In the weeks since I lost my job at Fashion Bug, I've been collecting unemployment. Now, just in case you're thinking that idle hands are the devil's playground, rest assured, Jeanketeers, that I've been looking for a job. Cross my heart! Besides, my joblessness has nothing to do with laziness. See, according to the paper, the county we live in has experienced a .42 percent increase in unemployment this year. That might not seem like a lot, but the population is pretty small, and there are no major industries in our area besides the Hormel plant, and I can't work there because I think they kill things.

Money-wise, hubby Rick and I have been getting by. My unemployment benefits aren't much less than what I earned at the Bug, and Rick got another 25-cents-an-hour raise at the tire center, so you won't be seeing our waterbed on the sidewalk outside 1567 Blossom Meadows Drive any time soon. And I've got my column. True, it doesn't pay anything, but it's a big morale-booster and creative outlet for me, as well as a source of comfort and reassurance for my readers.

Then there's my secret money. All summer long, I was able to squirrel a little bit away here and there without Rick's knowledge. Each time I cashed my benefits, I set aside at least $20, and I never spent my final Fashion Bug check, since it overlapped with my first unemployment check. All in all, I accumulated about $400 in my special hidey hole, and by summer's end, it was practically burning a hole in a certain cat-litter bag in the kitchen closet (a place Rick was guaranteed never to look!).

I guess I could've kept on saving, but where's the fun in that? After all, money isn't worth anything unless it's spent. I feel sorry for people who never enjoy their wealth. Sometimes, you hear these sad stories about some old person being found dead in their dingy apartment with thousands of dollars sealed in Mason jars. You wonder why they were so miserly when there's Social Security and Medicare and other things to ensure that no old person goes hungry or neglected.

Still, with me out of work, I didn't want to be too irresponsible with the money. I was definitely going to spend it, but instead of blowing it all splurging at the mall, I decided to buy something that would be a smart investment. The first investment I considered was Betty Boop stuff. You would not believe how many products are licensed under the character, and they're soooo unbelievably cute! There's bobble-head dolls and music boxes and snow globes and salt-and-pepper shakers and alarm clocks and coffee mugs and purses and shower curtains and sleep shirts—you name it, they make it! And all the stuff is remarkably affordable, so $400 could go a long way. I could sit on it for a couple years, then sell it on eBay for a big profit.

The chief drawback was that I didn't know anyone who owns or wants to collect Betty Boop merchandise. I suspect it was because the original cartoons are so weird. I was flipping channels one morning and came across an old Betty Boop cartoon on American Movie Classics. Betty didn't look anything like she does on the merchandise. She had the face of a dog and she had this dog boyfriend who was trying to have his way with her. Then a string of frankfurters came to life and danced around. It was all pretty out there and not one bit adorable.

Then I realized that, instead of just investing in merchandise, I should invest in the actual company that makes the stuff. Like Enesco, for instance: They make Precious Moments and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer figurines. If I invested in Enesco, I thought, maybe I'd get a say in the types of merchandise they produce. Enesco should do an entire line of characters from other Christmas specials. I think that's a really smart idea, since everybody loves those old shows, even Islamish people who can't celebrate Christmas.

I liked that idea, but then I came up with an even better one that would make even more money. The smart thing to do, I decided, would be to make a completely cold, cynical investment in something popular in which I myself had no interest. I'd make the most money that way, and then I could use the profits to buy things I really love!

Since men are the powerful, business-y people in our society, I figured the most profitable stuff to invest in would be stuff they like. I contemplated the things that hubby Rick likes and, naturally, my thoughts turned to pornography. So one afternoon, I visited some porn web sites to see if they had any investor-relations pages. It was all I could do to keep from holding my nose and gagging! Not only are these web sites absolutely disgusting, they're also totally unprofessional from a business standpoint!

Well, of course, as I'm fuming about all this, who should creep into our bedroom but none other than hubby Rick! I didn't expect him until dinnertime. He just about scared the bejabbers out of me as he sneaked up behind me and burst into this sudden, uproarious laughter. He asked me if I was going lesbo on him and, if I was, could he watch! (Leave it to hubby Rick to think of these things!) I quickly went offline and, in a huff, shoved him onto the waterbed, not even caring if it burst a leak. He had something smart to say about that, too: "Oooh, you're getting frisky! Maybe you should look at porn more often!"

I don't know why I bothered, but I tried to explain to Rick that I was only looking at the sites to see if they had any company information, because I was looking to invest in something popular and profitable.

"Looking to invest?" Rick asked. "With what money?"

Oops. Talk about putting your foot in it!

"You've been hiding money again, haven't you?" he said. When I nodded, he went into this long rant about how any extra money we had on hand should go toward settling our credit-card debt, and how he was sick of getting his Visa declined at stores and being turned down for loans, and how, at this rate, we'd be moving into our first house at age 99. He whined about how his pickup truck's trannie was fouled up, saying he was foregoing getting it replaced just so we could eat and pay rent and meet the payments that we and the collection agency had agreed to.

It was pretty embarrassing, reaching deep into that litter bag to retrieve the envelope full of cash, but what irked me the most was Rick's big speech about wanting to save for a house. The only house he's ever showed any interest in moving into is the Playboy Mansion, and I notice that our tight budget hasn't prevented him from nightly visits to Tacky's Tavern!

Besides, doesn't he-man Rick know it's the woman's job to henpeck the husband about money? Talk about role-reversal! You'd think I was the irresponsible Fred Flintstone to Rick's pragmatic Wilma! While Rick was terrified of a little debt, I was trying to have vision about our financial future. If everyone was like Rick, there'd be no Wall Street. We'd still be trading beads and getting drunk on ye olde ale! Sheesh!

I tell you, kiddies, if it weren't for the invisible guardian angel on my shoulder that constantly whispers, "Keep smiling!" into my ear, I think I'd crack up. After all, believing in angels is chicken soup for the soul, and goodness knows I need all the chicken soup I can get!