ever seen a table for one), and ordering one main dish. So if it’s unethical to share a main dish, is it also unethical to go out to eat by yourself? If it is, I must be a very bad person.

    Restaurateurs that really don’t want people to split meals have options available to them for discouraging that. They can have an explicit policy that each person must order at least one main dish. They can have a minimum order per person. Or they can serve portions that aren’t so ridiculously huge that they provide enough food for two meals.

  6. Melody says:

    For chopping try a chopwizard. Only about $20.00

  7. kristine says:

    Why? Request it form your library. Where I live in NY, the libraries will borrow from one another to fulfill your request, or even just buy it and e-mail you when it arrives! I LOVE our library. And Mad Men too. Great show.

  8. SwingCheese says:

    Haha, I, too HATE chopping veggies up (or meat, for that matter). I always try to get my husband to do it :)

  9. Berdette says:

    I am with Johanna–I HAVE to know which three tips “really merited some further thought and discussion”. The only ethical issue I saw was the drink sharing. The others seem like great ideas.

    Did you tease us on purpose????

  10. Steve says:

    From the comments, it seems the coupon one used to say something about saving on the tip. If Trent saw that version it would go on the “further thought and discussion” list.

    The only other marginal one is the “don’t ask your waiter for recommendations” suggestion. It’s a bit confrontational the way it’s worded. On the other hand it’s not bad advice – don’t automatically discard a recommendation, but do consider the source and any alterior motives they might have. But that’s good advice no matter where a recommendation is coming from. On the other hand 95% of the time, the waiter is simply going to give you an honest recommendation from their experience or whatnot. I have asked for advice at a steak house and they actually recommended the cheapest cut of steak.

  11. Amanda says:

    Mad Men season 1 is my favorite season so far. Season 2 was getting into that Frank Norris sensibility (depression/modern life). Season 3, eh… I’m not sure where it’s going. I agree that the Joan storyline is definitely getting interesting. I’m also liking where Peggy is going. Don Draper’s character is getting a bit ragged, but my husband finds him interesting regardless. I find his wife increasingly provocative in a ‘who is she really’ sort of way. I think the other commenter is right, season 3 is a super slow-build. It’s sort of killin’ me…I want that Season 1 feel! Perhaps it slowed down because they realize they have a hit on their hands & they’re probably going to be going at least another 3 seasons minimum? Very interesting story about the writing team for Mad Men. I think it was in the NY or LA Times.

    Oh, if your library doesn’t happen to have season 2, look into an intralibrary loan.

  12. DivaJean says:

    Amanda- I don’t think it “slowed down” to make the decade last- I think its more of character development at a slow rolling boil.

    And yeah, MegB- that dinner scene at Joan’s was a complete trainwreck. She thought she was in for the victorious pre- Chief Intern dinner— then finds out he’s failing in his surgical rotation. The wives clearly were hip to the jive and thankfully, they are protecting their own by letting her know what they know. But only Joan could make playing the accordion sexy and flirtatious- who knew?

  13. anne says:

    do any of you watch the commentaries on the dvds?

    i watched the 1st two seasons on dvd, and i’m so frustrated watching it on amc each sunday. i NEED to watch each episode again w/ the commentaries- i just can’t wait for the season 3 dvd to come out.

    one of my favorites was one w/ robert morse and the lady who plays joan. the two of them were adorable watching it together.

  14. Amanda says:

    DivaJean, I disagree, but I certainly see your point.
    I think it’s a possibility they’ve purposely slowed it down, but I don’t think it’s the only one. (As a fiction writer for many years, that’s what it says to me. However, I could certainly be wrong. You simply never know until they’re finished with the series.)
    It’s happened on several other high-drama shows. ‘Period piece’ shows often get into trouble when they don’t do this early on. “Rome” might be a good example of it.
    But, it could just be really slow. I have to say it is losing some people’s interest that used to be fans, but some will still like it slower pace or not.

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