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Sports, Booze, and Guns

There are some things in American Culture that we are unwilling to give up no matter the costs. Even the frugal crowd amongst us seem to have a difficult giving up certain expenses. The big three I’ve noticed are sports, alcohol and guns.

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by arkorn

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by arkorn

Sports

When it comes cutting expenses, many people start with cutting the cord because of the high cost of cable. However, many refuse to cut the cord because they can’t give up sports. Awhile back, I read about a caller to the Dave Ramsey show who had no emergency fund yet wanted “permission” to spend $1500 on football tickets. Dave said, “it’s a game; you don’t put that ahead of your family’s financial foundation!” I have a co-worker whose beloved baseball team made it to the playoffs and he shelled out a few hundred dollars for tickets as well as team paraphernalia. He often complained about money being tight but magically came up with money for these expenses.

I’m in a Facebook group with members pursuing FIRE, who often post about frugal hacks, yet when a member posted about attending a playoff game out-of-state to support his team, many agreed that experiences are worth the costs. Obviously, we each individually have different value system and I’m not saying that this expense is ridiculous, but it does go to show how much we LOVE our sports.

I used to be a sports fanatic so I can understand the love that fans have for their teams. When I was a kid, I would listen to the Knicks basketball game on the radio because I didn’t have cable. I would read the box scores or my favorite sports teams. No, actually I read all the box scores and could probably recite every player from every team. I didn’t have any money to spend on sports at the time, and now that I do, the costs of watching and attending games is just not worth it to me. Also, with age, I’ve found other things that are higher on my priority list.

Check out this blog post on Freedom is Groovy: 10 Reasons Not to Invest Time and Money into Professional Sports. (While Mr. Groovy says professional sports, I would include collegiate sports in there as well. The NCAA in my opinion is a corrupt organization and I just can’t support them. Plus, my alma mater isn’t all that great anyway so it makes not following college sports easy!)

Dutch_beers

Booze

Ah yes, booze…our culture seems to revolve around alcohol. I’m sure you’re saying that you don’t really drink all that much. You’re only a social drinker right? What do you do after a long stressful day…relax with a glass of wine. After work…let’s go to happy hour. Go to a sporting event…tailgate and drink hours before the game and then continue drinking during the game, and probably afterwards as well. Wedding…it better be open bar right? Watching a game at home…grab a cold beer from the fridge. Going to a kid’s birthday party…there better be alcohol because how else can I deal with screaming kids for 2 hours?! Watching the political debate on T.V…let’s drink every time a candidate says “fake news!” Going to a barbecue…let’s play ping pong, no I mean beer pong! Talking about personal finance on a podcast…”what are you drinking?” It’s January! Let’s do a Dry January Challenge since apparently we drink too much and it’s difficult to go without drinking, even for one month!

In a recent Twitter thread, I read how one person was faced with an hour wait at a liquor store prior to the holidays, but said that it was well worth the wait because how can you possibly survive dealing with family without alcohol! Wow, if you despise certain family members so much, I’m not sure getting drunk at a holiday get together will help. It’s also odd when I read some personal finance bloggers chastise others for spending on frivolous or materialistic items but will give a pass to alcohol, as if it were a necessity. Others will acknowledge that it’s a luxury item, but one that brings them joy so they will not and cannot give it up. Once again, nothing wrong with spending on an item that brings you joy. Just showing the powerful grasp that alcohol has on some of us.

No, I’m not a teetotaling Puritan who never drinks and is against others drinking. Sure, I’ll have a drink when I’m hanging out with a bunch of friends. It loosens you up, you laugh more and feel like you’re having more fun. Just as with sports, I indulged in alcohol much more in my younger days. My priorities have changed. Honestly, I never really liked the taste of alcohol. I liked it more so for how it made me feel and act. I generally drank when I went out to a bar or club. No, I don’t want a drink at a kids birthday party. I’m not sure how much alcohol one needs to dull the noise of screaming kids running around, but I’d prefer to be sober at that event. Also, call me crazy, but I actually get some enjoyment seeing my kid have a blast even though I might prefer some other form of entertainment.

David Cain who blogs at Raptitude had two great post relating to alcohol and him quitting it for a few months. He wrote a post, Goodbye Booze, For Now and what he learned from not drinking for four months. Raptitude is a great blog and David is an excellent writer, so he probably expresses thoughts about this topic clearer than me.

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Guns

The personal finance reader demographic might not include a lot of gun owners. Well honestly, I don’t really know so I’m just assuming. However, it’s undeniable that guns are an item which many in this country LOVE and cannot live without. They will argue that they need guns for protection or for hunting. I’m not talking about the person with a hunting rifle or the person with a handgun at home for protection. I’m mainly talking about those who like to play G.I Joe, wearing military fatigues and buy assault rifles. I don’t want to get into a political debate so I’m not going to go much further. However, I can’t help but point out that many who point to the second amendment seem to think it’s a Biblical commandment instead. Also, it’s an amendment which means it can be changed and is not set it stone. There was an amendment prohibiting alcohol at one point…we got rid of that one. No surprise! One final point, the first part of the second amendment actually says “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” but many people don’t recite that part when they assert that the U.S Constitution prohibits any limitation on their gun ownership. Also, there are limitations on other rights which are included in the Bill of Rights. Oh, sorry, that was two final points!

Jeff Jeffries, an Australian comedian has a hilarious comedy routine which tears into the gun culture in the United States and is both funny and makes great points. Check it out. (Note: Jeffries uses explicit language).

As many of us who have gotten out of the consumption hamster wheel, we feel freed from spending mindlessly while others who continue on that hamster wheel wonder why we live such a life of deprivation. We should always be questioning whether a product or service is truly something you value rather than accepting that that’s what everybody does or that you’ve always done it.

What things could you never give up?

My Christmas Present

damage
Christmas day is always pretty special. Other than the religious reasons, it’s special because you get to see what gifts you received. It’s extra special when you have kids and see the excitement in their faces when they unwrap their gifts. I think this year was the first year that my four year old truly understood and was excited about the holiday season. He would countdown every time we turned on the Christmas tree lights. He was excited to see the lights and decorations as we drove or walked past other houses. He was waiting in anticipation for Santa to arrive and asked that we give him a key to our apartment as we didn’t have a chimney. However, he had second thoughts about having a stranger in the house and asked if I could leave a note for Santa to leave the presents outside the door instead!

Christmas morning started off wonderfully. My four year old was ecstatic with his gifts. My 17 month old was actually able to tear into the wrapping paper this year. We were having family over for dinner and I had some last minute errands to run. When I went out to my car, which was parked on the street, I see that somebody had slammed into the bumper. I’m assuming they were parking their car when they slammed into it, but I’m still perplexed as to how you back in at that angle and at that speed to cause that damage. Probably someone who was drunk after partying on Christmas Eve since the car was fine when I left it there around midnight.

I was very upset and annoyed that I had to deal with this on Christmas day. Fortunately, the claims process with Geico was pretty quick and painless. The police also came pretty quickly for a non-emergency to complete a police report. Although, I think the police officer probably looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if there were cameras around which might have caught the culprit (the car was parked on a big thoroughfare in a street filled with commercial stores). Obviously I’ve watched too many episodes of CSI. I’m sure no one is reviewing cameras for a hit-and-run of a parked vehicle.

When I returned home, I was telling my wife about the damage and the $500 deductible that we’d have to pay. My four year old overhead and must have been able to tell that I was upset. He said, “don’t worry papa, they can fix it.” Sometimes my four year old is smarter than me. Yea, I’d have to pay the $500 deductible and it is large sum of money, but something that we can afford. It would be much tougher if we were part of the “shocking number” of Americans who couldn’t afford a $400 expense. We were also fortunate that the accident occurred to our parked vehicle and no one was in it and injured. I did also take two days off from work while the car was being repaired since I didn’t want to deal with the hassle and expense of getting a rental car and installing car seats. I’m also lucky that my employer allowed me to take time off and I have paid annual leave to do so. Luckily, it was a quiet week at work, with most people taking time off anyway. Ultimately, taking two days off was a blessing in disguise as it was frigid those two days and I was able to stay home with the little ones, not having to schlep them off to and from grandma’s while I go to work.

So all in all, it was a mere inconvenience. I should be grateful for the financial position I’m in, the job that I have, and that it wasn’t all that bad. Nothing to get all bent out of shape about. It’s often much better to look at the cup as half full rather than half empty.

“I Want You to WANT to Save!”

credit: Alice Pasqual (Unsplash)

credit: Alice Pasqual (Unsplash)


In the 2006 movie The Break-Up, there is a funny sequence where the Vince Vaughn character and the Jennifer Aniston character get into a huge fight. It’s pretty relatable for many couples who have dealt with similar circumstances.

So let me set the scene: After a dinner party with friends, Jennifer Aniston’s character (Brooke) wants to do the dishes. Vince Vaugh’s character (Gary) is playing Grand Theft Auto.

B: Well, I’m gonna go do the dishes.

G: Cool.

B: It’d be nice if you helped me.

G: No problem. A little bit later. I’m just gonna hit the streets here for a little bit (playing GTA).

B: Gary, come on, I don’t want to do them later. Let’s just do them now. It’ll take 15 minutes.

G: Honey, I am so exhausted. I just honestly want to relax for a little bit. If I could just sit here, let my food digest, and just try to enjoy the quiet for a little bit. Get some! Get some! Get some! (beating people with a club on GTA) That’s what happens. And we will…you know, we can clean the dishes tomorrow.

B: Gary, you know I don’t like waking up to a dirty kitchen.

G: Who cares?

B: I care! All right? I care! I busted my ass all day cleaning this house and then cooking that meal. And I worked today. It would be nice if you said thank you and helped me with the dishes.

G: Fine. I’ll help you do the damn dishes. (throwing his game controller down)

B: Oh, come on. You know what? No. See? That’s not what I want.

G: You just said that you want me to help you do the dishes.

B: I want you to want to do the dishes.

G: Why would I want to do dishes? Why?

B: See, that’s my whole point.

G: Let me see if I’m following this, okay? Are you telling me that you’re upset because I don’t have a strong desire to clean dishes?

B: No. I’m upset because you don’t have a strong desire to offer to do the dishes.

G: I just did.

B: After I asked you!

(Check out a clip of the scene here if you’re interested)

I’m a bit of a weirdo I guess because I really don’t mind doing dishes all that much and that’s with NO DISHWASHER! I’m no saint though because doing the dishes probably means I get out of doing some other chore I hate more!

Obviously no one really likes to do the dirty work, the grunt work, the menial tasks like washing the dishes. But it’s not really about doing dishes. It’s about sharing the household chores in a marriage and loving your spouse so you don’t want them to have to do these menial tasks all by themselves. Sure, everyone has those sweep-you-off-your-feet moments where you write a romantic poem for your wife. You bring her home fresh flowers when she’s feeling down. But no one really things of doing the menial tasks like washing dishes, cooking dinner or cleaning the bathroom as ROMANCE. These are thankless jobs. However, if you’re like me and your “love language” is “Acts of Service” then you probably feel loved when your spouse does these tasks so you don’t have to. Many people will profess their love for their significant other, but are they willing to do the little things to strengthen that relationship?

What does this have to do with Money?

Similar to the above example, a lot of people read exciting headlines about those who paid off a ton of debt in a short period of time, people who retired extremely early, or people who started a blog, making tons of money. A lot of people also make these their goals. Who wouldn’t want to attain these goals? But how many people want to do the dirty work to get there?

When it comes to paying off a ton of debt or saving up enough money to retire extremely early, you’ve got to save a lot of money. But who really wants to save? Who enjoys saving?

Who wants to cook their own meals rather than having something cook it for them?

Who wants to forego that Starbucks venti iced mocha latte?

Who gets joy out of watching their bank and investment account grow rather than spending your paycheck on new shoes or new iPhone X?

Who actually wants to set up a meeting with their spouse to discuss finances and to set up a budget?

When it comes to starting a business, who wants to sit down and actually do research on that industry and to write up a business plan?

For those aspiring money making bloggers, do you like learning about SEO and how to do stuff on Pinterest? (Oh boy, I don’t even know the proper terminology for that!?)

Once again, I am a weirdo, a financial weirdo, and so are some others in the personal finance world. We get great enjoyment pulling up our portfolio seeing how it has grown. Some people look forward to having a financial meeting with their spouse. Some even say that Budgets are Sexy!

That’s not the majority of the people though. Most people have these grand plans and goals, but how many follow through and actually put their plans into action. How many even take the first step towards that goal? It’s not a surprise that the majority of people’s New Year’s resolutions fail by February. Don’t tell me your grand plans and goals. Show me what you are doing right now to achieve them!

Behind every person who killed their debt, who achieved FIRE, or started a successful business is a trail of hard-work, discipline, and sacrifice. The goal is exciting and sexy, but the work that is required to get there, often is not. But if you truly want to attain that goal, you’ve got to do the unglamorous dirty work. If you are just all talk and no action, then don’t complain when you haven’t achieve those goals. Now go out there and start taking action. And don’t forget to help your spouse with the dishes!

What are your goals and what are you doing right now to achieve them?

That Time Image Mattered to Me

image is everything
I often like to think that I’m so emotionally mature that I don’t care about image at all. I don’t need expensive clothing, a luxury car, or high tech gadgets; and I don’t really care when people notice that I don’t have these things. It doesn’t matter to me. Until it did.

It was a Saturday morning and my wife was making breakfast when she noticed that we were running low on milk. I said I would get it from the supermarket which was only two blocks away. She asked me to bring our 15 month old son along with me, as he’s starting to climb on furniture and she wouldn’t be able to supervise him. My 4 year old didn’t want to come. He was too busy watching his cartoons.

On my way back from the supermarket, I stopped by my minivan to pick up a box of diapers I had bought the previous day. As I turned around, I saw a familiar face. It was a girl that I kind of went out with back in college. More accurately, I guess we hung out and then I was banished to the dreaded “friend zone” while she would go out with other guys. Anyway, long story short, back then I remember imagining myself being this successful guy with a fancy sports car and her regretting banishing me to the friend zone. Um, yea…I was kinda shallow and petty back in my college years. Sometimes, I still might be =) In defense of my pettiness and for some perspective, I want to disclose that I was a bit of a dork back in my college days…I still am…so that might be an explanation as to my pettiness!

In any case, I bump into her and she was with her husband. They were dressed up and probably going out to brunch. My hair was disheveled. I hadn’t shaved yet that day. I was wearing sweat pants, holding a box of Huggies diapers, and pushing a stroller, standing next to my minivan. We exchanged pleasantries and said how time has flown and that it was such a small world that we would bump into each other there.

After we parted ways and I was on my way back home, I was seething. Why couldn’t I have been driving a luxury SUV or something! Argh! Maybe I should have thrown on a nicer pair of jeans and combed my hair, before I left my house! I tried to remind myself why I don’t have a fancy car or expensive jeans. I have bigger goals: I want to be FI! But it’s not like I can show off by wearing a shirt that says “I’m on the Path to FIRE!” Did I mention that I can be shallow sometimes?

When I got home, I opened the door and my 4 year old jumped into my arms. “Where are we going today, papa?!” My 15 month old, still strapped in his stroller, stretches his arms out asking to be picked up too. My wife brings out breakfast. She made oatmeal and we’re also having Mickey Mouse shaped waffles.

I started to feel embarrassed. I was ashamed of myself for feeling like it mattered what someone I barely even knew thought about me. What really mattered were those people in that room with me at that moment. I have a loving and caring wife. I have two wonderful kids who adore me. Why did I waste my time in mental anguish over what someone else may or may not have thought about me.

Do you have any moments of weakness when you care too much as to what others may think of you?

Frugality is Just the First Step

credit: Neonbrand on Unsplash

credit: Neonbrand on Unsplash

One of the heated controversies in the personal finance world is whether you should focus on cutting your expenses or increasing your income. Team Cut Your Expenses argues that increasing your income won’t do much if you also inflate your lifestyle and spend more than you earn. Plenty of people have high incomes, yet, they are still living paycheck to paycheck. Team Increase Your Income argues that you shouldn’t “live within your means,” you should “expand your means.”
There is only so much expenses you can cut in your life and who wants to live a life of sacrifice and depravation. Why not increase your income as the potential of that is unlimited compared to saving a few bucks using a coupon. Team increase your income tells you that leaving below your means is depravation and cutting out lattes is unnecessarily, when you can just “expand your means.”

Increasing income by investing it is great but it takes money to make money. You need to be able to save money first to invest it. Building a business always sounds sexy and exciting, but it will most likely take a lot of work and time. There is no shortage of products out there trying to sell you on how you can increase your income. Some are scammy and shady, while others are probably truly trying to help the client. However, increasing your income will always require hard work and often times some luck. This doesn’t mean you should try. You absolutely should try to increase your income.

As frustrating it is to sometimes hear proponents of Team Increase Income bash frugality, sometimes Team Cut Your Expenses can be equally frustrating. Cutting coupons to save 25 cents and reusing dryer sheets is going to help you build wealth. And spending your valuable time doing these tasks will keep you from finding path to finding wealth. Another issue with those who tout frugality is when I read blogs where the writer shuns consumerism and embraces frugality and makes it appear as some unknown magic elixir. They write about how they cut out some costs in their lives a few years ago and will soon retire early. Wow, that easy right? Just don’t buy stuff you can’t afford! Yes, this is great advice but there’s something missing. A good INCOME! There are many who already shun consumerism and are frugal, but are doing it because that’s the only way they can get by. It cannot be disputed that it is much easier to save a large percentage of your income when you have a larger income. While it is impressive to have a high savings rate when other similarly high income people spend it all, it is obvious that Income Matters.

So which side is right? Most people love taking one side and forcefully arguing it. Maybe it’s someone who touts frugality but doesn’t know ways to increase his or her income. Maybe it’s a guru trying to sell you their product which will increase your income. Everyone chooses a side. Most people have an agenda. The real answer, however, is that both sides make valid points. But, why can’t you do both? Why can’t you cut down your expenses while trying to increase your income! With that said, frugality is the first step.

Frugality is the first step because it is much easier. Just follow the rule: Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford and don’t need! Voila! You’ve saved money. Call up internet provider and ask for a discount. Switch to generic brands. Find a more affordable cellphone plan. Cut cable television. Cook meals and bring your lunch to work. All actionable steps which can easily be taken which will save you money not just once but over the long term. No need to learn SEO or WordPress to build a blog telling other people how to make money by starting a blog. No need to create and sell an online course about how to build online courses to sell to people. No need to publish and market a book about how to make money publishing and marketing books. No need to learn the ins and outs of real estate investing. While these skills can be great and something you might want to learn to increase your income, let’s start with the low hanging fruit.

Frugality is also an essential first step if you have debt and/or low cash reserves. It is much harder to increase your income either through a business or investment if you have debt. One of my friends struggling with debt often talks about wanting to invest in stocks or start a side business, but is struggling with a large credit card burden. How are you going to invest money in stocks or invest money in starting a business when you’re in a ton of debt? It would be akin to going for a brisk walk in the mornings as exercise, while eating hamburgers, fries and soda at lunch every day.

Once you’ve gotten your expenses under control, you should focus on income. Obviously, there are things that you can do concurrently, like learning new skills to find a better paying job, looking for a better job, asking your current employer for a raise, or working on a side hustle with low start up costs. However, if you plan on increasing your income by starting a business or investing in stocks or real estate, you’ll need some money. Having your expenses under control will form the foundation for you to increase your income. You will have money to invest in either your business or in stocks/real estate. You will also have an emergency fund as a buffer so that you are not at financial risk if you suffer a setback. That emergency fund will give you the courage to find a better paying job or start your own business.

Are you on Team Cut Your Expenses or Team Increase Your Income or both?