Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cheap Offs Vs Change

I love a good cheap off! Competing to see who can save the most money- I bought a scarf for 50 cents! I bring tea in a thermos to work! I don't have a TV!- can be an exciting and fun high. The problem comes in when we start thinking that cheap offs can actually solve problems for others. Thinking our credit card debt problems can be cured by taking tea in a thermos or that poverty would be wiped out if only folks didn't smoke cigarettes. In these economic times when people are charging groceries on credit, talking about tea in thermoses as if the debts were caused by Starbucks misses the point completely. Not to mention the many other debts people incur- car break downs, medical debts, and the high cost of educational testing nowadays[folks are trying to charge me $300 to take a test!] So when we ignore all those issues, and focus on whether people should smoke a cig or drink starbucks, we're getting off point.

But you may say, my cousin Niecey goes out and smokes all the time and is always asking for money for diapers! There's a saying in legal circles- hard cases make for bad law. Your cousin Niecey may in fact be an idiot. But have idiots ever improved through lectures? When we're focusing on those few unrepentant cases[ or even worse, focusing on a fifth hand story about someone you don't know] we could be focusing on real ways to make a change in people's situations.

Being a cheap bastard is a lifestyle choice and is a lot of fun, but let's not kid ourselves. If you're 10k in student loan debt, not going to starbucks isn't going to make your situation that much better. If your rent is $1000 a month, cutting out that $25 a month cable not going to make a huge dent.

I think we talk like this because it's reassuring. In these tough times, it's nice to think you'll be protected from financial disaster merely by taking your lunch to work. We don't want to think that virtuous people like us could have bumps in the road. It's also nice to think that people who aren't virtuous like us will be punished. Sadly, the world doesn't work that way and the faster we realize that, the faster things will get better for all of us.


Meekiyu said...

True... very true... but when we can't control any of that stuff it always feels good to control what we can control like bringing lunch instead of buying etc. Personally I'm in the 10k of students loans and I pay it back slowly and by cutting back on the tiny things I can pay it off faster... makes me think thou =(

Pfeiffer Photos said...

Cutting back will make a difference over time but there is no short-term, quick fix to any debt or financial crisis situation. Having a budget and marking every dollar for a purpose--on paper--every month (or every paycheck) is the best way to go. Pay cash, dump credit. Pay off debts smallest to largest (ignore the interest rates) and it encourages you more and more each time something is knocked out. Yes, sounds too simple, too old fashioned, and yes, very Dave Ramsey...and yes, it really does matter how much or little you earn or owe.

Nothing wrong with living cheap--I just call it being thrifty!

SapphireChild said...

This is both funny, entertaining, and fairly accurate. Fixing a big problem needs big changes and cutbacks. However, making those little cutbacks are a good place to start as any. Rant on! :)

shannon said...

I think I'm thinking about having 8 folks in the house and you make 30k a year. Or even just you have 3 kids and make 10k a year. This is more common than you might think. Or even you make 30k per year and are 16 k in school debt. I'm not talking about the sort of people who can afford to send their kid to a 20k school by not paying 25$ a month for cable, here.[although I'm not sure if those people really exist!]

Our economy is tanking, folks. We're in for a rough ride. When people are swept overboard by this and we're still talking about sandwiches, we'll seem out of touch and even worse, we will be.

fly tie said...

*annoyed by the fact that i may have to pay 100 + dollar to take the GRE (again) if i decide to go to grad school next fall* sucks.

just the other day i was thinking of something similar to what you've written here. the gist of my pondering about small cutbacks and such was, "will it really matter in the end??" i've yet to come to any conclusion (leaning towards "not really"), but i like what you had to say about it as well as others who left comments.

*nominates shannon to have her own column in somebody's newspaper*