Tag Archives: Money

Dark Clouds and Their Linings

I work for the Maine CDC.  I mention this because beginning at 12:01 AM July 1, 2017 Maine government shut down for three days due to lack of a budget.  There is much I could say about that, but this is neither the time nor the place.  What I’d like to relay to you is how my spending habits changed for those three days.

As soon as it became clear that the shutdown was going to happen, I curtailed my discretionary spending.  That is to say, on July 1, 2, and 3 I did not buy anything besides groceries.  I did go see a dinner musical with friends but we had already bought the tickets a while ago.  What I found enlightening was how easy it was to not spend on frivolous things.  I made coffee instead of going out and buying it.  I read some e-books and e-zines I already had.  I made my own meals (again, the sole exception being the show I went to).

While I was (and to a degree remain) annoyed by the shutdown that kept me out for work and which had every appearance of going on for a couple weeks, it was a valuable lesson on spending and priorities.  I guess this cloud really did have a silver lining!

It’s amazing what you don’t need to spend money on.

Spending Less Than a Little

In the June issue of Success Magazine there is an article which poses the question: can you spend money only on essentials for one month?  As written in the table of contents “No fancy coffee.  No new clothes.  No eating out.  Nothing fun.  Do you have the self-discipline to go a month without spending money on unnecessary items?”  Wow…nothing fun?

I honestly don’t know if I have that kind of self-discipline.  Thinking about it, here is what I come up with as “necessary”: basic food for me and my cats, prescriptions, soap and toilet paper, mortgage, utilities, gasoline for commuting to work, and my church offering.  So that would mean for me foregoing my weekly dinner out with friends; three takeout coffees per day-black, no sugar; no purchased snacks during the day; no comic books, movies, or Amazon Prime video rentals; no impulse purchases; and so on.  I admit that while I don’t buy a lot of new clothes (hardly any unless something wears out, in fact) and other household items, I also don’t pay a lot attention to my “nickel and dime” expenses.  As an aside, that is clearly an outdated phrase!

I’m honestly not prepared to go a whole month on a no-spending spree.  I will though commit to keeping detailed track of my expenses for a week beginning when I wake up tomorrow.  Care to join me?

A little bit at a time will eventually add up to a lot.

Benefits of a Light Wallet

Do you remember what Joker (Heath Ledger) said about “normal” in The Dark Knight?  He said “Normal is what everyone else is, and you’re not.” That could be applied to any number of situations if you think about it.  The situation I thought of today when I remembered that quote about being normal was rampant consumerism versus decrappification.

Buying without regard to the consequences has become a normal situation in current American society. Perhaps I should say “condition” rather than “situation” though.  The compelling need to buy things for the sake of buying them, often with people putting themselves into debt to do so, can be likened to an addiction if not a disease. Fortunately there are treatments and cures for this condition.

I’m not saying it would be easy, but just like quitting tobacco cold turkey one can cut down if not eliminate unnecessary purchases.  One thing that can be done is to carry a limited amount of cash day to day and leave credit and debit cards and your checkbook at home.  That way, if you are in a store and all you have on you is a couple $20 bills, you aren’t going to buy much.   Simply put, you can’t buy it if you can’t physically pay for it.

If you really want or need something that entails spending more than the cash you have on hand, this method of enforced self-control will give you some time to think about the purchase and decide if it is need or desire which motivates you.  Also, paying for things in cash makes the purchase much harder to gloss over since you are handing over real money to someone.  Last but not least, nobody paying cash ever suffered from a data breach. (That’s a joke-sort of.)

A light but not empty  wallet.

Not having lots of cash on hand necessarily limits spending.

Save Money By Being Healthy

Americans spent nearly $25 billion on health care in 2009, according to the US Census Bureau. Many of these costs could have been minimized or avoided if more people paid attention to their health in the first place. Obesity related maladies such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon), high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, stroke, and osteoarthritis can be mitigated by regular exercise and proper nutrition. Avoid the disease and you avoid the costs of treating them.

Consider dyslipidemia, otherwise known as high cholesterol. I was on two statins for more a decade, and my total cholesterol never got below 220. Two years ago I began exercising and drinking Shakeology. Currently, my total cholesterol is 189, with no statins involved because I exercise regularly and eat wisely. I was paying $60.00 per month for the meds, and that money is now staying in my pocket.

Assuming $6.00 per meal, a steady diet of fast food works out to $2,184.00 per year. Conversely, the average cost for the first 90 days following a heart attack is $38,501, with another $14,000 on hospital bills in the year after a heart attack, plus additional bills for physicians and outpatient care. Eating a diet comprised of low carbohydrates, fresh or frozen vegetables, and lean protein costs about the same as the fast food, and will mitigate the risk factors associated with heart disease. It certainly costs less than the $52,000.00 bill to treat a heart attack.

So here’s the deal. Eat healthy food. Exercise on a regular basis. Save money by avoiding medications and hospital bills. It’s just good sense.