Thursday, September 19, 2013
[Okay I know this is a ridiculously long story but if you wait for me to figure out which parts are actually relevant and edit it appropriately I'll never get it up. I just need to write and post. I'll put up a summary when it's all written with key points. People who want to know about this but have limited patience for rambling writing can just wait for that.]
I had a conversation the other night with someone I know who doesn’t own a car but sometimes needs one when she travels, and she talked about how complicated that is, that the whole system is designed for people who have cars all the time, and if you don’t, you have to get crazy expensive insurance and it feels like highway robbery. (And for any of you who find yourself in this position, she said that the solution she finally came up with is to use Hotwire, they offer relatively cheap insurance with their cars. Now you know.)
I said this is the same problem I have with cell phones, the system is set up for people to have a phone all the time, every day, not to have a phone when they go out of town, which is the only time I want or need a cell phone.
And that conversation inspired me to finally write this post. Because I think I have (more or less) solved the phone problem — at long last, I finally have a Sometimes Phone.
When you say you don’t have a phone but need one sometimes, people say, “Just get a pay-as-you-go phone.” This is always suggested by someone who knows absolutely nothing about pay-as-you-go phones.
It would be nice if you could get a pay-as-you-go phone and then pay when you wanted to use it and not pay when you didn’t need it then when you needed it again put more money on it. However this is not how pay-as-you-go phones work.
When you get a pay-as-you-go phone, you create an account with a carrier and they give you a phone number and you put money on the phone on a regular basis to keep it active. How often you have to put money on the phone depends on how much money you put on in the first place, and the carrier, and all kinds of other variables that I am not remembering right now because I have blocked this whole thing from my memory, because it is such a pain in the ass.
Every carrier is different and trying to compare plans is extremely difficult. I am like a total superstar at stuff like this and even I am unable to properly run numbers and come up with a rational conclusion.
So I will just say that generally what I found is that in order to get a low per-minute rate, you need to buy quite a lot of minutes each month, at which point you might as well just get a monthly plan because you’re spending the same amount.
For a long time (spring 2003 to fall 2012) I had a Virgin Mobile plan that did what I needed and was pretty cost-effective. I had to put on $20 every 90 days ($15 every 90 days if I linked it to my credit card and had it top up automatically) and the rate was twenty-five cents a minute for the first ten minutes a day I used the phone, and ten cents a minute after that. So how many minutes my $15 or $20 got me depended on how I used the phone. Days that I talked more got me more minutes than days that I talked less.
Some carriers charge a lower per-minute rate but have a flat fees for using the phone — like I think AT&T or T-Mobile charges a dollar for every day you use the phone.
Really the only way to compare is to have a sense of how you are likely to use the phone, then run the numbers for the various options through that scenario and see which one works for you. (But like I said, it’s hard. You definitely need a spreadsheet.)
Because I didn’t need to use the phone very much, I didn’t particularly care about the per-minute rate, I just wanted to have a low minimum. Which is why I liked the Virgin Mobile plan.
But when my phone mysteriously disappeared in September 2012, I looked at it as an opportunity to stop paying $15 every 90 days for something I barely used.
Eighty per cent of my life, I am within arm’s reach of a phone. The other twenty per cent I am taking a break and do not want to talk on the phone. If you want to talk to me, you can leave a message and I will call you back when I am again within arm’s reach of the phone.
The exception to this is when I travel.
Traveling without a phone is often complicated, because everyone expects you to have a phone, so they set things up assuming you have a phone. Okay, call me when you get to town.
It is not actually all that complicated to arrange things so that a phone is not required, but in order to do that, you have to tell people you do not have a phone. And saying you do not have a phone makes you sound like some kind of nut job. What do you mean you don’t have a phone.
So I would like a phone when I travel, so I don’t have to make people go back in time and remember what it’s like to make plans without cell phone, or explain to people I don’t see very often why I don’t have a phone. I’m trying to fly under the radar here.
But I do not want to pay for a phone every month of my life just so I have it the few times a year when I am not at home.
At a nonprofit tech group I participate in, I learned about Google Voice, and that you could get a number that you could send texts from. This was a hugely useful piece of information, it meant that I could use my computer in place of a cell phone. Since I am nearly always in close proximity to my computer, this solved nearly all of my communication problems.
Except if I actually needed to talk to someone on the phone when I am not in a house or office with a phone, or with my computer in a place with wi-fi.
I had a trip in June that I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to pull off. I was on the trip and was discussing it a lunch with a friend whose family lives everywhere (mother in France, sister in London, father in Switzerland, in-laws in Mexico), and he said something that I thought was the usual pay-as-you-go suggestion.
I said, “Right, but you have to pay all the time to keep it active, what am I going to do, get a new phone every time I take a trip?”
He said, “No, not a new phone, just a SIM card. You need a GSM phone. An unlocked phone that you just put a SIM card into.”
After we were done with lunch and I was back to my computer, I looked into it a little bit and discovered ReadySIM, which was designed for Canadians who are visiting the U.S. and want a short-term phone plan to avoid the crazy roaming charges the would get otherwise. You get a SIM card with an unlimited phone plan that is good for 3, 7, 14, or 30 days. The three-day card is $15, the thirty-day card is $40.
I almost made it through the trip in June without a hitch.
I ran into traffic driving from Connecticut to Philadelphia and couldn’t call my friend and tell her where I was. I hadn’t told her I didn’t have a phone (had texted her from Google Voice) so she was calling and texting wondering what was going on. Other than that, I pulled it off (though I cheated a bit and borrowed a friend’s iPad, which made surreptitious GV texting easier).
But then close on the heels of that trip, I had a second trip set up for July which was going to be much more complicated. I decided I needed to try to figure out the phone.
I looked online for “unlocked GSM phone.” A whole bunch of places came up, Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart. I’m like oh, great, this is going to be totally easy. Everyone has them. Prices ranged from $20 to $800, there were a million options.
Because it seems like this is going to work, no problem, I order a 14-day ReadySim SIM card. I get the full service one (talk-text-data), I’m totally ready, just need the phone.
But I’m totally busy recovering from the first trip. I do manage to stop at a nearby Radio Shack, but they don’t carry any unlocked phones. I’m busy. I take no further action. I have a meeting on Friday that is in the direction of all the Big Box retailers. I’m like this is fine, I’ll just deal with it on Friday.
So on Friday, I go to the Best Buy Mobile store, which is a Best Buy store that just carries phones and phone service, no tvs or refrigerators or anything like that, I’m thinking this is just what I need, and I walk in and as about unlocked GSM phones and the sales person says, “No we don’t carry any unlocked phones.” I say, but your website says you sell them. She says, “Right, we only sell those online.”
It is now Friday at 4pm. I am leaving on my trip Tuesday morning, my flight leaves at 9:30am. Ordering online, not a good option. And I was so confident that I could get the phone at Best Buy that I took the bus. Which means I can’t even stop at the other stores to see what they have.
I take the bus home and go online and start looking around and calling to see if anyone local carries unlocked GSM phones. I become obsessed with this. All the while kicking myself for being a procrastinating moron.
I call four or five places, I ask if they have unlocked GSM phones, they say no. (Later I realize I should have just asked for unlocked phones, which I’m pretty sure are all GSM phones. I think people who didn’t know what a GSM phone was just said no because they didn’t know what I was talking about, even if they carried unlocked phones.)
I finally call this cell phone store off Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, I ask if they have unlocked GSM phones. They say, “Yup, we do. ” I said, “Really?” They said, “Yeah, sure. Uh huh.”
I find out exactly where they are located and tell them I’ll be in on Saturday.
After my work shift on Saturday, I drive through a thunderstorm to Raleigh and find the store, which happens to be in the same shopping center as TigerDirect, which I had called on Friday, and they told me they carry unlocked GSM phones, but didn’t have any in stock, they should be getting some in next week. Not so helpful when I was leaving on Tuesday morning.
I walk into the little cell phone store, I ask about unlocked phones, the guy is like “Mmmm … no, I don’t think so. We had one but we sold it.”
Gaahhh, round two.
A discussion ensues among the four people working in the store whether or not they have anything that would work for me and what it might be. They say they have a Windows phone that has never been used or put on a network, that might work. It’s over $250. Way more than I want to spend on something that may or may not work the way I want to. Plus Windows. No. They have one other possible option that is also out of my price range, $350 or something like that.
No go. I leave the store.
I decide to stop at TigerDirect, since it’s right there.
They have a little phone display with a bunch of different options and I look and notice that they do in fact have several phones in stock under the display shelf.
I talk to a sales person and tell him what I’m looking for and we look at the what they have and there are basically two that will work, a small Samsung and a Motorola Droid Pro.
I will say right now that I know people love their iPhones and iPads but I cannot tell you how much I hate those effing keyboards on those things. I hate having to switch between letters and numbers and clearly this is a deeply flawed system that everyone has to make a note about typos as part of their signature. Hello. Not good.
The Samsung was tiny and had a touch-screen keyboard. The Droid Pro had a fairly large screen and a physical keyboard. They were both the same price ($139). I bought the Droid Pro.
Stay tuned for Part II about how I actually set up the phone and got it to work (with pictures! I promise!)
Sunday, August 25, 2013
After I graduated college and found my first job, the final order of business for my parents to launch me into adulthood was to get me set up with a car. The arrangement they offered was to make a down payment on the new vehicle of my choice and to co-sign on a loan for the balance, with payments of around two hundred dollars a month for three years. (The amount of the down payment would depend on the amount of the car and the interest rate of the loan. Implicit in this arrangement was the idea that the car I picked out would be reasonable. No Maseratis.)
[And for the record, if you are a car-buying kind of family and can afford this, I think this is a great strategy. Your kids go through the car-buying process to learn how that works, they get to start life with a good, reliable car that is unlikely to start having mechanical problems for quite some time, and by paying off the loan, they get a credit history. Also they feel like they earned the car, it wasn't given to them, because they are paying for it every month for three years. It's always better to earn things yourself than to be given them.
And then once they are done with the car loan, they can save the money they've been paying on the note for something else. My mom pointed this out to me once, she said, "When you're done paying the loan, you can save that two hundred dollars a month for the down payment for your next car." And I said, "Okay," while thinking, "But I have a car, why would I need a new one?"]
So that was the deal.
We went out car shopping and I test drove a bunch of different cars and liked some and didn’t like some and the car I ended up selecting was a black Mazda 323 with an “off-black” interior. (I remember this detail because I told a friend about it, and he said, “Hmm, off-black … Would that be … gray?”)
I took possession of the car in September 1989 and packed it up and drove it off to my new life in Princeton, New Jersey, with pretty much everything I owned stuffed inside. (One of the nice things about the car was that it fit much more than you would think, the trunk was positively huge, and the seats folded down giving you a very large interior space.) My parents brought the leftovers with them a few months later when they came for a visit, and then I really did have everything I owned with me.
The picture above is from my parents’ visit in the fall of 1989, I think in October. I’m standing with the car, in all its shiny newness, with my mom (and my housemate’s Volvo) in the background. The car is parked in front of the house I lived in, which was a very beautiful old farmhouse built in the 1700s. It had a little plaque on the door that identified it as the Bernardus Van Zandt House.
[In case you are wondering about the house, at that time it was split into two parts, the upper left quadrant of the house, top three windows in the picture, was a separate apartment. I sublet a small bedroom for four-hundred dollars a month, utilities included, from the person who rented the main part of the house. For the first year or so that I lived there, Susan and I were the only people living there -- plus one standard poodle, named Daisy, who was a very smart and funny dog -- and Susan was gone most of the time. The whole process of finding a place to live in Princeton was an ordeal, but it turned out okay in the end.]
On Friday, August 23, 2013, I sold the car. Which I had had in my possession, and driven as my primary vehicle, the entire time, for almost exactly twenty-four years.
It still drove great and got great gas mileage, and I probably would have driven it for the rest of my life, except that last year, I got a new car.
This is my new car.
The Miata belonged to my Auntie Fran, who passed away in December 2011. Through a slightly complicated series of events that I will spare you the details of, I ended up with the car.
It is a 1990 and had just over 41,000 miles on it when I picked it up at my parents’ house last August. Prior to that, it had spent its whole life on an island (Lopez, in the San Juan Islands of Washington State) and was not my aunt’s primary vehicle. There’s not really anywhere to go on Lopez, it’s hard to put a lot of miles on a car that you just drive around the island for fun.
My aunt liked sporty cars. I remember she drove an MG for a while when I was young, and then later had a white Jaguar with a red leather interior that was very beautiful, but was forever going into the shop.
One of the reasons I am enjoying driving the Miata is because it reminds me of my aunt, the fun and interesting things about her.
Since I picked up the Miata last year, I’ve had two cars. Now, I barely even need one car, I certainly don’t need two. And the thing about driving is that it’s mostly instinctive. You get in your car and do what you do. You don’t think about it.
After I got the Miata, and still had the 323, I would switch back and forth between the cars, sometimes drive the Miata and sometimes the 323. I quickly realized that this was a bad idea. The cars are similar in many ways — they are both Mazdas, both made around the same time, both stick shift — but the way they drive is completely different.
The Miata is a sports car. It is very low to the ground. It has good pickup, and can take turns at high rates of speed. It is designed for zipping around.
The 323, to say the least, is not.
I would find myself driving along in the 323 doing what I’m doing and inadvertently making very bad decisions. I would see a yellow light where I was turning left and think that I could make it, no problem. But I wouldn’t have enough pickup to get to the light in the time I thought, and then I was going much too fast for the turn. Whooaahh….
Made things exciting. But I was like okay I think this is not going to work.
Also once I started driving a nice, solidly built car with less than 50,000 miles on it, my 323 started to feel like a tin can. I noticed all of the quirks, all of the rattles, all of the broken things. Not to mention that I had to pay to register and insure it, and I still had to maintain it and put gas in it.
I knew it was time.
It was time to find the 323 a new home.
I thought about donating it but the first organization I contacted did not get back to me after I told them how many miles it had on it (for the record, 162,345, not bad for a twenty-four year old car). So then I reached out to friends to see if anyone knew someone in the market for a sweet, reliable, little used car. (I said I felt like I was trying to find a new home for an aging pet.)
A friend I used to work with said she might know someone. She put us in touch, we emailed, they came and took the car for a test drive, I gave the prospective buyer my printout from the database I kept with all of the work I’d ever done on it from 1989 to the present.
She was smitten.
She had lost her car last year in a wreck in the middle of Kansas while driving with a friend to Burning Man. Her friend was driving, she was sleeping in the back seat, it was raining, they got sideswiped by a semi. The car was totalled. (Fortunately, neither of them was seriously injured.) She works for an artists’ collaborative in Greensboro called Elsewhere, where no one gets paid hardly anything, they’re like indentured servants there. She hadn’t been able to find a good car at a price she could afford. I agreed to sell her the car for a hundred dollars.
I delivered the car to her on Friday. Earlier in the week, I took it for an oil change and a once-over by a mechanic to make sure it all looked okay. (It did.) Before I dropped it off, I filled the tank with gas. (When I told her it had a full tank of gas, she said, “Oh my gosh, you’re like my fairy godmother!”)
She has a new car now. This is its new home (though not its new owner, just some folks enjoying the window swings).
I think it will like it there. So much more interesting than my house.
I texted a friend after I delivered the car, telling her I’d sold it. I said, “The person who bought the car is WAY more excited to have it than I’ve been about that car in a long time.”
So that is all good.
I no longer have to worry about taking care of a car I don’t need, and someone who didn’t have a car is completely thrilled to have it.
But right now it still feels really weird to not have that car in my life.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
I recently purchased an Android phone (but not a permanent phone plan — possible future post coming about The Sometimes Phone, a long-awaited and finally realized dream).
The phone part I can take or leave, but I liked having a camera in my pocket wherever I went on my last trip.
One thing I noticed is that having a camera with you all the time serves to highlight what you find interesting. You see something and think, oh I should take a picture of that.
Having a camera with me all the time has highlighted for me the fact that I have a small fascination with signage. I guess it makes sense, I’m someone who spends a lot of time trying to explain things to people; of course I might find it interesting to see what other people do when they are trying to explain things in as few words as possible.
It turns out that I especially like oddly specific signs.
Like this one.
I don’t know, it just seems so … thorough. Like anyone who suddenly found themselves in front of that door and didn’t know what to do was totally covered. It’s okay, honey, here’s what you do.
If only every door we ever found ourselves in front of was so accommodating.
Friday, August 2, 2013
A friend of mine taught art at an elementary school down the street for a while a few years ago. One of her projects involved collecting a small portion of the leftover campaign signs that litter our highways and byways during election season, and having her students make campaign signs of their own out of them.
So one day, on my way to somewhere else (probably Scrap Exchange), I walked past to see the grassy area in front of the school carpeted with colorful, hand-drawn signs with all manner of advice.
I couldn’t tell you if there were common themes, because I don’t remember what most of them said, except for one. It said, “Be nice to everyone, even at school.”
Except that “nice” was spelled “niss,” and “school” was also spelled in some alternative, highly phonetic manner, so I had to study it for a minute as I walked by to try to figure out just exactly what it said. But once I made sense of it I loved it, and wish I had taken a picture of it, because the words alone fail to capture the true essence of the sign.
Be niss to everyone
even at scoul
I think of that sign often, and was reminded of it when I saw the Very Official signs in Cooperstown, New York advising us all not to throw stones.
Hard to argue with either of those.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
I wrote recently about my mysterious obsession with Get Rich Slowly. As noted, one of the most interesting parts of J.D’s journey for me was when he decided that he was being “too frugal.”
At the time, the statement reminded me of one of my favorite articles in The Tightwad Gazette where Amy Dacyczyn (a.k.a. the Frugal Zealot, or FZ) addresses that very question: Is it possible to be too frugal?
I considered posting a comment on GRS about it, and I considered putting up my own blog post to explore it more fully, but in the end, I did neither.
Though I did write up some thoughts, because I felt like this was one of the more important concepts that Amy Dacyzyn talked about. And it feels like this is a common theme, for people who want to spend less money but aren’t able to get there, to look at people who do spend less money and say, “Well maybe that works for them but it just isn’t possible for me, it’s too much.” (It sounds like Mr. Money Mustache also gets his fair share of comments from people who think he is “too extreme” and that his approach is not workable for the average person.)
So it seems like this remains a question worth looking at: Can one be too frugal?
As FZ notes:
Most people think of frugality only in terms of saving money. Under that narrow definition, the answer would clearly be “Yes, you can be too frugal.” But if you look up frugal in the dictionary, you’ll find it isn’t defined specifically as having to do only with money. It’s defined as “not wasteful,” “economical,” or “thrifty.” These terms can apply to the expenditure of any resource.
All of us attempt to achieve the highest quality of life possible by balancing four basic resources: money, time, space, and personal energy. Because these resources are interconnected in an intricate way, frugality must encompass more than money; we must manage these four things in relationship to one another.
When people think of frugality run amok, they’re usually reflecting on situations when these resources are out of balance and this imbalance hurts the quality of life.
She goes on to discuss the example of “Thelma,” a person whose brother refers to as a real frugal person who doesn’t throw anything away, instead saving items she might later find a use for — bread bags, egg cartons, toilet paper tubes, etc.
Her brother says, “I just can’t live that way. I guess I’m not the tightwad type.”
FZ points out that the problem with Thelma is not her frugality, but that she is out of balance.
While Thelma may save on having to buy plastic bags, her excessive “pack ratting” will cause her to spend far more time and energy than she would otherwise: she needs a larger house (or even rented storage space) to keep everything; she can’t find things when she needs them and ends up spending time looking for them or having to going out at the last minute to buy new things; she doesn’t have space to work on projects that could save much more money than she saves from not buying plastic bags.
In contrast, “a shrewd, successful frugal person constantly monitors how much is stored, never keeping more than the maximum amount of bread bags or Styrofoam meat trays than might be needed at a given time.”
FZ notes that saving more than you need is not inherently a problem, if you have the capacity to manage it: “It’s possible someone like Thelma may save more things than she needs, but because she has a surplus of space, stacks of meat trays might not cause her to be out of balance. Although she might not be saving money by keeping them, neither is she wasting other resources.”
And FZ explains that this lack of balance is not limited to frugal people: “Spendthrifts are frequently out of balance. If Thelma’s brother doesn’t have time to enjoy his new bass boat because he’s has to work overtime (at a job he hates) to pay for it, then he is out of balance as well.”
Which brings us to what I think is the most important point of the article:
In observing both the frugal and nonfrugal, this lack of balance is usually indicated by an expression of unhappiness or frustration about some aspect of their lives — when they complain about not being able to pay bills but aren’t making adjustments in their habits. Regardless of their spending style, I don’t worry about people when they are their families are clearly happy with the choices they’ve made.
When someone labels me “too extreme,” it’s usually because they’ve flipped through my books, picked out some obscure idea that doesn’t work for them, and made a judgment about me. But I’ve never had a journalist come to my home, observe the obvious harmony, and write that I’m “too frugal.” Although their values might be different from mine, they can’t find fault with our choices.
Because we all have different amounts of money, time space, and personal energy and different ideas about what constitutes quality of life, we each must find our own frugal balance.
If you think about frugality as I do, asking the question “Can you be too frugal?” is like asking, “Can you be too happy?
(The article is called “The Frugal Balance” and begins on page 483 in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. It is worth a read.)
Monday, July 8, 2013
Okay so I’ve been thinking a lot about personal finance lately, and I want to write about it but I’m not sure what direction things should go in. Most of my thoughts on personal finance come from a combination of my own experience and jumping off points provided by personal finance blogs, where I go to read about other people’s experiences, as well as books I’ve read on the subject by personal finance “experts” like Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, Clark Howard, etc.
So I guess I’ll just start with a few thoughts on the blog part.
For many years, I was moderately obsessed with the blog Get Rich Slowly. I do not know why, except that it was the first “personal finance” blog I became aware of (in 2007, when I was looking for information on Amy Dacyzyn) and just after finding the blog, I discovered the author’s personal blog, foldedspace, where he noted that he was making $4,000 a month in revenue on GRS.
I was like, What??? Who knew that was even possible?
So then I was reading both foldedspace and GRS to see whether this seemed like easy money or a lot of work (answer: a lot of work), and then I kind of got hooked on the upstairs/downstairs thing, the professional blog on the front end and the personal one on the back.
I thought it was interesting that the blogger, J. D. Roth, noted that one of the things that helped kickstart him on his life of debt-free living was the book Your Money or Your Life, which, likewise, was instrumental in helping me figure out a different path for my own life. However I’ve had limited success recommending that book to people, because when you first read it, it seems completely crazy and you’re much more likely to respond with, “Okay, maybe, but this is not workable for normal people,” than you are with, “Hey, this sounds great!”
So it was interesting for me to see someone who had more or less implemented the program, and then become very successful with it and gotten out of debt and started making more money than he’d ever imagined.
[Side note: I read the book in 1997 when I was living in DC, and one of my friends from work read it at the same time, and we were commenting on the fact that many of the stories in the book were about people who had followed the program, cut way back on their expenses, discovered something they loved to do that they were really good at, and then made a gazillion dollars doing that thing. My friend and I were laughing about that, we were like okay, if you're going to make a gazillion dollars, what do you need to learn to live on nothing for? Couldn't you just skip that step and head straight for the thing that makes you a gazillion dollars?]
One of the things I noted in my YMOYL experience was that at some point, the world feels like it flips. You suddenly can live on much less than most people and somehow you always have enough money. It starts to feel like you are living in a parallel universe.
J.D. had so many people following along, and I was looking forward to him getting to that point, hitting the parallel universe, and talking about it and people being able to see how it happened. It seemed like it might turn into something I could point people to instead of the book itself. Here’s what this person did and here’s how it turned out, and here’s where he wrote all about it.
But then it didn’t.
J.D. decided that he was being “too frugal” and started moving back towards living (for lack of a better term) like a normal person.
Later (much later) we learned that right around this time, he sold the blog for a large sum of money. So of course it felt like he was being too frugal, he now had a gazillion dollars at his disposal. And for the next few years, without letting his readers know he no longer needed to focus on getting rich slowly, since he had in fact gotten rich rather quickly, he emphasized “conscious spending” and repeated the mantra “do what works for you.”
It might have been more valuable to most people, but to me, it felt like a missed opportunity. Instead of showing people how to truly have a different life and what that looks like, he worked on helping people with average to above-average incomes choose bank accounts and life insurance policies. Woo hoo.
And now he’s moved on to a whole new life. And Get Rich Slowly is sill there, but it’s not the same. Though all of the old posts are archived there, so sometimes I still send people there for articles about specific topics.
Meanwhile, back in the blogosphere…
In 2011, Mr. Money Mustache came on to the scene, picking up well ahead of where J.D. left off, with a thoroughly YMOYL attitude, even though apparently he came to this approach on his own without actually reading the book.
In theory, I am in support of this.
I’m glad that someone is showing that it is possible to live happily for much less than most people think possible. I think MMM offers a great deal of useful information on his website. I think he has opened the eyes of many people to the possibility of a different kind of life. I like his anti-consumerist stance and that he focuses on the environmental impact of choices like living close to work and biking instead of driving. I like his emphasis on creative problem-solving and continuous questioning to make sure you are always learning, always improving, always thinking about your choices.
That being said, I cannot read that blog. The tone too often completely gets under my skin, despite the fact that I fully agree with almost everything he says.
I think the persona he has created is smug and arrogant. I think he is unwilling or unable to consider the possibility that his approach to life is not necessarily going to work for everyone, for all kinds of different reasons. Or that many people would not actually even want to live like that. And that not everyone has the capacity to make $50,000 to $100,000 a year and buy and fix up multiple houses, which they can then rent out to provide ongoing cashflow.
He has structured his comments section so that people who don’t agree with his articles or have any questions or concerns about them get a smackdown and are called a complainypants. (Which, by the way, is a great word.) This results in a large group of like-minded individuals gathering together to discuss how great and smart they are, and how much better they are than the rest of the world, who do not live in the enlightened manner in which they live and do not share their badassity. And anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a whiny complainypants. (Or possibly a jealous hater, though I think that term might be reserved for the anti-Pioneer Woman crowd. I might be getting my blog animosity people mixed up here.)
This is not enjoyable for me to read. This is cult-like. It feels like Rush Limbaugh with his dittoheads. (And it actually reminds me of a quote I read a long time ago, I think from Dave Barry, about being frightened by large groups of like-minded people. But I can’t remember the whole quote, and am unable to dig it up, so will just have to leave it at that.)
What is the point of all this?
I don’t know.
Following Your Money or Your Life allows you to live in a parallel universe where everything is cheaper and you always have enough money.
J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly was heading in that direction but turned around. But it doesn’t matter because he made a gazillion dollars when he sold his blog so now he always has enough money anyways, who cares.
Mr. Money Mustache does live in the parallel universe but he’s so flipping annoying about it that I can’t read about it. But other people seem to like it. Maybe you would too.
That’s all I know about personal finance blogging.
One of my friends said to me the other day, “You need to write more about personal finance.” I’m guessing this wasn’t what she had in mind.
Sorry, sometimes what comes out is what comes out. But I do have more to say on the subject in general, so we’ll just have to wait and see what comes out next time around. Maybe it will be better.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
I got a message today from my friend Bryant telling me that today, July 3, is the anniversary of M.F.K. Fisher’s birth.
In my quick search for references, I found a great post from 2012 on the L.A. Weekly’s food blog commemorating the occasion, and suggesting that everyone celebrate over the next few weeks (M.F.K. Fisher reportedly celebrated her birthday from the beginning of July through Bastille Day, July 14 — yet another reason to like her, she knew how to celebrate) by reading An Alphabet for Gourmets. Two weeks to read twenty-seven short essays.
I can think of no better idea than that.
Happy birthday, M.F.K. Fisher.