For background, read the following forwarded to me by AntiDem: Rat Faced Man says the problem is money. I’ll give up the premise right at the outset: you can live within your means. How? Cut the fat out of your spending. Yah, yah, no brilliance there. Specifically, follow any one of a number of self-help gurus out there including Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. One exercise that should be familiar: a cup of Starbucks purchased 5 days a week can add up to $40.00/month. Lunch bought from the cafeteria at work can add another $160.00 to that. I won’t keep going. You should know this.
Other things that can be up for grabs: the data plan on your smartphone, the car payment, and the credit cards. Pretty much, there is extra money in your life if you start getting serious about your spending. But, such ideas are blasphemy for a young first-worldie wanting to belong to the fashionable set. There is the uniform to buy and maintain, the electronic accessories and their monthly bills, the car that is only affordable on credit, living in a domicile that signals the right brand, the digital toys like an XBox or a PlayStation or similar. Food from the right store . . . $15.00/hr. just begins to make a dent in the burn rate.
The full kit with wife & kids generates a cash flow approaching five figures at the low end. We are told that membership in the fashionable society requires we have at least the full kit and we are judged by the signals we transmit through what we posses, where we live and work. Live on less? Impossible.
That is the answer, though. Live on less than what you make. Live on 80% of what you make, actually. The other 20% is divided evenly between savings and charity. I get it, living on $12,500/year is nigh impossible. The much discussed fast-food worker makes at least $8.04/hr. or roughly $17,000/year. Living on 80% would mean a gross income of $14,000.00/year.
Wait . . . Stop. Just hold it. 2,912 Sundays, almost 12,000 hours in a church, Crown Ministries, good little WASP that I am, I (and probably you) know all this. I may know what you know about financial peace but I’m also the guy that wrote FUB Score. I make a lot of noise about living on less but I’m also the guy that loves new shiny things. My moral high ground isn’t very high here.
I started this post only scanning the first hundred words or so of the blog. From that, and from not really listening to what Rat Faced Man was saying, I started to launch into a thoroughly average recitation of tropes I’ve heard since I was a kid. For that, I apologize.
It is the fat part of the curve that is in danger. The vast middle of socialist democratic life is collapsing. I was one of the lucky boomers who had a Dad who made something of himself and raised me. We lived the mid-century American Dream. At age 19 I rejected my privilege, my station, and got on a bus to seek an authentic life as an actor. Yeah, well . . . didn’t happen. Something more wandering and interesting happened instead. Having read all of the posts of Rat Faced Man I want to praise him. He gets it. It is us, at the small ends of the curve, capturing value, that are going to thrive as the old empire falls.
It’s a funny thing when you decide to have a salient life and fail. I was going to follow a familiar track of the starving artist and be famous. Yes I was. Yes, didn’t happen. What did happen is fits of destitution punctuated by periods of socially salient living. I ended up here, in this backwater of the Internet, writing words only a few read, to be forgotten one day. No matter. I am one half-step further toward being a writer with the work that is here. It is enough.
Rat-Faced Man’s answer is pretty much Mike Rowe’s answer. Find a job where you can capture and build wealth. All the big face jobs and concomitant lifestyles are traps that chain you to smoke. The guys across the street from me fixing trash trucks have a better shot at retiring well than the UofR law school graduate interning at a K-Street firm. My neighbor, riding the wide grey stripe marking the border between white hat living and the underground economy, doesn’t have the visible signals branding him as salient. Funny thing though. His bills are always paid and his kid isn’t exactly hurting for money.
If I have anything to offer it is this: there is a good life at the fringes. It’s still a good idea to live on 80% of what you make. I am employed lately and making another good faith effort at doing this. The blog is still growing. Rather than listen to the messaging and blindly apply to college, maybe reject that and join us on the fringe. Good things are happening at the small ends of the Bell curve.