In Discussions, Money

The Consumerist Monster

I was watching a show the other day with my partner (French from France TV, not Canadian French TV), and they were talking about all the riots happening in France due to Macron’s recent suggestion to increase taxes on gas to limit pollution.

It basically hurts the ones who work for a living and leaves them with even less at the end of the month (or puts them into debt) — the French government takes A LOT out of your paycheque (70%?) on the promise that when you retire, they will take care of you.

Forever.

We all heard that tax go presumably lower emissions & help the environment and knew it was dumb — not all cities are equipped to be able to use less gas or drive less, sometimes you live in the middle of nowhere and you NEED a car, so you’re just penalizing people who don’t live in big cities like Paris (and don’t need a car, really), plus, people living in those small rural areas also don’t have a lot of money either, so now they’re getting MORE of their income taken by the government, leaving them with peanuts.

The overall better option versus raising taxes on gas would have been to encourage the purchase of small, hybrid or electric vehicles.

Giving a tax break, incentives, ANYTHING really to make people go greener and buy a vehicle that doesn’t use as much gas, would have been a better option, as in some other Scandinavian countries.

Norway by 2025 plans to ban fossil fuel vehicles, and the Netherlands by 2030. Honestly, that is not that far off, about 7 years! And they have put SERIOUS plans and government tax credits in place to do so, to make electric cars a comparable and in some cases a CHEAPER or equivalent option to a gas car.

But I digress.

The real point of this post is when the camera crew followed one such family in dire straits.


They had 3 kids, ranging from ages 8 to 16, and lived in a small town. They complained about the rise in gas because the mother is a stay at home parent, the father is the only one making an income and he needs his car.

They said due to the gas hike and how tight their budget is, they would have to cut back even more.

Cue them walking into the LIDL grocery store (think: No Frills, super cheap low cost grocery store that doesn’t even unpack pallets, they just load them with the food there and stick a sign up, which saves a lot of $$$ which they pass on (presumably) to the buyer in not having to face the products and arrange them prettily on the shelves with cute signs, etc.

They throw things like frozen pizzas into the cart. Pre-packaged foods.

If you know anything about the pizza business or having had worked in it, you will know that the profits are high in such an enterprise. The dough costs pennies to make (they ain’t using organic hand ground flour!), because it’s just water, yeast and salt.

Then the oven to cook it in, fine it isn’t a wood-fired grill most of the time, and the toppings are just shavings of mozzarella cheese, canned tomato sauce, and some cheap slices of pepperoni. It costs maybe a few bucks to make a cheap pizza but it is sold for $10. Even taking labour into account, they’re still clearing a SOLID profit.

So. If they’re strapped for cash — Why don’t they just make their own pizzas? It would be cheaper.

They’re French so their culture lends easily to learning how to make something well and from scratch, and frankly, it is fun for the kids, cheaper, and pretty easy by all accounts, even if you buy the sauce in a bottle.

But far be it from me to criticize their eating habits — they’re parents, they’re tired, they don’t want to Pinterest their pizzas and Instagram their efforts — PERFECTLY UNDERSTANDABLE…

I get it. We’re busy. That’s fine. Don’t cook cheaper, tastier food from scratch to save money.

But that wasn’t all.

What actually got my goat though, was hearing that the father skipped eating lunch every day because he needed to save money.

The father SKIPPED LUNCH EVERY DAY to save money.

(Wait there is more after this.)

As in he DID NOT EAT. Just breakfast, and dinner.

No lunch, no going out to eat, no packed sandwich. He just didn’t eat to scrimp on costs.

If you are already horrified at someone doing this (parental love = selfless), you’d then completely understand why when the camera panned to the footage of the mother showing the Christmas presents they bought their kids with the savings, I basically got up and left the room.

With their spare money and savings, they bought the newest iPhone for their daughter and the other two kids got iPads for Christmas.

…. Yes, folks, this is what really killed me.

I was stunned.

This stuff is expensive. I know it is expensive because I own these items, and I am able to well afford them, but even I cringed at spending $2000 on my new phone.

I should also mention here that I have not owned a cellphone for 10 years, and this would actually be my FIRST ONE in 10 years, so when I bought it, I just said — “Give me the most expensive one, in the colour gold please.

And these parents, as sweet and as loving as they obviously are, are totally caught up in this consumerist mindset.

I am not trying to throw stones in a glass house (I am obviously very spendy and expensive by my own accounts), but…. DAMN.

DAMN.

Listening and watching that segment hurt.

You can love your kids and not give them expensive iGifts.

You can tell them that there is no money for this, and would we rather have an iPhone or have Daddy eat a sandwich every day for lunch while he works?

It made me truly sad, frustrated and a bit helpless in the sense that I wish I could tell them this. But hey, would they even listen to me?

They’d probably scoff at me, with my savings, my net worth, my earning potential and age, with only one child to care for and tell me I have no idea what I am talking about.

And it’s true.

Maybe I don’t now, I don’t remember what it was like to be so deep into debt that I pinched pennies and didn’t do a single thing to go out so I could clear my debt.

I don’t get it because if I were in that case, I would have purchased gifts (yes, even people in debt and who are poor need to feel good once in a while), but I would not have spent that money on an iGift.

They would have gotten other items, not thousand-dollar iPhones and iPads.

But maybe that’s just me

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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10 Comments

  1. Flo

    It’s all for show of course. A box of pasta cost 1$ (not much expensive in France), and you can make lunch for a week.
    How much cost a couple of slices of bread with 2 hard-boiled eggs ? Much less than that frozen pizza so of course he could afford lunch.
    Also I would bet that the kids never got those kind of presents before but it’s all because it goes on TV now.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I think it was a sensational piece but it really got me annoyed.

      Reply
  2. Julie

    I generally love your posts, but the posts about France are always very misinformed and they kind of grate on my nerves.
    Just to set things straight:
    – there ARE tax incentives to buy less polluting cars in France (up to 4000 euros), and you get an additional bonus if you purchase an electric vehicle (up to 5000 euros total)
    – 70% of your gross salary is your take home salary, not what the government keeps
    – a LIDL pizza costs between 1.50 – 2.50, making their own pizza would be much tastier and healthier, but definitely not cheaper

    Sorry for going on a rant, but you post these things with such certainty that I get really annoyed reading them…

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I’m glad you are saying something. I am only watching what is on TV, not actually living in France and I am guessing at prices

      I’m sorry I am offending you, please just skip these posts in the future. I don’t think I have any more written to be honest.

      The 70% of your gross salary is what you take home, but then with the income taxes on top of that, you are losing 30%, and then another amount on top of that, right?

      So really, you’re losing 30% right off the bat, and then another 50% for income taxes.

      30% minus another let’s say 50% of what you took home which is 35%, is already 65% of your gross salary <--- that is how I got the rough 70% being kept by the government.

      Reply
      1. Julie

        Yeah you’re probably right, I should skip these posts

        The highest percent for income taxes is 45%, for earnings over 156k. This means that if you earn 160k, only the last 4k are taxed at 45%, the rest is taxed gradually at 0, 14, 30 and 41%…
        So no one who is salaried (it could easily happen if your earnings come strictly from dividends) is going to lose 50% to income taxes. Most people are in the 0 and 14% brackets.

        Reply
        1. eveange66

          Thank you Julie for these posts and your explanation.
          As much as I enjoy reading this blog, I kept being annoyed by the posts on France, meaning that I feel the writer don’t really like France and keep on criticising it, even during holidaying.
          France is no better than everywhere else but really, as a blog, you should be careful sometimes about what you are writing.
          And no sense to write “don’t read”. Granted, this is YOUR blog.
          Rant over. You’re welcome

          Reply
          1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

            Point taken. My point is more that there is no need to get upset over something you do not enjoy.

            I read lots of things I don’t agree with, but is it worth the energy to be negative about it?

            No need to rant. I only needed a polite note as Julie and you have given to take it as constructive criticism.

            I’m sort of amused at how worked up everyone gets over this. This is a biased blog – I am one person writing it from my point of view.

            My whole view of France is definitely tainted from my experiences with the family there, but that doesn’t mean it is how everyone feels or is treated — just me, not fitting in.

            So I would appreciate everyone taking what I write with that in mind.

          2. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

            Also it is a little presumptuous to write “you’re welcome” at the end.

            I haven’t thanked you yet, so that felt a smidge snarky/passive-aggressive if we are being honest here.

          3. Julie

            I am not attacking your personal opinions, I come to your blog to read your point of view on things, and I enjoy it greatly even if it sometimes differs from mine.

            But saying France doesn’t have tax incentives for lower polluting vehicles and that the government takes out 70% of your income is not an opinion, it’s misinformation that some readers might take as the truth. You say things about France (not just this post, it’s been bugging me for a while) as if it’s the truth when you haven’t fact checked anything.

            I really enjoy your blog, I’m not trying to start a fight, but I needed to voice my opinion. Hopefully this came off as CC and not just criticism, its hard to communicate tone online.

          4. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

            I know that! 🙂 I apologize if it came off that way, but I understand what you are saying and will refrain from posting such content.

            It absolutely came off as CC from you.

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