I’m a Rich person, Let me tell you how to be Poor!
The inspiration for this post started two weeks ago. My wife and I had to evacuate the house temporarily (family reasons) so we took refuge in the local library. While we were there my wife picked up a book called “Suddenly Frugal” by Leah Ingram. Out of boredom, humor, and the third grade writing style of the author, she tore through the whole book in a matter of hours. This has started her on a interest in financial advice media. For that I am proud of her (and thankful for her) as I am far less meticulous as I should be when it comes to finances. But back to this book, I asked her if there was any helpful advice in “Suddenly Frugal” and she pretty much stated stuff that the book was full of stuff we already do better than the author.
This brought me to an awareness of yet another deeply felt gripe that goes right along with my loathing of motivational speakers and lots of other general self help guru’s. I hate rich people selling books about being frugal to poor people. And so, I present this rant/review of the book.
Pretty early in the book Ms. Ingram talks at length about how much you can save by cooking at home…
The way she puts it, it sounds like before her family went frugal, they were eating out one or more times a week. Why this information is useless to us? Because we eat out maybe once every other month, and when we do, it is usually at Chipotle, 1 Veggie bowl with free guac and two free tortillas and my wife and I make our own burritos, that is our most expensive meal, ringing in at 3.75 a plate with tax. We cook at home at pretty much every opportunity, our only other choice is to basically say “Eff it! This ain’t gonna get better lets just drown ourselves in credit card debt.”
And like I said two blog posts ago, I’m lucky. I realize I am lucky. There are loads of people who live in housing conditions that don’t even allow them to engage in this frugal practice. The author doesn’t seem to realize that there are lots of people who have no room for a pantry, have tiny cramped and poorly furnished kitchens. A lot of her strategies at living on less involve having the living space and sufficient income to start with to acquire certain tools such as a chest freezer and… wait for it… a soda stream! WTF?!?!
Next up she has a lengthy chapter about shopping, in particular, about shopping for clothes, groceries, and school supplies. As far as we poor people are concerned, we buy clothes only when we need them, we buy whatever has the lowest price tag and looks like it will hold up, and we keep our wardrobe small and multi seasonal. We aren’t super fashion savvy unless it is needed to pass in some social situation. Groceries… no new info there as can be seen from the previous paragraph, and school supplies, we didn’t need this section as we currently can’t even afford giving birth to a baby.
The next chapter’s atrocity was the revelation she dumps right in the middle about owning an Xbox, PlayStation and suddenly realizing it was time to clean out the playroom one christmas as they surprised their children with a new Wii… In my early college years I will admit I splurged and got a Wii and later an Xbox (at the pressure of my friends who all wanted me to play games with them.) Those were soon liquidated to cover other expenses that came up. I don’t think there is anything wrong with owning consoles, but if you are going to own them, don’t set yourself up as a bastion of frugality. PC’s are much cheaper gaming platforms than consoles anyway.
Chapter 5… Dear God, You Were Still Paying For Cable TV?!?!?! (Checks to see publication date… 2010. Still unacceptable). That is almost as reprehensible as actually watching TV. You aged demographic. You know what my entertainment budget looks like… I’ll say I have trimmed, I used to buy about $15 a month in computer game bundles and whatever the cost of internet was. I have amassed enough games that I could probably stop paying for games altogether and play what I have till I die. A good rule of thumb for entertainment is if you are getting an hour of enjoyment for each dollar you pay, you are getting a good deal. Now that I am in the financial straits I am in, I have completely almost stopped looking at computer game bundles.
The Car Chapter… She bought a $20,000 used vehicle, after driving her old vehicle, which they bought NEW OFF THE LOT, into the ground in 8 (EIGHT) short years. I nearly fell off my chair when I first heard this… You really had to practice neglect or market ignorance in order to run your new vehicle into the dirt in eight years. The last car we bought was a used 2004 nissan for $5000 and it is still going strong after its 11 years (150k+ miles) of life.
Utilities and lights. The only notable moment of stupidity in this chapter is switching to CFLs for the reason of, “They produce less heat so your air conditioning won’t have to work so hard in the summer.” Switching to CFLs (or even better, LEDs if you can shell out for it) is a good idea, but because it consumes less electricity and last longer (supposedly)… The heat your light bulbs produce is pretty negligible in the long run. Then if you really want the poor person’s experience, actually follow this woman’s advice, don’t ever turn your lights on. She brags about putting on her makeup, reading the newspaper and emptying the dishwasher with “nary a light on”. I get dressed in the dark because I don’t want to wake my wife. Does that Count? Also, you have to have a house in order to implement most of the suggestions in this chapter.
The laundry and cleaning chapter… Do your own Dry Cleaning? You used to be able to afford dry cleaning? I can’t afford to dress fancy enough to require dry cleaning. I also don’t have a job that pays me well enough to require me to have an outfit that needs dry cleaning. Oh, and if you earn enough that you can buy an APPLE COMPUTER, you can sign up for free design classes… This whole chapter once again screams, I’m richer than you, let me pretend I’m poor by mixing my own laundry detergent in my big kitchen in my big home.
Renovations and Remodeling. You OWN YOUR OWN HOME!!! Nuff said.
Gardening. see above. I like gardening, but it requires you to be rich enough to own your own land, or have a landlord that is chill enough to risk you ripping up the yard to plant tomatoes and cucumbers.
The rest of the book culminates in a chapter on Vacations. I don’t even get paid holidays. I am likely going to miss the wedding of close family members because I can’t afford the plane ticket or the time off of work.
Alright. So I admit, we are probably not the target demographic for this book. But seriously, telling rich people how to spend less money so they can keep more of their hard earned (or ill gotten) gains, where is the good in that? I am sure I’ll be covering this subject again in later posts. My wife and I have engaged in interesting discussions over the past weeks about the ethicality of the stock market investment model, establishing economic independence on various passive income strategies and the overall relationship between the rich, the poor, and greed. But this post is long enough and rambled on poorly.
But one last thing that my wife noted about the book. The author was spurred on to writing her blog and subsequent book as they bought a big house that was a little “beyond” their financial reach (with their current spending habits) and were going into debt. But the author never wrapped up at the end to say whether or not her family actually got out of debt. Well, one thing’s for sure, I won’t be saving the proposed $25,000 a year as advertized on the front cover of the book by following the advice therein, because I wasn’t financially stupid and loose to begin with.
Thanks again to those who have “liked” my last post, including a return of the guy who writes political pieces that I mentioned in my last post. However, I do have one more “follower” who seems to gobble up and vend self help stuff left and right. Why she would follow a blog like this which clearly calls bullshit on most of that industry and it’s empty promises, I’ll never know. Mayhaps they are just a bot. Yeah, probably just a bot.