Friday, November 4, 2022

5,000th Posting (More or Less)

Time flies when you are having fun.

I realized today, in horror, that I missed my 5,000th posting.  According to Google, this is posting 5012, although there have been a few I have reverted to "draft" status along the way.  So maybe this is posting number 5,050 or so.  Hard to be exact.

What have I learned in over a decade and 5,000 postings?  A lot, and not something I can put down in a paragraph or less.  I guess if I was to sum it up, the point would be that in a Capitalist society, money is your freedom and your life, whether you like it or not.  If you have money, you can do what you want - as the Billionaires of today are amply illustrating.

But even less than Billionaire status, having real wealth and not just the appearance of wealth leveraged by debt, means you are free to do things other people can't.  The "paycheck-to-paycheck" salary slave has to grin and bear it when his boss berates him, or asks him to dump toxic waste in a third world country.  The man who is debt-free and has accumulated wealth can say, "Fuck that, I'm outta here!"

Yes, if you are very poor, living "paycheck to paycheck" is likely inevitable - but even then.  But I didn't set out to cure poverty.  I set out to figure out how, while I was making well over $100,000 a year, I was still in that "paycheck to paycheck" mentality.  And the answer was surprisingly simple:  Even though I was making $100,000 a year, I was spending $100,001.

It is very simple and most people don't get it - or they claim they have to spend money on cable TV or the latest smart phone or all the subscription channels or a leased car or take-out pizza.  All the other neighbors are doing it?  And they complain they are broke all the time, too!   Lord, they have eyes, yet they cannot see.

Maybe try doing something different than your brain-dead neighbors?

But besides being financially independent (or at least moreso - getting entirely debt-free takes time!) there are other benefits.  You save $5 here or $10 there, you can use that money to buy something you really want or need.  People sign up for subscription services and then "forget" they subscribed.  They call them ghost subscriptions.   I saw a comic strip the other day where the two main characters argued whether or not to cancel their Netflix subscription, as they hadn't watched it in months.

Months.  We tend to subscribe to one channel at a time, for one month, see all there is to see and then move on to another channel.   We can always come back later on - and do.  One month at a time.  It boggles my mind that someone would sign up for auto-renew and then just forget about it.

You save that money, you can buy something else - and be richer overall.  That was the original mantra of my blog - how to live better for less, not how to live less on less.  Just doing without takes no talent or insight.  Figuring out how to scrimp here and save there so you can have more somewhere else - that is a real talent.

It is like restoring old cars.  There are two schools of thought.  One guy pays top dollar for a hobby car and then hires people to repair and restore it.  He never gets his hands dirty, other than the ink from the pen he uses to write checks to the mechanic, the body shop, the parts store, and so on.  Another guy waits and waits and finds a good car for a reasonable price.  He then haunts flea markets and swap meets and talks to people online and waits for sales to score replacement parts at bargain prices.  He also does as much work as possible, himself.  Sure he gets dirt under his fingernails, but he has so much more fun doing it, and he can take pride in making something as opposed to purchasing it.  And the difference in cost?  At least a factor of two, if not five or ten.

Or say you want a fancy new car.  Sure, you could go to the dealer and just hand them your checkbook and hope it doesn't hurt too badly.  Or you can look around for a good, secondhand car with low miles o it.  We bought the King Ranch with 20,000 miles on it - hardly broken in.  It was two years old, still under warranty and cost 2/3 of the price new.  The guy who bought it originally paid an awful lot of money to own it for two years and 20K miles.   Same experience, but a far different price.

I was giving a friend of mine a hard time (in jest) that they had joined the Jekyll Island Club in order to go swimming.  For a yearly fee (about $50 a month) you can join, use the pool, the exercise room, and get a discount on food and drink - as well as other fringe benefits, such as special events for club members.

I was kidding them about the extravagance of it all, as they pride themselves on being thrifty.  But I told them I was just fooling around.  The point of being thrifty isn't to put pennies in a penny jar, but to not spend money on pointless things, so you can do other and better things with it.   They are retired so they are not in the business of accumulating wealth or paying down debt (done and done!).  But they do have  to live within their means, and the name of the game is making life as best as you can, with the dollars you have.

You can blow it all on things you don't really need or want (but think you should have, because your neighbor's do!) or cut back over there to spend over here.  Living better on less!

For example, there is nothing wrong with going to a restaurant now and then - it is a fun treat.  There is everything wrong with eating every meal of the day in a restaurant - starting with the health problems it will create.

Not only that, it no longer is a special treat or enjoyable.  The "Karens" and "Kevins" who harangue waitstaff and demand to speak to the manager are the types of people who go out to eat almost every day and look at a restaurant in terms of calories per dollar.  They suck the joy out of the experience, for themselves and everyone else, too.

But they can't see it any other way, and wonder why they are broke all the time, which is why they are so angry all the time and trying to get free meals or "comp'ed" items. The television shows people eating out every day - surely this has to be normal right?  So they get frustrated, because their lifestyle is driving them broke.

And yes, it was driving me broke, too.  Not some "big ticket" item in my budget that was breaking my back, but dozens and even hundreds of little things that, taken together, looted my bank account.

I am hoping after a decade, I have learned something and my spending habits have improved.  As another year comes to a close, I realize we have been on-track to keep our spending close to the $100-a-day budget I concocted - a budget that keeps our taxes low, qualifies us for Obamacare, and leaves more money in our IRA accounts for later in life.  With inflation, the challenge will be to keep spending low, but I think we may see inflation turn around dramatically, very shortly.

Yes, the next recession - what no one wants to talk about just yet.   But it is looking like people are slowing down their spending, at least from what I can see.

Living Stingy might be ready for another 5,000 postings!