I read online this week in the Los Angeles Times that China is “demanding” that we (the glorious U.S. that is) begin to live within our means, since our recently decreased credit rating by Standard & Poor is apparently a bad sign for our #1 creditor. [You mean our government will finally know what it's like to be denied a car loan?] I find this rather comical, since it is exactly the mentality of ‘spend more – live large‘ that has been our M.O. since our country’s inception, and precisely what has gotten us into the massively dismal crater (dare I say it, depression?) that we’ve been moronically digging up until the prodigal bubble burst in 2008. Unnecessary wars? Unprecedented unemployment? Unethical infringement of our rights? But why stop now when this is all sounding so good?
As I gear up to take the plunge in the next chapter of my life (the water is refreshingly brisk!), I realize that now more than ever, the value of the dollar has taken on a far different role for me than ever before. I currently live in the bustling epicenter of California – Los Angeles – where the cost of living is unquestionably higher than most other places in the country. Understandably, since we Los Angelians have to sport a dope ride and fresh digs, yo. But as I prep for my move back to Florida, I do the conversion in my head of how much more I’ll get for that very same dollar back in the land of gators and pastel art deco. (translation = it’s a lot, especially when you factor in the amount of places you can get affordable wicker furniture). Point being, I have a new found respect for the Chinese: they finally grew a pair [albeit tiny and hairless] and told us exactly where to shove it. Bravo for them.
Granted, the warning – however timid – hasn’t appeared to make much of a difference in our spending habits. All around me, I see no indication of any change; except if you count the “Hybrid” luxury cars that pretend to help the environment at $60K a pop. I have no doubt that the owners of such vehicles consider their purchase “noble”. Those dirty tree-huggers. Still, I for one, am taking the cautious message supremely seriously:
1) Only go grocery shopping every 2 weeks, making it a point to cook every night (and by “cook”, I mean “apply heat to mostly ready-made concoctions that border on edible”).
2) Limit my consumption of alcohol and entertainment. Those two go hand in hand most times, so I figured I’d wrap them both up in a tidy one-liner. I do, however, get Netflix, so that there is some semblance of normalcy in the entertainment department. Ok, so that was more than one line, so sue me.
3) Try not to go shopping for clothes, shoes or makeup. Good thing I work from home. That’s all I have to say about that.
4) Try to walk to stores to avoid filling up my tank. Plus, it’s exercise. At least that’s what I tell myself on the way there. Granted, on the way back, I’m cursing at myself the whole way, which I’m sure makes me look like a bi-polar vagabond having a hearty convo with my 6 alternate selves and possibly God. So, you know. That’s attractive.
5) I try to avoid running my AC, and instead, open up all my windows. This works for the most part – except that my unit happens to be the one everyone has to pass to get to the garage. So I get to not only hear all the stimulating (?) conversation about how noxious the baby’s diapers were that day [this invariably happens on volume level 11], but I’m also graced with the long uninhibited gazes from perfect strangers as they decide to make a comfy stop conveniently in front of my window, supposedly on the way to their cars. I decided to start waving at them when this happens, which startles these jokers from their frozen glares and gets them to move along. Usually.
My strategy, I believe, is helping; I am noticing I have a few extra dollars every paycheck that I like to let myself think are going into what I’ll call my 401K. It’s just my savings account, but 401K sounds better in my head.
I just wish we all could take a hint from our Chinese sages and buckle down on spending so much. They already own our debt, and one day when they decide – and they will – to cash it in, I for one would like to be prepared enough to say….”are you still taking applications for citizenship?”