The above picture is from the movie the Jerk. I think under fair use laws, I have to mention the movie to use the picture. Great movie, great movie, hilarious and relevant to my topic. Now that that’s out of the way, lets move on. But it really is a great movie if you are too young to have seen it.
I’m about as lower middle class as it gets. I pay my bills every month, eat well, but don’t have a lot show for it all. However, I consider that blessed. I saw a stat somewhere that indicated if you make $50,000 a year, you are richer than 99% of the people on the face of the planet. But cost of living varies you say. Well of course it does. But so does choices of living and life choices. So there is always some ownership that takes place. None the less, I am happy to be middle class to be honest. So if you have a problem with me being middle class, then share this blog with everyone you know and do something about my mediocrity. Whereas ambition and free market enterprise is a good thing, chasing an arbitrary standard of living that someone else made up at the expense of joy today seems somewhat silly.
So here we go. Now I am going to confess, there is better financial advice out there. Dave Ramsey, that older lady with the short hair, and the yelling guy probably got famous for a reason. So my blog is not to the financial astute. Rather, my blog is to the uninformed and impulsive. I didn’t grow up with money, so I had to learn some money lessons the hard way. I also know that people like me are not likely to listen to good advice. Rather, a few extra tips on how not to completely screw it up in the meantime would have been more useful to me.
1. Car Loans – Everyone needs to drive for the most part. Most everyone needs a car. So if you listen to the experts, they would tell you that should attempt to pay cash for a car and drive that car into the ground. After all, you really are not in your car that much. But let’s be honest. If you are getting your financial advice from Unprecedented Mediocrity, then you are probably not going to listen to good advice and you are likely going to go buy that car anyway. So if you are impulsive like me, listen to this tip. Always, Always, work out financing before you step foot on a dealership lot. So many financially ignorant people like me who didn’t grow up with money are just focused on the car payment they can afford. Makes sense right?
Until I looked back and realized that I paid interest rates on cars that I am too embarrassed to post here, I didn’t realize the folly of this. You get on the lot, find a car you like, and the fast talking salesman get you approved, like they are doing you a favor and you wind up paying a hundred bucks more a month than you otherwise would have. Wasted money. So go to credit unions, banks, or wherever before you go shopping, get the best financing you can find. Then go to the lot and if they can beat it, great. I have been able to save hundreds since I realized this. Never ever, go to the car lot without your best possible financing already worked out. Again, the financially astute are reading this saying you shouldn’t be financing at all. But again, some people don’t listen to good advice. They just need mediocre advice that embraces their impulsiveness and mitigates the consequences of their decisions. One more time, always work out financing before you step foot on the lot. Always. Do this and you won’t build wealth, but you won’t break the bank either. Financial mediocrity at its best.
2. Lifestyle – There is no better time in life to save money than when you are single and working. You have income, and you don’t have all the bills normally associated with family life. However, what fun is that. Upon returning from Iraq, I had about $8000 saved up from earning tax free money in a combat zone. Not exactly anywhere to spend money in Iraq you know. However, after living in squalor in Iraq, back in Merica, I was ready for a lifestyle upgrade. So an overpriced apartment, flat screen TV when they were actually expensive, and a lot of Knob Creek later, I departed to China a year later with not much to show for it. Looking back, the money I regret spending the most was the apartment. I could have easily gotten an apartment for a couple hundred bucks a month cheaper. But when you are slumming it with a bunch of Marines in Iraq, your mind is not operating that way. Here is the thing, if you are single and impulsive you are probably going to waste some money.
At the time, I never envisioned my life with a wife and 3 kids. So some of that money would have been helpful now. However, if you are single, no one cares if you live in a nice apartment. Whats the point, you don’t own it, you just live in it. Think how much more lifestyle fun or savings if you want to go that route you can have been getting a simple apartment. I am not saying you need to get the cheapest apartment in Memphis, after all you would spend more money treating gun shot wounds than you would save. I am just saying whatever apartment appeals to you, downgrade a hundred or two down to something reasonable. Some of you may be living with your parents, or been sharing a room in someone elses house and you are ready to break out. Don’t over do it. The financially astute tell you to save everything you can when single. I say, have a little fun and don’t waste money on an overpriced apartment. You may not have a big savings account when you get married, but maybe you won’t have some debt either. Financial mediocrity at its best.
3. Food – If you are food connoisseur and you like to eat at new and exciting locations, then great. However, if you are just lazy and don’t want to cook, then eating out all the time is a sure fire way to waste money. Case and point, Steak. I love steak. Man I love steak. Nothing better than a ribeye. However, if you go to a restaurant, you will pay 20 plus bucks for a ribeye. Want to save more money, don’t eat ribeyes. But a life without ribeyes is not one I like to envision. So I say, eat all the ribeyes you want. But spend $75 bucks on Weber grill, then you can get a Ribeye for 10 bucks or less for the rest of your life. Honestly, if you are singly, you get a $20 travel grill that will do the trick.
At this point, I hate buying steak at restaurants because its never as good as I remember my $10 ribeye on my home grill. You love hamburgers, grill them. Another idea is buy a $20 griddle and cook burgers on them to get that pressed dive hamburger taste. For $5 of ground beef, you can make 4 burgers better than anything fast food restaurants have to offer. Seriously, I wasted way too much time not knowing some basic grilling and cooking skills. Now, for little effort and the joy creating it yourself, you can have better food for cheaper. Again, I say if you like to sample the world of fine food and find unique places, then that is an experience in of itself. However, if your desire for a steak leads you to outback or salmon leads you Red Lobster, then you are wasting your money. You could eat very cheap like in college and save money, but ramen and totinos pizza’s are for college students. Your a grown up now, so eat real food. Spend some money on good ingredients and cook simply tasty meals with a griddle or grill. Financial Mediocrity never tasted so good.
So these are my 3 steps to financial mediocrity. Yes you can find better advice, but this is for those like me who don’t listen to good advice. We like to learn the lessons of life the hard way. It makes us feel alive. At least when you are finished paying this life tuition, you will find yourself in an excellent state of mediocrity. For with mediocrity, anything is possible from here.