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.
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!)
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.
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?