I am a financial genius. It's just that there's been a distinct lack of opportunity to prove my point.
It's like the old adage: ''All I ask is for a chance to prove money can't buy you happiness.''
Or, in my case, a chance to prove my cash flow acumen.
Not that I don't try. Like most hard-working middle class Americans, we live on a rather strict budget. But every once in a while, with me running the calculations, things just work out.
''Look, honey!'' I shout, waving the calculator. ''I paid all the bills and there's enough money left over for a night on the town. I'm a financial genius!''
Terry just glides past with a laundry basket, tossing a completely off-topic remark in her wake: ''What's in that unopened envelope from the power company?''
''What, you don't trust my head for figures? You don't think I haven't put together a solid plan? Do you think I'd actually forget to pay a bill?''
Terry rolls her eyes. ''I'll just go into the other room so you can open that envelope in private.''
Sometimes, my wife can be irritating. A minute or so later, I make another financial judgment: ''You know, because you showed so little faith in my budget management, I've decided we can just stay home.''
Terry smiles. ''Rule number one of higher finance - whenever there's money left over at the end of the month, look for the bill you forgot to pay.''
My wife fancies herself as a bit of a financial genius, too. I wouldn't trust her, though. She's always right, a trait I find rather irritating.
Fortunately, this is my column, not hers, so allow me to share my financial genius to get you through the Christmas shopping season.
* If you find an item that's advertised as two for $15, ask how much it is for one. If the clerk says $10, say, ''Then I'll take the other one.''
* Give the thoughtful gift - cash. It says, ''I thought about spending time looking for the perfect gift for you and decided against it. Get it yourself.''
* When your feet give out, you're done shopping. I mean, money. When your money runs out, stop.
Many people, who are not geniuses like me, mess up this rule. They spend one frenzied month just going nuts on bargains, charging up bundles of bucks that will take two to three years to pay off.
The problem with this kind of savings is that when the next year rolls around, you ring up another two or three years' worth of bills while you still have one or two from the previous year to pay off.
So here's my smartest - genius, even - financial planning for surviving the holiday shopping season with your wallet intact:
Step 1: Act like a real jerk the other 11 months of the year. (I can be very good at Step 1.)
Step 2: At Christmas shopping season, make a list of all my friends.
Step 3: Throw away blank piece of paper. (If it is not blank, you have not conducted Step 1 correctly.)
Step 4: Use the savings to buy a good book and a comfortable pillow.
Uh-oh. My wife just walked by again. This brings me to:
Step 5: Scratch Step 4. Pay the car insurance. (So that's why I had enough money left over for a good book and comfortable pillow.)
----- This column is not insured by the FDIC. Find Burt at the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.