About two weeks ago, I was having a pretty in-depth conversation with a good friend of mine when the topic of money came up. Normally, I try to keep talk about both money and politics out of my discussions with my friends, but this time I decided to go with it to see where it went. We talked about how much money we used to make in our twenties compared to today, and if we were doing better now than we were then. While I make about 50% of what I used to make at my highest earning level in corporate America, I am much happier than I was then – I make my own hours, work when I want, and have downsized my life enough that I can still live comfortably. My friend, on the other hand, makes a great deal more than me but yet wouldn’t stop complaining about not having any money.
He is single like I am, so he doesn’t have anyone else dependent on him, but he lives a much bigger lifestyle than mine – his apartment is twice the size (and rent) of my 700 square foot place, his car cost $10,000 more than mine (and he makes payments while I paid cash for mine), and he spends a ton of money on “going out”, whether it be to bars, dinner, or partying. And yet here he sits in front of me, discussing his lack of funds. Sorry, but I couldn’t feel bad for him, as this lifestyle is of his own design. If he was happy in it, that would be one thing. All power to him if all is well! But it’s not – so I took the time to point out a few things to him that he should have realized but never really added up the figures on. Let’s take a look at why his bank account doesn’t display the fruits of his high-paying job.
He goes out for lunch every day of the week
Yep, Every. Single. Day. Not once in 3+ years of working at this company has he brought a lunch from home. I found that hard to believe, as that’s normally the number one thing people cut back on in order to save some money. Going out, or not being “part of the crowd”, was more important than the money it was costing him. At a minimum of $10 a day (I imagine it was much more, knowing this guy), that’s $50 per week or $2,500 of post-tax income going right out the door each year. And that’s the MINIMUM. Never mind if it cost more. That’s as much as the payments on a decent Honda each month!
He’s a smoker
And a heavy one at that… Smokers never want to hear about how much money they are wasting, but back when I stopped doing it I realized just how much money I spent on something designed to give me cancer. How stupid! There are so many habits that are better for you and are much more enjoyable, yet pack a day smokers continue to spend upwards of $5 per day, or $1,825 per year, on a product that makes you sick. Cigarettes in NYC are $11 per pack, which would equal $4,015 per year. Talk about a waste of money that could be put to much better use than slowly killing oneself.
He likes to party several nights a week
The price of this partying is seemingly endless, so I can’t even put a number on it. Happy Hours on Wednesday and Thursday night for a few hours, and late night bar hopping on Friday and Saturday nights must add up to an incredibly huge bar tab. I know that when I go out with friends and we spend a few hours at a bar, we all end up dropping a healthy amount of money. But I am fine with it because I A. rarely do it and B. know ahead of time I will be spending some money. However, I cannot imagine going out 4 nights a week to bars, as I would be broke in no time at all! When beer is $6 and a mixed drink is $9, a few cocktails every night can take a bite out of your take home pay.
There is a big difference between not making enough money to live versus making plenty but spending it before it even gets to spend a night in your bank. Those not making enough to survive on have a real difficult situation to deal with on a daily basis; overspending on superfluous stuff is not one of them. Not a single one of these three things above is necessary for my friend to have a comfortable life. In fact, I would imagine healthier lunches, not getting cancer, and waking up with fewer hangovers would actually make for a better life! I am not a teetotaler, at all – I enjoy going out and having a few drinks with friends, heading out for a nice meal once in a while, and spending some money on experiences that I really feel are worth it. I am not a person who thinks that money is only for saving and not spending. I realize that my lower income is because of my own choices in life and in order to keep my lifestyle at the level I want I need to watch how I spend my money – but some people, like my friend I was talking to, can’t see how some of their behaviors are leading to their own unhappiness. He wanted to blame the economy, his boss, or his company – but he truly only has himself to blame. And I think he got that after our discussion. Will he quit smoking? Doubt it – it’s “him”, so he says. But maybe he could take a lunch once a week or go out just on Fridays. Only time will tell…
Photo by pinguino