Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chirpy advice and the latte factor

Bite me, latte factor.
If I never see an article filled with chirpy advice about how you can save lots of money, it will be too soon.  Because really, I think these articles are geared for people who lost their six-figure jobs and had lots of budgetary fat to cut.  But most of us aren't in that position.

The Wall Street Journal published an article on how to save $10,000 by next Thanksgiving.  I had some hope--maybe I had missed something crucial, after all--when I saw this: You've heard the usual finger-wagging frugality lessons over and over. And you already do the obvious things, like cutting back on lattes, raising your insurance deductibles and steering clear of expensive stores.

Oh yes! Finally! Maybe there's a pundit out there who kinda gets it!

Or not. 

Don't get me wrong--the advice is good, for a certain demographic.  If you have an expensive cable package, scaling down might be a good idea.  If you don't have cable and you're still squeezed, well, this advice isn't going to help.  If you live far from work because you can't afford to move, then bicycling to work isn't a go.  And if you can afford to go on vacations, knowing how to get reduced fares and decent deals is a money saver.  But then again, some people haven't been on a vacation in years.  They may as well be getting advice to not buy $5M toilets.  No worries! They've got that covered.

A lot of this is the latte factor, redux.  Which, when I first read about it and did the math, made me roll my eyes.  Here's the thing: I'd have to actually incur that expense to be able to trim it.  Nope, no lattes.  I brought my own coffee to work.  I heated up the milk myself, and put cinamon and nutmeg in it.  I made the coffee in my grandmother's old stovetop percolator.  Readers, I am picky.  The Starbuck's latte is simply not good enough for me.  For whatever reason, when I'm cutting back I am a diva of epic proportions.  (Don't even talk to me about eating out.  It is a weakness of mine, but I soon get all, "I could make this better at home," and sniff and roll my eyes.  Because if there is one constructive way to deal with the angst of cutting back, it's unbridled snobbery.)

I knew a pretty sharp financial planner through a place where I used to work.  She put things into perspective for me when I was making good money and had a lot in the bank--and I was embarassed about the fact that it had been a struggle before I had that job.  "You were making a lot less," she said.  "Sometimes, you really do have to make more money to be able to save it."

The hard cold fact is: sometimes we just don't make enough money.  Sucks, doesn't it?

So, my only advice to people who want to build up a nest egg is this: if you've already cut things to the bone, don't go beating yourself up.  Just keep living on the same budget if or when you have more money coming in, at least for a while.  I won't tell you to get deals on vacation packages since chances are, you're not flying to St. Bart's every year.  And that's okay.  You're not screwing things up.  Not to get all Daily Affirmationy on you (bah.  I AM THE ANTI AFFIRMATION) but it's okay to say that you're doing the best you can.

And maybe manufacture some snobbery.  Can't hurt.


  1. Love this: "if there is one constructive way to deal with the angst of cutting back, it's unbridled snobbery"

  2. Heh. It's a strategy known as "I *meant* to do that!"

  3. Hahaha. And yes, cutting mani-pedis to every two weeks instead of once a week doesn't help much if you've never had one in your life. Ditto with housecleaners.

    I'm with you on the Starbucks. Ever since DH got a French press it's been difficult to get coffee out. It's just so sweet or stale or artificial or otherwise not as good.