Tuesday, October 06, 2009

10 most hated MONEY TIPS. . . or, why I'm poor these days.

Are you just a little sick of all the financial "wisdom" and advice being slung your way these days? Especially by gurus and pundits who somehow never saw our national financial nightmare coming. . . or did and now smugly chortle "I told you so, you hedonistic, free-spending morons!" Not that I'm touchy about it or anything. But I finally found a financial whiz kid with a modicum of self-awareness. . . willing to admit that people HATE her advice.

She recently blogged about the 10 pieces of advice that bring out the latent "hater" in even the most mild-mannered Americans. I can see why she's having trouble.

10. BE HEALTHY. Avoiding skyrocketing healthcare costs by getting and staying healthy. By which she means, having a healthy lifestyle and maintaining your health. Lose weight. Exercise. Eat healthily. Practice good physical, mental, and dental hygiene. ACCCKKKKK! Get up off that couch and walk to the refrigerator? Quit driving the car down to the mailbox at the end of the driveway? Give up my my three-martini lunches? Floss daily and quit eating sugar? You must be kidding. But since I work in the healthcare field these days, I'm astonished at the many self-inflicted illness, syndromes, and conditions people suffer from these days. And yeah, it all costs money. . . not to mention the pain, inconvenience and just plain ickiness of being sick. But to have somebody tell me I'm out of shape and overweight and am contributing to my own penury because of it. Well! Shut. Up.

9. MOVE TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY. Not exactly a practical solution to most money troubles. Unless you're a Wall Street guru or investment banker with a lot of offshore deposits. I'd consider moving if I could find a foreign country that was, I don't know, kindof American. I mean the thought of not being able to buy peanut butter or not being able to trust the water in the tap or not being able to SPEAK THE LANGUAGE or VOTE. . . it's the little things, you know?

8. QUIT SMOKING. I work with a number of young gals who are single mothers and virtually every one of the smokes. Healthcare workers who smoke. Yeah, it's ironic and a little sad. Not to mention expensive as hell. Have you priced a carton of smokes lately? Damn near $50.00!!! This one I've got nailed, not being a smoker, but I can see why it's on the top ten list. Mention "smoking cessation" at our office and you'll see more fangs than a lion tamer.

7. BUY "USED." Americans like "new." New cars, new clothes, new everything. But, a certified "Beemer" with a 100,000+ mile warranty is still a Beemer. A Coach purse "gently used" off E-Bay is still a Coach bag. I can see this one. Heck, I DO this one. Probably not as often as I should. But I caught a bad case of AFFLUENZA back in the late 90's and went through a period of major consumption. Learned some lessons. One of which is "used" or "refurbished" often has the bugs worked out of it. I could do even more in this regard if I'd lose 50 pounds so I could fit into those cute "sample" clothes. . . (See #10)

6. BUY A HOUSE YOU CAN AFFORD. I can see why this one is a biggie. We Americans have been taught to think "upwardly mobile," which usually tranlates into "bigger is better." Who hasn't looked at a McMansion with lust in their hearts? Who wouldn't love to have a guest wing, an indoor pool, a garage for that fourth car, or stables you don't have to drive to in order to see your horse? There's something about those granite countertops and soaring great rooms that just sets our hearts aflutter. Truthfully, it's not the bills that kept me from buying too big. . . it was the thought of cleaning it all. Yep. I'm a housework hater. A house should have no more toilets than the number of people who live there. . . that's my rule. There are some exceptions. . . like the Duggers, who by that logic should have a 22 toilet house. I'm pretty sure they don't. Nor would I want them to.

5. CUT YOUR CABLE. What does "expanded" cable cost a month where you live? Sigh. I'm not sure I could tell you, even looking at my bill. It's all tied up with my phones and internet service and ::blush:: my HBO subscription. They make it hard to buy just one thing at a time or to see the true costs of what you're subscribing to. My "media" bill is $180.00 a month. I rationalize that I NEED at least one premium channel-- to you know, stay tuned in with the tastes of America.

4. TAKE LUNCH TO WORK. Apparently this is one that people hate more than the blessed IRS. Even when you show them the numbers, they're still adamant that they're not giving up their right to eat lunch out. No matter how many cute insulated bags you shove on people, they have to be willing to get up fifteen minutes early to pack them with edibles. That's a non-starter.

3. LIMIT SMALL SPENDING. Yeah, here's where we talk lattes and vente macchiattos.(SP?) Pouring 4-5 dollars down our throats every morning is a waste of money. But we do it willingly, eagerly because it makes us feel good. And --hey-- we deserve a reward every morning for the feat of showing up at work. Personally I can do without the pricey coffees that are laden with calories. But I can't do without my weekly movie. Cost of movie and popcorn for two: $18.00. (I'm a member of the local "cinema" and I share popcorn and soft drink with the pool boy.) But still, four times a month and it adds up. Frankly, I'd start selling the funriture before I gave up my Friday movie. Everybody draws the line somewhere.

2. DON'T BUY A PET. This one sounds awful. And selfish. And I'm sure it's a great way to save money. Some pets are high maintenance. Grooming, vet bills, toys and chewies. . . replacement for chewed furnishings and shoes and rugs. . . it all adds up. Maybe that's just the price we pay for unconditional love. Which makes all of those people who own pythons a little creepy to me. They expect love from a critter that can choke you senseless in five seconds? I don't need a hug that badly. Why keep a pet if you don't derive some "warm fuzzy" from it? Apologies to all those amphibian and reptile lovers-- I just think you're nutz. Sue me. The jury is still out on bird people. Birds-- while not cuddly-- are smart and entertaining. I've never seen an "entertaining" snake.

1. MOVE TO A LOWER-COST-OF-LIVING CITY. Good luck with this one if you have a family. Or friends. Or a job that requires actually BEING someplace to do work. It's a good idea for retirees and psychopathic loners. The loners probably already know this and practice it. . . more for legal than financial reasons, I suspect. A lot of snowbirds practice it, too. Although a place in the sun isn't nearly a cheap as advertised. Still, you could probably find great real estate bargains in Las Vegas or Ft. Myers, Florida these days.

And the granddaddy of them all. . . which the blogger refrained from putting on the list for fear of being stoned in the streets: DON'T HAVE CHILDREN!

Too late for most of us, and that's probably a good thing. It turns out the little buggers are fiercely expensive. (Like we didn't know that already!) A major financial liability. Credit reporting agencies haven't figured out a way to fit "number of children" into their credit scoring formulas, but it's clear they'd love to do so. The one mitigating factor is that parents usually aim for "stability" for their offspring, which means they pay their bills and do so mostly on time. Still, most of a family's resources are tied up with child-rearing activities. Most parents would rather brown-bag it and give up their lattes than let their children go without. Which refines and polishes their souls.

Another factor that never makes it into financial formulas: doing good.

So. . . which of the ten is the fly in your morning latte? Which do you HATE most? I confess it was hard for me to chose. They're all pretty awful.

Or do you have another money-saving technique that you despise more and think is just "CHEAP"? Re-using teabags? Saving cottage cheese cartons? Rationing toilet paper? Turning off the AC?


Terry Odell said...

I've got to say, years and years ago we decided that putting a roof over our heads and food on the table should NOT depend on two incomes. If for any reason, one of us couldn't work, we didn't want to be on the streets (note - this was LONG LONG ago. Women then had jobs, not careers.)

But we've pretty much been watching pennies since we got married, and while we've always been comfortable, our comfort didn't include a lot of extras. I look at this list and pretty much see the way I've lived most of my life.

Fun? Easy? No, but it becomes the way you live. (We did have kids, though -- even an extra, when carefully planned child #2 turned out to be twins)

Helen Brenna said...

Terry, that decision was so smart of you and your dh. It gives you so much more breathing room when things are going well and less stress when things aren't.

Betina, so much of this is common sense - when I channel the accountant side of me - but I really understand how people can get themselves into financial trouble.

I LOVE our pets, BUT ...
they are incredibly expensive especially since I try to buy organic food and keep them updated with vet exams. I think we could take a trip to Italy every year on what they cost!

The DON'T HAVE CHILDREN one is hitting me this morning, given I just paid my dd fall college tuition! Whah!

Cindy Gerard said...

Betina - I just love your blog posts. Always so witty and funny and entertaining AND they deliver a message. Amazing~! Thanks.
We've always lived within our means - good old mid-westerner upbringing, I guess, plus we really struggled financially when we first started out so we both know how to shave expenses and pinch pennies.
I HATE the 'move to a foreign country' suggestion. I mean, come on. This country has given us everything (pollution, taxes,etc, some would argue) but, it's America. It doesn't get any better IMO and I love it. Also we love our pets and they are expensive but, they give so much back to you that I hate seeing that on the list.
Being a former smoker, I'm all for ditching that expensive habit. Easier said than done though.

GunDiva said...

I'm all about the not having kids. But for me, that's closing the barn door after the horses are out. I've got three teenagers. After I bought my horse, who is a super easy keeper, I realized that even with vet bills and feed, she's cheaper than my kids. She's barefoot, so no shoes. It costs between $2.00 - $2.50/day to feed her. Her dental visit yesterday ran me about $60 including the travel cost for the vet. And her "well child check" including blood work cost me all of $45.00.

The one money/environment saving trick that just sets me off is the not flushing the toilet thing. That's just gross.

Michele Hauf said...

The one that would kill me is Don't Buy A Pet. Seriously? They give such love! And in an empty-nester house I find some kind of companion a necessity (the hubby is away during day, so don't smirk, he provides companionship when he gets home).

My money-saving technique? I've become great at only flicking on the air to cool down the house then shutting it off, though we didn't get summer in MN this year so we probably used the air a week total. Same with the heat. It's already freezing in the house here! But I'll put the heat on for an hour to warm up the house then that's it. We'll see how well that plan gets me through the winter. :-(

Playground Monitor said...

Could I take myself to your vet, GunDiva? I mean, teeth are teeth, aren't they? I remember getting ticked at paying thousands of dollars for my hysterectomy and a hundred to have my cat spayed.

I quit smoking in the mid-80's, always took my lunch to work and only bought a new car in 2005 because Hurricane Katrina had dried up the used-car market in the south and a new car wasn't that much more expensive.

I lived in a foreign country that didn't have peanut butter or pimento cheese and that sucks. I loved the experience and learning a new culture, but I was glad to move back home. My town already has a pretty low cost of living so I'm staying put though my soon-to-be-ex keeps asking if I'm moving to where my mother lives. He wishes...

I've been signing up for all those "media" things for my new apartment and I've been ready to draw blood a couple times. I'd gone online to see what basic phone and DSL service cost, but when I called to sign up for it, it was $20 a month more because those cheaper services came with a long-term contract, signed in blood with my precious grandbaby as collateral. I'll have basic cable with no HBO, Showtime, etc. My one concession was the DVR and I'll eat beans twice a week to afford that.

Have you tried buying small furniture lately? Everything is sized to fit in a house with large rooms and 9 foot ceilings and I had a dickens of a time finding a dresser that would fit into an apartment bedroom that's not even as large as the guest room in my house.

"Be healthy" is easy to say, but I didn't ask to get Restless Leg Syndrome that requires $35 a month in medicines AFTER my $500 a month insurance policy pays their share. I do exercise (tho not enough) and eat right and shudder to think what I'd have if I didn't. I shouldn't fuss. I was able to keep my H's insurance tho I have to pay both the employee and employer part. And I got lifetime alimony, which not all women get. I remember clipping coupons in the lean, early days, and I'm right back there now. I love thrift stores, especially when you find a $40 pair of jeans with the store tags still on them for $7.50.

Great post, Betina! Sorry to have rambled.

lois greiman said...

You always make me laugh, Betina. Thanks. And good advice. I do most of that. Except I'm afraid I undo them all because of the of pets. Oh, and the kids, but you know...some things aren't worth living without.

joder said...

The worst of these is cutting back on the tiny spending (ie. going through latte withdrawal). It saddens me and makes me a bit cranky. Of course, when I am able to purchase a latte I enjoy them even more. So that's a good thing.

With winter almost here I dread not turning the heat up. I can handle the AC being off since I like warmth, but I hate being cold. I guess my winter will consist of me walking around my apartment with a scarf on all the time.

Playground Monitor said...

I forgot to mention I refuse to NOT flush the toilet every time to save water and money. I am careful about my laundry loads, make sure the dishwasher is full before I run it and don't leave the water running while I brush my teeth. But I'm gonna flush every time! LOL!


Michele Hauf said...

Hee, Marilyn, I've been doing the no-night-flushing for a while. Because why is it when we women pass the 40 mark we suddenly have to pee all night long? What's with that?

Kylie said...

Oh I hate those money people. They always make me feel bad about my choices. I'd much rather pay the bills and just wonder where all the money went, LOL.

Have to say, kids are the biggest expenditure and ours haven't stopped costing us yet. I live in hope. But true enough, they could have been raised more cheaply. My choice to pay for college. Husband's choice to pay for cars. And just unfortunate genetics that all five required braces!

I will stop bitching about my cable bill now, though. Ours is just shy of 160.00 a month and we are about to go out and get DVR and join the 21st century. My husband refused to buy vehicles new, so we've only had one completely new vehicle since we've been married.

And the pets...hmmm. There's expense but I don't know if I can ever go without the companionship.

If disaster struck (I mean real disaster) I'd get rid of the housecleaner first (wah!) then probably stop having my nails done. After that...it'd be a cold hard day before I stopped going to my hairdresser. A woman has to hold on to *something*!

Kylie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pamela Keener said...

My fly is definately #2. I have 2 dogs and a cat and I would not under any circumstances get rid of them. I have no children so they are like my kids.
Love & Hugs,
Pam Keener in PA

Debra Dixon said...

Hey, I think they left off a big one--

Use it up. Wear it out. Don't waste.

Christie Ridgway said...

Love this post, Betina. "I'd have to clean it," has stopped me from drooling over bigger houses (it's mainly getting the dog hair off the floors that stops me) too. But we have animals and kids and cars and cable.

Surfer Guy is really into "balance" as he calls it, so we don't feel too guilty about when we spend. And we're frugal in other ways, like...well, everyone brown bags it here. And nobody smokes.

But I have to say I insisted we turn on our A/C during the last big heat wave in SoCal (I was finishing a book) and I don't think I'll ever use it again. We had it on for about 4 days and it raised our bill $75 PER DAY.

Liza said...

My family and friends always tells me I'm too cheap since I have my AC set so high. I just use fans and they don't use as much energy as the AC unit uses. I also sit under blankets once it cools off enough to run the heat. My heat only comes on if my apartment gets really cold.

My cable bill includes both cable and internet and is currently $193 per month. However, cost goes up next month, so I'll have to see if I get to keep my premium channels. Can't wait for AT&T U-verse to be available in my area. Same number of channels and about $30-50 cheaper each month.

I've found if I bring my lunch each day to work, I spend much less. It cost me between $2-3 to bring my lunch and at least $5-7 to eat out.

MarthaE said...

Great post! My DH and I have practiced many of these with two big exceptions: we didn't move to a foreign country and we are not giving up our pets! :) Oh - we have the "dish" instead of the cable cause DH wants to watch movies and sports. I'm happy sitting in the corner reading review books that don't cost me anything! *BG*

Betina Krahn said...

Terry, I wish I could have impolemented your philosophy "way back when." It's a sound practice that I'm proud to say one of my sons has adopted and the other is working toward... without prompting from mom.

Helen, sympathies on the tuition bite. I remember it well. At my oldest's graduation from college, the thing the parents kept mumbling was "It'll be like a $20,000 raise next year!" Unless, of course, #2 or #3 kid is waiting in the wings.

Cindy, the one about moving to another country got me, too. I know some people aren't that attached to America-- it's not perfect, heaven knows. But I LOVE it here. Give me the red, white and blue. . . I'll find some other way to save money!

Gun Diva, congratulation on your low maintenance horse! I never realized they could be so reasonable! Meanwhile-- I'm with you on the flushing. What was the rhyme they hatched during one of the California water crises? "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down." Still. Ewwwwwww.

Michelle and Lois-- I'd rather eat Ramen noodles than go without dog food and my furry friend. I was devastated when Tyke died a couple of months back. He was a real people. Kathy, maybe he and Cisco and frolicking somehwere in the hereafter.

Marilyn, you've started quite an adventure-- though I can guess there are days you might not feel like calling it that. Starting a whole new life in a whole new place is frightening and exihlerating all at once. But it sounds like you've got a plan and we're all pulling for you!

Joder, it's funny what we decide we can and can't do without. Sometimes the little luxuries are the things that get us through. Sales of cupcakes have gone through the roof. And lipstick. And ice cream cones. We all need a treat now and then!

Kylie, every month I look at the media bill and try to convince myself we could do without it. And every month I pay the darned thing and settle in to enjoy movies and special programs. And I LOVE having a fast internet. It's a good thing the broadband stuff wasn't around when my kids were young. . . they'd have been bartered off in a heartbeat! LOL!

Christie, balance-- something we could all use a lot more of in our lives. That's really what it's all about. I want to have enough to be able to "pay my own way" and not be a burden to my kids later in life. And I'd like to leave them a little something when I die. . . but I have no intention of making them rich. Ben Franklin said "Interited wealth has ruined far more men than it helped." That's Ben's story and I'm stickin' to it!

Liza, I'm so relieved to hear somebody else has a cable bill in the stratosphere! And I'm a big fan of lower and raising thermostats to save some energy and some money. Will you hate me if I tell you I let the sun heat my pool this summer-- and loved the 85 degree water?

Hey everybody-- stay tuned for our guest Terry Odell tomorrow! You're going to love her!

Betina Krahn said...

Martha E-- I hear dishes are great. Now if they could just bundle them with phone service and internet. . .

Meanwhile, I've taken to reading part of each evening, myself. And I'm loving it! There are so many good books these days! Including those pictured to the right. (a-ehm.)

catslady said...

Those were all good. Don't buy on credit would be a good one. I rewash plastic ziplock bags lol. I remember a neighbor who had a husband that insisted she reuse her sweeper bags!!! Insane of course and she did it until one exploded on her - what a mess lol.

Betina Krahn said...

Hi, Catslady! Yeah, the tip on credit is really a good one. Living within our means is kindof a forgotten virtue these days.

LOL on the exploding sweeper bag! Some things truly aren't made to be reused. And it takes some experience to know which is which. That's what life is about. And I hope she made "hubby" clean up the mess!

LoboSolo said...

A dog can also serve as extra security. A cat can even be useful if it is a mouser.

For those who knock living in a foreign country, try it! Join the millions ... and I do mean millions ... of Americans who have left Amerika.