Rigolette’s Budget (en)

“Oh! Look at that pretty clock and those two lovely vases! I already had three francs and ten sous saved up in my money-box to buy ones like that! In five or six years I would’ve been able to have them.”

“Savings, my neighbor! And you earn…?”

“At least thirty sous a day, sometimes forty; but I never count on more than thirty, it’s more prudent, and I plan my spending on that,” said Rigolette, as importantly as if she had been talking about the financial equilibrium of a formidable budget.

“But how can you live on thirty sous a day?”

“The list isn’t long… do you want me to add it up for you, my neighbor? You look like a spender to me, and it could serve as an example to you.”

“Let me see, my neighbor.”

“My thirty sous a day make forty-five francs a month, right?”


“Out of that, I need twelve francs for rent and twenty-three francs for food.”

“Twenty-three francs for food…!”

“My God, yes, that much! I confess that for a little thing like me…. that’s enormous… I refuse myself nothing.”

“Look at you, little gourmand…”

“Ah! But in that I also count the food for my birds…”

“It’s certain that if the three of you live on that, it’s less exorbitant. But give me the detail day-by-day… for my instruction, of course.”

“Listen closely: a pound of bread is four sous; two sous’ worth of milk, that makes six; four sous for winter vegetables, or fruits and salad in summer; I love salad, because just like vegetables it’s clean to prepare, it doesn’t dirty your hands; there’s ten sous already; three sous for butter or oil and vinegar for seasoning, thirteen! A voie [two buckets] of nice clean water, oh! that’s my luxury, that makes fifteen sous, if you please… Add to that, every week, two or three sous of hemp seeds and chickweed as a treat for my birds, who ordinarily eat a bit of bread and milk, and that’s twenty-two to twenty-three francs a month, no more and no less.”

“And you never eat meat?”

“Ah! Meat…! It costs ten or twelve sous a pound; can I even think of that? Not to mention it makes the whole place smell like kitchens and cook-pots; but milk, vegetbales, fruit, that’s ready right away. Listen, a dish I love, which isn’t burdensome at all, and which I make perfectly…”

“Let’s hear about this dish.”

“I put some nice yellow potatoes in the oven of my stove; when they’re cooked, I crush them with a bit of butter and milk… a pinch of salt… it’s a meal for the gods… if you’re good, I’ll let you try some.”

“Arranged with your pretty hands, that must be excellent. But let’s count it up, my neighbor… we already have twenty-three francs for food, twelve francs of rent, that’s thirty-five francs a month…”

“To get from there to the forty-five or fifty francs I earn, I have ten or fifteen francs left for my wood or my oil in the winter, for my wardrobe and laundry… in other words, for my soap; because, except for my sheets, I do my laundry myself… that’s another luxury… a laundress would cost me an arm and a leg… but I iron very well, so I get along… In the five months of winter, I burn one and a half voies [3.75 cubic meters] of wood… and I spend four or five sous’ worth of oil a day for my lamp… that makes about eighty francs a year for heating and lighting.”

“So you have a hundred francs left for your wardrobe at the very most.”

“Yes, and there’s where I saved my three francs and ten sous.”

“But your dresses, your shoes, this pretty bonnet?”

“I only put my bonnets on when I go out, and that doesn’t ruin me, because I trim them myself; at home I’m happy with just my hair… as for my dresses, my boots… isn’t the Temple right there?” [The Temple was an enormous secondhand clothing bazaar.]

“Ah yes! This blessed Temple… and so! There, you find…”

“Excellent dresses, and very pretty too. Just think, great ladies have the habit of giving their old dresses to their chambermaids. When I say old… that means they wore them for one or two months in a carriage… and the chambermaids go to sell them at the Temple… for nearly nothing… So, listen, right now I’m wearing a lovely merino dress in Corinth-grape purple that I got for fifteen francs; it cost maybe sixty brand new, and was barely worn, and I tailored it to my size… I hope it does me justice.”

“You’re the one who does it justice, my neighbor… but, with the resource of the Temple, I’m starting to understand how you can maintain your wardrobe on a hundred francs a year.”

“Isn’t that right? There you can find charming summer dresses for five or six francs, boots like the ones I’m wearing, almost new, for two or three francs. Look, wouldn’t you say they were made for me?” said Rigolette, who stopped and showed him the tip of her pretty foot, very well shod indeed.

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