Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Add Cheapness

Adding lightness is not easy to do.  Neither is adding cheapness.

Colin Chapman, the designer for Lotus cars, said that the secret to making a fast car was to "add lightness".

This tongue-in-cheek comment resonates with Engineers, who realize that taking weight out of a car design is anything but easy.  Make a frame member thinner, and it is more likely to bend.  Punch holes in a suspension piece and it may crack from fatigue.

It turns out that reducing weight in a car is like reducing expenses in your budget - a little here, a little there, and pretty soon, you've added "lightness".

There is no 500 lb lead weight in the trunk to remove.   If there was, you'd do that.  And yet, many folks look to financial "gurus" for quick and easy answers to complex financial problems, when in fact these problems are hard to solve, require a lot of fortitude and work, and are an ongoing process.  Cars, like your budget, will gain weight over time, if you are not watching the bottom line.

We all want easy answers.  And when "Sooze" Orman started out, she gave a lot of harsh advice - spend less, save more, do without - that sort of thing.  It went over like a lead balloon.  But then, Buick approached her with a endorsement deal, and suddenly, driving a decade-old BMW made no sense, when you could lease a brand new Buick!  And today, she runs a show where the brain-dead call in and beg her, like she is Santa Claus, for permission to buy some other consumer piece of crap.  You're Approved!

Yea, it is easy to give advice like that - and easy to take it.  It is like saying lollipops are health food.  People want to hear that, and gee, they sure are tasty!  And hey, when your teeth fall out, the person handing out the lollipops is long gone - with all your lollipop money.

Adding cheapness means constantly monitoring your spending - just as dieting means constantly monitoring your eating.  And yea, we all don't do very well with either, in this country.

It means avoiding gift shops and stores, and to stop using "shopping" as a hobby.  It means instead of buying a $20 book at a bookstore, to check it out for free at the library.  It means instead of ordering three courses at a restaurant (and stuffing yourself like a pig) to split an entree and spend less than half as much.

It means slowing down and anticipating stops, rather than flooring your car to every stop sign and applying the brakes only when you enter the crosswalk.  Saves on gas and brakes.

And it means doing without lots of subscription services, like Cable TV, Onstar, XM radio, and the like - and watching those you do have, like a hawk. 

It is, in fact, hard as hell.