“So then you’ve got money and you get used to this lifestyle. And you don’t wanna take any risks ’cause they’ve got you by the balls, and you’ve got all these little things that you’ve bought, or you’re attached to. And you start spending all this money… And that’s how they get ya!” ~ Thom Yorke, “Meeting People Is Easy”
Let me boast. When it comes to money, I know how to budget.
With every move I make, I attempt to save at least $3,000. Assuming my rent will be in the $500-600 range, with bills of an extra $150, and another $150 for groceries (all of these being an intentional overestimation), that means, if need be and assuming no other income, I could survive for 3 months without finding a job in my new city. Only once have I gone longer without work (4 1/2 months in San Francisco), but otherwise I’ve always found a job in less than 3 months (and most of the time, right at a month).
If I stayed put for 2 years, kept working the same job for the entire time and maintained my budgeting habits, I have no doubt that I could save nearly $10,000 by the end of the 730 days. Keep in mind, I work low-paying retail jobs. Some of you 401K types might not appreciate that amount, but I’ve worked with store managers who still live paycheck to paycheck. Even those few people I know who have well-paying respectable jobs probably couldn’t claim to have 10 G’s just sitting in their bank accounts, owed to no one.
Let me assure all of you would be Identity Thieves: I don’t have that kind of change. I’m not worth your time. I definitely don’t have anything worth stealing. I still wear t-shirts I bought at concerts I went to when I was in college.
I’m not really posting today to brag about my fiscal responsibility, though. All of my savings are sufficiently blown each year, usually returning my bank account to Ground $0.
My point is, if my goal was to one day pull a Scrooge McDuck through an ocean of dolla dolla bills (y’all), then yeah, I might be inclined to drop the 10 Cities Project, get a real job (or climb up the retail ladder, at least) and fill my money bin.
Fat stacks of cash are not my motivation.
I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was in 7th grade, which means I’ve had well over a decade to come to terms with the fact that I’m never going to make much money. Novelists like Stephen King and J.K. Rowlings are outliers in the writer spectrum. For the rest of us, well… the phrase, “Don’t quit your day job” comes to mind. As much as I hate the idea of daily pulling myself out of bed to work in some occupation I care nothing about, I realize that will likely be my lot in life. Maybe if I were just more photogenic…
I’ve had many conversations with coworkers where I’ve said, “I’ll never make much money, and I’m okay with that.” Pretty much across the board, the response has been a mystified, “Really? Why?” These are people who are working their way through college or saving up money so that their kids can go to college. These are people with full-time jobs, maybe two, doing whatever they can to get themselves and their loved ones to a place where one day they have enough money to lift themselves out of their station in life. And I’m not just talking about so-called ‘lower class’ workers trying to pull themselves out of the slums of city life (though, I’ve worked with people in that situation).
Even people who have grown up in relative comfort – middle class lives in a two story house with a parent or two working a steady job – still want better for their own children. Maybe they couldn’t go to Space Camp. Maybe they had to struggle through with a Playstation when all their friends had PS2s. Maybe their pool table needed new felt but they played with a stiff upper lip, ignoring the root beer stain that looked like a silhouette of Woody Allen, all the while holding back tears. We all suffer in our own ways.
The fact is, there really isn’t anyone who thinks, “You know, when I was a kid, I had it too good.” No one wants to go down an economic rung. That’s just not the American way.
But how much money do we really need? How much stuff? I’m not talking about living the life of an ascetic. I don’t think it really qualifies as self-denial if you buy one dress instead of three (even though you would look so totally hawt in that strapless red one). As much as we can fairly place blame on the financial institutions for the economic recession we’ve been experiencing, it’s really you’re own damn fault if you went into debt buying a bunch of shit you didn’t need and didn’t have the money to pay for.
But I’m not here to rant about Capitalism vs. Communism (Communism all the way), or berate people for how they spend their money. It is their money, after all. And I can’t really claim that it’s any more reasonable to blow my savings on moving every year than to buy a new, bigger, flatter, HDer television (at least you can resell that TV).
And let’s face it, money can buy happiness, if you know what to buy.
But it doesn’t have to be the end all, be all of your life.
And for me, 10 years living broke, making friends, abusing my liver, making questionable life decisions is money well spent.
At this moment in life, I have no debt, nobody depending on me, and no desire to own property. Forget a billion dollars, that’s what I call real freedom. If 15 years from now, I’m dying with no possessions or money but I’ve got a lifetime worth of experiences, I’d say I ended up on top.
Will I miss out on things? Sure. For one, there’s a whole stratum of females who would never even think of sleeping with me unless my Mastercard goes Platinum. But, I’ll survive. Just like I survive without Blu-Ray players, iPhones or the Complete Calvin and Hobbes (okay, not kidding, I’d kill for that). I make do.
Nothing scares me more than the thought of one day making enough money that I’d be comfortable and content, unwilling to take any risks in order that I could hold onto that precious, precious cash.
If that ever happens, you can declare me dead and divide up all my stuff.
Consider this my will.