"Mom, Can I Have a Purchase Requisition?"

If your house was a school district and it wanted to save money, here’s how you could do it. First of all, be sure you don’t tell any of your family members how much money they can spend or on what. Make them come and ask your permission before getting too attached to that shower nozzle they wanted or that machine that sucks air out of bags so they don’t have to get rid of old sweaters so often. No matter what the request, tell them they will have to put it in writing, attach an item number, quantity, fax number, phone number, total, and punctuate it with tax and shipping.

Let’s say you’re a kid and you want some new toothpaste because the family toothpaste makes you barf. Okay, fair enough. You’re off to order your toothpaste and you hand in your form. Two days later it is handed back to you with a mad person note on it about not having a budget code on it. Hey, you’re a kid. You don’t know what a budget code is so you go to the one you think will know. Your mom says, “You‘ll have to get the code from your father.” So you wait.

When he comes home he says in reply to your inquiry, “Give the form back to your mother and she will get you the toothpaste.” So you do. Two days later your mom gives it back to you and she tells you you can’t order the toothpaste without the number. “It says it right on the bottom of the sheet! “ So you ask what the budget code is for toothpaste and your mom says she doesn’t really know. You tell your mom you really want the toothpaste and will search for the number yourself if she can tell you where to find it. You are told that only your dad has the code and he only gives it out on Tuesdays. Shoot. It’s Wednesday and he’ll be out of town on a business trip next Tuesday. You’ll have to wait a couple weeks for that code, for that form, for that stinkin’ tube of toothpaste.

You’re getting perturbed about now so you go to your bank and shake out enough money to go buy your own toothpaste. You can’t stand the taste of that baking soda stuff one more night. You remember to take the receipt back home and give it to your mom thinking she can just pay you back for the toothpaste. “Sorry,” she says, “You can only turn in credit card receipts.”

“Dude, I’m only 9 years old. I don’t have a credit card!” Your mother goes into some long explanation of how the bank demands things be done a certain way in a certain order with a certain number on a certain kind of paper and a certain kind of receipt. And it’s not for cash.

You turn around and walk away because the things you want to say, nobody’s mother would want to hear much less yours. You go to your room after a nice hearty door slam and scream into the pillow. After a few cathartic minutes of that, you decide to give up and go to bed. You head for the bathroom to brush your teeth. You grab the toothpaste you paid for all by yourself and decide that from now on you’ll buy everything out of your own money because it’s just easier. It’s quick, efficient, doesn’t involve combat, and you actually end up with something in your hands at the end of the day.

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