Monday, January 3, 2022

Avocado Toast - Making Meals at Home

Avocado Toast is yummy, but high in calories. It won't bankrupt you, unless you are dumb enough to buy it at a restaurant.  It takes two minutes to make!

One of the "memes" that Leftists like to toss around is that "Boomers" (boo! hiss!) are denigrating the Millennials for eating Avocado Toast.  If only they would put that $7.50 toward their student loans, they would have them paid off!  OK, Boomer! - that's the Leftist version of "Let's Go Brandon!" and sure to divide the electorate and lose elections in 2022 and 2024.

But of course, we all know that $7.50 isn't going to pay off your student loans.  Or is it?  Because if you spend that much money on lunch (which isn't hard to do, even at a fast-food place, these days) it comes to nearly $3000 a year.  And that's just for lunch.  Sadly, I see online, lots of people posting things about "Door Dash" and other delivery services, such as Uber Eats.  Not only are a lot of people using restaurants as kitchens, they are having food delivered as well - and there is an additional charge for that, too.

What's more, they are paying to have the worst sort of food delivered.  Yes, McDonald's french fries can be good, if they are hot and crispy, which they aren't half the time.  They are never good when soggy and served cold, after sitting in the front seat of someone's car for a half-hour.  That's just gross, and for the life of me, I don't understand people paying so much money to have fast-food delivered.

Not that driving out to get it is any better.  I noted before about neighbors who drove over 20 miles, round-trip, to get breakfast at iHop, only to find it was closed.  To me, this is the height of idiocy.  You can go to the grocery store once a week or even less frequently, and buy weeks' worth of food.  When your transportation costs outweigh meals costs, something isn't right.

But then again, the people relying on Door Dash or Uber Eats are probably middle-class folks wondering why their credit card never seems to get paid off or why they are living "paycheck to paycheck" on $100,000 a year.  The younger folks, working shitty "entry-level" jobs and saddled with student loan debt might be a different story.

A different story but the same old story.  During the pandemic, our personal response to CoVid wasn't to have our meals delivered but to make even more of them ourselves.  We don't normally go to restaurants very often - maybe once a week as a special "treat" with friends.  But since CoVid, that has declined to once a month, if that.  And the savings are pretty spectacular, particularly since most restaurants have used "supply chain" and "inflation" and "labor shortage" as excuses to jack up prices. Like I said, it used to be you could go out to lunch for $25-$35 or so, for two people.  Today, the bill tops $50 for some reason.  It just isn't a value proposition, particularly since you can make better food at home.

But to read some of these "memes" online, not only do they claim there are no real savings in preparing your own food, but to even raise the issue is obscene, as we have no right to question how people decide to spend their money if they are claiming to be destitute.  Financial literacy isn't a miracle solution to poverty, but it is how you can live a better life - at any income level - than before.  And yes, we have a right to criticize the poor life choices of people who come to us, hat in hand, asking for free money.  Your drug problem is not my problem.

Avocado toast is a case in point.  We have it often, but never at a restaurant. It is about as simple to make as its name.  Make toast.  Spread an avocado on it.  Done.  Oh, maybe you could get fancy with some cracked pepper or lemon juice, or use some of that fancy "Dave's Bread" (thin slice).  Still, it takes minutes to make and the cost is trivial.  A Hoss Avocado is like 62 cents at Walmart and that can be enough to serve two (even the smaller ones).  But assuming you splurge on the whole fruit (or is it a vegetable?) and use fancy "Dave's Killer Bread" (At over $5 a loaf!!!) that still come out to about $1.12 for the entire meal.  How the fuck does this cost $7.50 in a restaurant?

Well, they have to pay the help and the rent and utilities and insurance and... so on and so forth.  I harp on this a lot, but using restaurants as your kitchen is a one-way ticket to obesity and chronic credit card debt.  It is a monumentally stupid thing to do, and the less money one has to spend, the more stupid it is.  And no, there is nothing in the Constitution giving anyone an inalienable right to restaurant meals.  Just because "everyone else" is doing it, doesn't make one entitled to it.  Besides "what everyone else is doing" is often the dumbest thing in the world - and why most people struggle financially.

That $3000 a year goes a long way to paying off credit card debt - or student loan debt.  And the average student loan debt in America is about $30,000 - enough to buy a moderately optioned Camry.  Hardly the stuff of bankruptcy.  Like I said, I had about $38,000 in student loan debts in 1992, which today would be worth $75,000 or more.  I paid them off by doing without some things.  I also got into credit card debt, because I did stupid things like eating in restaurants too often and having food delivered (when I lived within walking distance of both a grocery store and a Chinese restaurant!).   I know of where I speak,because I did idiotic things as well.  I never blamed the government, my employer, or rich people for my own mistakes, though.  It took a long time to dig myself out of that hole (and the subsequent holes I willingly jumped into - Duh!).   The learning curve is steep.

A chorus of voices lead by Ms. AOC, is calling for rewarding stupidity by "cancelling all student loan debt" which they claim can be done by President Biden with the stroke of a pen.  Others are not so sure about the legality of this.  Of course, no one has said how this would work - everyone gets all debts cancelled?  What about kids going to college next year?  Screw them - Generation Z!  This is a Millennial thing!  What about the people who did without in order to make payments on their loans?  Screw them, Capitalist bastards!  What about the folks who already paid off their loans?  Fuck you, Boomer!

It is not a very well thought out idea and that indeed is the point.  They don't expect Biden to "write off" a trillion dollars in student loans and create a windfall for a small minority of people - the majority of which are paying on their loans and are quite comfortably middle-class.

I could get behind this idea if it was fleshed out more fully.  Why not "forgive" student loans based on income and expected income over time?  How about offering very low interest or interest-free payback terms, paying directly to the Treasury department instead of some private student loan administer?  How about interest forgiveness instead - or at least interest reduction.  The big problem for many borrowers is that they refinance their loans over 30 years, after they graduate.  I was offered that option, I politely refused it. Even back then, we knew it was a raw deal.  If there is to be "student loan forgiveness" it has to be better thought out than some blanket forgiveness with the stroke of a Presidential pen.  It has to be made fair for everyone, including future generations.

The problem, of course, isn't the loans themselves, but the skyrocketing cost of college.  No one bothers to ask why for two decades, the cost of college has exceeded and often doubled the rate of inflation.  Meanwhile, professors are paid nothing and not offered tenure anymore.  It is like property taxes in the Northeast - in the five figures, while the rest of the country pays a couple of grand.  Where is all the money going?  Is the Mafia now running our colleges and universities?

If we are to offer "free college" or "student loan forgiveness" (which are really the same thing) we have a right to know where our money is going.  Colleges and Universities can't just send the bill to Uncle Sugar who has to pay whatever they decide to charge - the costs will explode!

What is sad to me is that all this talk of "student loan forgiveness" creates an atmosphere that a bailout is inevitable.  Young people going to college today sign loan documents and figure, "Well, they have to bail us out, eventually!" - which was the same mantra I heard from home flippers in South Florida in 2007.  "The government will have to bail us out - they can't let the system collapse!"

And they did, too.  A select few lucky homeowners got bailed out, but the banks and investment firms got the bulk of government largess (act shocked).  And just as food stamps are a wage subsidy for Walmart, a student loan bailout would be a tuition subsidy for Overpriced University.

There are, of course, "forgiveness" programs in effect, although they are hard to qualify for (shouldn't they be?).  You need to make sure you didn't refinance the loans and filled out the correct forms and qualify - and make minimum payments.  Some folks argue you can "negotiate" the debt with private lenders, as they have nothing to gain if you default, and may accept a much smaller payoff if you can scrounge up the cash somehow.  Most people of course, cannot scrounge up that kind of cash.  But it illustrates that cram-downs can work, even with student loans (allegedly).

But I digress.

I guess there is a point to this rant.  There are some people who did the smart thing and went to a reasonably-priced school, majored in something of use (rather that something that sounded like "fun") and took out as little as possible in terms of student loan debts.   There are others, however, who intentionally took the worst possible route - the most expensive school, the most amount of loans.  I know personally, people who turned away a full scholarship at a decent school to go to a "name" school and pay full price.  They are now paying, literally, for that poor choice.

That is the other mantra we hear from these losers.  "They told me to go to college!  And now I owe all this money and can't pay it back!  It's unfair!"

Oh, really?  Who is this "They" you refer to?  Your brain-dead guidance counselor at school?  Your union teachers?  Your boomer parents who are using their experience from decades ago to counsel you?  Or was it the media who has been reporting on the "student loan crises" for the last 20 years - since you were born?  How can anyone today claim ignorance of the danger of student loans?

Oh, right, we aren't allowed to question that, either.

Yes, the student loan system needs to be reformed.  Blanket loan forgiveness isn't likely to happen for the simple reason that the Democrats would lose even more seats in 2022 if they did - and the White House in 2024.  Not only that, it is the worst and most unfair way to go about student loan reform.  Easy answers are often the wrong answers.

So what's the answer?  Congress ain't gonna do shit, either - it is about as popular as tax increases or addressing abortion.  I would be surprised if the system gets reformed - at all.   But who knows?  Maybe I'm wrong about that - I am wrong about so much else.

But one thing I know is right - student loan reform or not, anyone - everyone - is better off personally if they make better financial choices.  And as someone who has to prepare their meals at home and can't afford today's crazy restaurant prices, I don't have much sympathy for someone who claims to be struggling financially but is living a better lifestyle than I am.   And that right there is what sticks in the craw of many Americans, particularly those who never went to college - and those who did, but paid back their loans and/or made better life choices.

It seems we want to normalize poor life choices these days.  And poor life choices abound, too.  They do make a difference in your daily living - and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.  You can save thousands of dollars a year making meals at home - this is not even up for discussion!

Yes, avocado toast makes a difference - if you order it out, versus making it yourself.  Squandering money by using restaurants as a kitchen is not a "lifestyle choice" - but even if it was, why should the rest of us subsidize it?

UPDATE: The good news is - for those who aren't on variable-interest rate loans (refinanced over 30 years) is that inflation will make those student loan balances seem trivial over time.  On the other hand, if you are on a variable-rate (private) loan, the jacking of rates could be a deathknell.

I suspect with inflation, eating out less and eating in more will become even more important.