I know this sounds horribly hypocritical coming from someone who is a personal finance (PF) blogger, and who admittedly loves money (you know what I mean) and talking about it, but I am also well aware that this obsession with money can become a serious problem.
Can you believe that Americans now think more about money than sex? It isn’t just about money woes either.
26% of couples that earned $100,000 or more per year dealt with damaged sex drives because they were too preoccupied with their bank accounts.
Then you read stuff like this post Dress for Success; Shop at Wal-Mart, and it confirms how money seems to have taken over our lives to the point where it’s the only thing that matters any more.
(He doesn’t know I’m a PF blogger, but he knows I like managing my money, investing it, spending it and generally watching it grow.)
It bothers me to read such posts even though I know it’s the norm and what next door millionaires do, because it only focuses on ONE aspect of what life is about — having resources (read: money) to spend on the things you need to live, however life is not all about money.
There are of course minimum PF rules I still believe in, so don’t try and think this is a post to get you to say things like: SEE? I should totally put that Caribbean vacation on my credit card and live life to the fullest!
If you’re in debt, get out of it.
Once you’re out of debt, save your money but don’t forget to live your life.
Life happens not just when you spend money or save it.
Life happens in spite of it.
So why are we proposing that people compromise on life just because of money?
I find this attitude more prevalent in North America than in Europe.
In Europe, no one really talks about money except to bitch about how much the government is taking from them in taxes to pay for their lovely universal healthcare, free daycares, wonderful social services and guaranteed retirement plans when they turn 65.
In Canada, and especially in the U.S., money is the #1 priority in our lives, as in.. saving it, not spending it and being as cheap as possible for everything.
We all want to eventually be millionaires (even I do), and it kind of doesn’t matter to us how we get there as long as we get there, right?
If we have to work 60 – 100 workweeks, commute 2 hours a day, eat cheap food, and spend as little as possible to reach that goal, it’s what we’re going to do, goddamnit!
WHAT IS THE END RESULT OF ALL THIS MONEY?
…but what’s the true end goal of being rich and a millionaire?
Being a millionaire just means you have at least $1,000,000 as a net worth or in the bank.
It’s just a number.
What are you going to do with that number?
Do you quit working and finally start living your life after 25 years of sacrificing every ounce and cell of your body to reach that number?
Do you finally breathe a sigh of relief and say: We can start buying the good stuff now — let’s go celebrate with some 2-ply toilet paper purchases!
What does it mean to you? Was it worth all your sacrificing to reach that point?
Do your kids feel like they never had a parent while growing up because you were too busy chasing this number?
Do you feel like you missed out on the past 40 years of not having taken it easy keeping in mind that you can always reach your goal, just a little later?
THE ACCEPTANCE OF ‘CHEAP’ AS THE NORM
It bothers me that we now accept ‘cheap’ as the norm, regardless of what quality we receive.
We actually get mad when we pay more than what we think something is worth… but in reality, we truly get what we pay for because our ideas of what something is really worth is totally f*cked up these days.
Why pay $20 for a t-shirt when you can pay $5?
Never mind that it stretches, and loses its shape after the chemicals wear off, it was only $5!!
You can always go out and buy more and more cheap t-shirts to replace it, and continue filling up your wardrobe with “old” t-shirts you no longer want to wear because they just don’t look good any more.
Why pay $2 for a great tasting apple when you can buy it half rotten on the sale rack for $0.50?
You can feel good about paying so little for an apple while you sit in your expensive house, furnished with granite countertops and marble floors, while eating around the rotten bits.
Why pay $300 for a humidifier for your home when you can buy a cheap one for $20?
Never mind that the humidifier spurts, splutters and sprays water everywhere, soaking your floors, it was only $20!
Why pay an employee $30/hour to do a good job when you can just outsource the work to India and pay $3 a day, if that?
Or even worse, you refuse to hire someone at $30/hour when you seem to have someone who does the exact same thing for $15/hour, or so his resume says.
“WHAT A DEAL! The same skills and experiences for half the price”, you think! Until you realize that they just copied and pasted someone else’s resume, tweaked a few words and passed it off as their own.
Of course, this all stuff you don’t think about when you’re on the phone or via email screaming at them to get the job done for the price they promised.. then when they finally hand over the work, you realize it’s full of mistakes, the quality is substandard (a high school student could have done better), and you end up either having to redo the work yourself or paying someone who actually knows how to do their job to fix it.
My point is this: No one, and nothing worth its salt would ever go for less than what they / it costs.
So our slow acceptance of low-quality but CHEAP services, or things that are shoddily made, of questionable materials and origins is now the norm.
The fact that we no longer question how a country can produce a ceramic mug to sell at retail for less than $0.50, is not surprising, but really indicative of just how low we’ve sunk in terms of expectations of quality.
SPENDING YOUR MONEY WHERE IT MATTERS FOR YOU, IS NOT A SIN
So that guy doesn’t care about his clothes, fine, he buys it at Wal-Mart, but if he had bought nicer clothes at a nicer store, couldn’t they have also just jumped on him and said: He’s being extravagant and ridiculous with his money!
For my personal values, I don’t buy things that are cheap, plastic, made in China, etc… but that’s MY view on life and my purchases.
I care about NOT buying cheap crap, buying quality, and I am willing to pay the price for it.
Others, may not hold the same views and I respect that, even though I do try my best to convince them otherwise (it doesn’t always work, but it’s their life and their money.. so *shrug*…).
Yet people actually scoff at you when you mention buying a stainless steel set of pots of pans from a manufacturer in the U.S. for around $1000.
They say things like: What for? They sell whole sets of pots and pans at Wal-Mart for $150! Why the f*ck would you pay 10X the price? You could have spent that money elsewhere!
My response is: Why wouldn’t I?
I am not buying pots and pans every day, this is a set that I plan on keeping for life, whereas the pots and pans you buy at Wal-Mart may or may not last for a lifetime.
Yes, I could have saved $800 – $900 NOT buying those pots and pans, but what would I do with the money instead that would make me just as happy?
I could save it… but then I’d be struggling with and cooking with crappy pots and pans that don’t heat evenly and cause my food to burn.
I could spend it and go on vacation with the money, but when I come back, I’ll still be stuck with those crappy pots and pans.
Even though experiences last longer than stuff, there is a line that one has to draw before you say to yourself: You’re being cheap, but what’s the point of being so cheap? What else would you do with the money that would bring you as much pleasure?
Would I be happier seeing $800 – $900 more in my bank account, knowing I’d have to replace those pots and pans in due time, or would I be happier with good quality pots and pans that last a lifetime?
Someone else might be happier with tons of money in the bank, but that doesn’t mean they’re living what I’d consider to be a life, constantly penny-pinching and harping on purchases that they know they’ll enjoy but refuse to let themselves buy it because “it isn’t worth the money”.
THE IDEA THAT IF YOU AREN’T CHEAP YOU’LL NEVER BE RICH
I will be the first one to say that if you don’t save money, you’ll never become rich, but at what cost (social, economic, emotional, environment) are you willing to become a millionaire?
Someone in Europe during a discussion of money once told me:
People who are cheap and don’t want to spend any money at all on life because they want to hoard it all, might as well just kill themselves so that they end up spending nothing.
It’s the only way for them to be truly happy.
He was of course, being sarcastic and totally extreme in his view, but his point is valid in the sense that understanding life is not just about money is a difficult thing for us to grasp; more difficult than for Europeans, anyway.