Here at LearnVest, we don’t shy away from asking all those awkward and fascinating money questions. How much did that cost you? Do you have a big investment account? What’s a secret splurge you haven’t told anyone else about?
In our series, 10 Things You Don’t Know About My Finances, we get interesting people to reveal their funny, head-scratching, and refreshing approaches to finance.
For this installment, we sat down with Al Roker, beloved weatherforecaster from NBC’s Today, CEO of his own production and multimedia company, and lifelong New Yorker.
Read on to find out Roker’s first biggest splurge, his hoarding habits and what gives him a “perverse thrill” … don’t worry, it’s nothing you won’t want to try yourself.
1. I have huge jars of quarters that I’ve been collecting for over ten years. I used to collect them for tolls, parking meters, the laundromat, subway. Now everything’s becoming automated, so I still have jars and Ziploc bags of quarters everywhere. I keep some in my car, some in my briefcase. I have quarters everywhere.
2. My first big splurge was in 1976. I’d just gotten the weekday weather job in Syracuse, New York, when I was a junior in college. I bought a 1976 pencil yellow VW rabbit. I bought a standard because it was cheaper even though I didn’t know how to drive a standard.
To me, having toilet paper is like having money in the bank.
3. I like to pay a little more for things that will last. Ten years ago I bought a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes. I still have them, because they refurbish them for free, and they’re the most comfortable shoes.
4. My Dad believed in paying with cash. For business expenses, you have to use a credit card, but I try to pay in cash whenever I can. I find it fascinating when people use their debit card for groceries.
5. I’m a big believer in hoarding staples. You should have at least two big things of toilet paper and paper towels. To me, having toilet paper is like having money in the bank … it doesn’t go bad, and you can always use it.
6. I splurge on food, on groceries. There’s that joke that Whole Foods is more like Whole Paycheck. But there’s a discernible difference. I would rather have a smaller amount of really good food than a lot of okay food. My favorite splurges are rack of lamb, Chilean sea bass and organic produce.
7. I like mass transit. I get a perverse thrill from taking the subway downtown for $2.50—and no one can bother me by calling my cell when I’m on the train. People come up and ask me, “Why are you taking the subway? Why don’t you take a cab?” I was taking the subway before some of them were even born!
8. You never know when your career is going into the toilet, so I’m always cognizant of how I was raised. I was a lower-middle class kid. My dad was a bus driver and worked his way up into management for the transit authority. I take a lot of pride in the fact that we drive a minivan, that we go to the early movie to get a better price.
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9. If I have a weakness, it’s that I’m an early adopter of technology. I had a Sony Mavica digital camera, a Casio boss, which was a precursor to a PDA, and an Apple Newton, which was the earliest version of the iPad. When the iPad2 came out, I ordered online right away—I don’t like standing in lines. Online means I don’t have to stand in line.
10. Even though New York is expensive, I don’t plan on moving away. I love Chicago, Seattle and Portland, but this is where I grew up; I like it here. You can eat really well, you can do a lot for cheap or free in New York. My favorite inexpensive things to do in the city are taking the Roosevelt Island tram, and taking the subway out to Coney Island, out to the aquarium. Or just walking through Central Park—there’s always something to see. The other day I saw a guy running and juggling. The depressing thing was that he was running far faster than me.