[We've got a killer article for you today by my new friend, A. Noonan Moose, over at FrugalFringe.com. I figured it would be much more fun (and educational) to read than a post on spit up rags and poopy diapers ;) J. Penny II does say hi though. He'll be making an appearance soon...]
A consumer’s life is a life of many choices—hundreds of them yearly. It’s difficult to grasp the lasting effects of so many decisions if you look only at a few months or a couple of years.
To see financial outcomes and see them clearly, your purview needs to widen so that it encompasses at least a decade. I’m here to help with that. My first adult job began in 1984. So at this point, I’ve got three full decades of consumption under my belt (yup, that means I’m probably much older than you).
To help stretch your powers to peer into future decades, I’ll summarize my own past 30 years in 30 bullet points (as in ESPN’s “30 for 30“). When I’m done, I’ll provide a real short conclusion. How you respond to that conclusion is entirely up to you. As I’ve said, a consumer’s life is a life of many choices.
30 Years in 30 Bullet Points
- Never bought McMansion (did buy 1,631 square foot home in Colorado mountains).
- Never bought Subzero refrigerator (did buy Amana fridge that came with mountain house).
- Never bought Viking gas range (did buy Jenn-Air stovetop that came with mountain house).
- Never bought cappuccino maker (did buy milk frothers recently).
- Never bought wine refrigerator (did get cardboard wine box for cool basement closet).
- Never bought upscale Reidel wine glasses (did buy huge supply of Arby’s 1997 holiday goblets—purchased for $1 each and still in use today).
- Never bought built-in bookshelves for many volumes collected at used book sales (did buy five Billy model bookcases from IKEA—and they look great).
- Never bought BMW or other luxury automobile (did buy Prius in 2009 using $7,500 in governmental incentives, mostly from “Cash for Clunkers” program).
- Never bought Harley or other motorcycle (did buy Trek Single-Track 930 bicycle in 1991—ridden ten hours this past week).
- Never bought motor boat (did buy kayaks).
- Never bought All-Terrain Vehicle (did buy many pairs of hiking shoes).
- Never bought Recreational Vehicle (did buy sleeping bags).
- Never bought snowmobile (did buy cross-country skis and snowshoes—wife is excellent snowshoer).
- Never bought snow blower (did buy snow shovels—wife is excellent snow shoveler).
- Never bought Apple computer (did buy succession of affordable personal computers).
- Never bought computer tablet with color screen (did buy Kindle e-Book readers with black-and-white screens).
- Never bought smart phone (did buy prepaid dumb phone—in use since 2007).
- Never bought nights at Ritz Carlton (did buy nights at Microtels, Motel 6′s, and, more recently, Air BNBs).
- Never bought cruise vacation (did kayak with wife along many beautiful shores).
- Never bought first class airline ticket (did fly first class several times with free upgrades).
- Never bought noise blocking headphones (did buy earplugs).
- Never bought matching luggage (did buy matching Ziploc bags to corral personal care products).
- Never bought new high-end metal driver for golf (did buy one used at yard sale for $3).
- Never bought cast iron golf irons (did buy set of forged irons in 1985; still hack away with them).
- Never bought high-end stereo (did buy modest system that sounds good in background, which is how we usually listen to music).
- Never bought diamonds (did buy diamond needle for record player; it still sees regular use).
- Never bought anything from Tiffany’s (did see Breakfast at Tiffany’s; have Moon River on vinyl).
- Never bought Rolex (did buy succession of Timex Ironman watches).
- Never bought perfume for wife or cologne for me (did buy lots of antiperspirant; we’re not heathens, after all).
- Never bought clothes designed by Ralph Lauren (did buy many Dockers from Levi Strauss).
Each bullet reflects a decision to grow our household’s net worth (a long term benefit) instead of depleting it with the purchase of a tempting material luxury (in most cases, one that provided only a short term benefit).
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we splurged. We made memorable trips to Banff, Yellowstone, Monument Valley, Acadia, London, Paris, and Salzburg.
We also had our share of missteps: a $250 motorized pasta maker that never got used, a portable baseboard heater that spiked our electricity bill, a $4,000 Danish couch that goes with nothing else in the house, and there’s more as well.
But despite making mistakes, my wife and I dodged most of the frills that the consumer economy threw at us. And so we were able to afford an especially ostentatious purchase: we bought our own personal freedom. I retired at age 48 and she at age 46.
We now indulge in the greatest luxury of all—the pure extravagance of deciding for ourselves how to spend our waking hours each day.
It’s not all couch potato time. Last week, for example, we spent a day in service to her father moving six tons of top soil into raised garden beds (without the extra height, he couldn’t have gardened this year). Our only tools were shovels and a wheelbarrow. Few would equate moving dirt with luxury, but I do. Were we still cranking away at our jobs, we wouldn’t have been able to help out in such a meaningful way. The luxury we enjoy nowadays is the complete freedom to pitch into anything anytime we see fit (and hopefully to stay fit in the process).
The Real Short Conclusion I Promised
So here’s the real short conclusion I promised—the one that presents you with yet another choice in your life as a consumer:
Consider taking into account long term consequences the next time you’re tempted by the likes of Ralph Lauren or RVs or Danish couches or anything else that’s labeled “upscale.” Think in terms of decades instead of mere months or years. If you build each day for the future, the short term will take care of itself soon enough—and the fleeting allure of material luxuries is something you’ll never miss.
A. Noonan Moose blogs at www.FrugalFringe.com and is the author of Spend Less Now!—A Checklist Program for the Decidedly Unfrugal. As his friends will tell you, his favorite word is “free” and his second favorite word is “cheap.”
[Awesome squirrel pic by ankakay]