money

Exit 207. I thought about the situation from many different angles.

I bought a new car last week.

I’ve mentioned it to a few people close to me, and some of those have actually seen it and ridden in it.  And, in fact, while I was waiting for the paperwork to be ready for me, I was thinking about how I would announce it on Facebook and Instagram, what I would say about it, how much I would divulge about the decision process… and I eventually made a bold decision.

I decided I wouldn’t announce it at all.

A few reasons.

(1) It is possible to live your life and not announce everything on social media.  That’s what we all did until about 2007.  Gender reveal parties, cute little professional photos asking someone to be your prom date or bridesmaid, selfies every thirteen seconds, none of that existed until very recently.  Shocking, I know.

(2) More importantly, it’s really not anyone’s business, especially not people who are going to criticize my decision.  I just didn’t feel like opening myself up to that kind of criticism.

I know some people who are fierce devotees of the kind of financial experts who make a living telling people how to get out of debt and save money.  Dave Ramsey in particular comes to mind, although I’m sure there are other financial experts who do this as well.  Before I continue, I should say that if you are reading this, and you are a follower of Mr. Ramsey or any other well-known financial expert, good for you.  I haven’t studied his works, so I might be mischaracterizing some of what I say here.  I’m sure he and others in his business give a lot of good advice, and if that works for you, if you are making progress toward getting out of debt and getting your finances in order, that’s great.

But I am not you.  Everyone’s situation is different, and while some things are just generally good advice, not everyone can, or should, or will follow all of the same principles exactly.  Some time ago, the church I was attending was hosting Financial Peace University, a Christian-based class on finances using curriculum developed by Dave Ramsey.  I remember someone was telling me how I should sign up, it’ll be really good for my future financial planning, there’s a lot I’ll learn, and it’s only $100.  My first thought was, thanks but no thanks, I’m doing okay financially right now.  And I certainly didn’t get where I am by blowing $100 to learn things that everyone learns about in math class… or at least they would if they didn’t waste so much time hating math class.

Now, that is an oversimplification, of course.  There are other subjects covered in the Financial Peace curriculum, and I’m sure I would have some things to learn.  But most of the people I knew who had taken this class were talking about paying off their credit card debt.  I have no credit card debt.  I don’t run up a balance big enough that I can’t pay it off when the next monthly bill comes.  I don’t have that mentality that if I have money in the bank, I have to spend it, or the mentality that I can keep sliding the card and not worry about it until later.  And that right there is already the most important step in getting one’s finances under control, the way I see it.

I have my reasons for buying a new car instead of buying a less expensive gently used car.  And I have my reasons for financing the majority of it rather than paying it off all at once, a big part of which included the fact that it was a holiday week and they were offering 0% financing.  I sat down and thought about the situation from many different angles before I made my decision.  And that, really, is how one should approach major decisions.  This is how learning and thinking works, rather than regurgitating something that an expert said that may be totally out of context for the particular decision at hand.

If you know me personally and have questions, thoughts, or comments, I might be willing to discuss this a little more specifically.

And again, for those of you who are applying Dave Ramsey’s principles to your own lives, like I said, good for you.  But please, use those to think about situations from multiple angles and make a decision, rather than just assuming that he’s right all the time.

Exit 72. Smart phones, dumb people.

As of today, for the first time ever, I have a smartphone.

I’m not going to get into what kind it is, or what features it has, or any of that, because (1) that’s beside the point of what I want to write about; (2) one of the things that bothers me the most about smartphone culture is the way people obsess over this sort of thing; and (3) if it ends up being a piece of crap, I don’t want to hear everyone’s I-told-you-sos and suggestions.  If I know you personally, I might be willing to discuss this in private.

There are a lot of reasons I held out for so long.  The main reason was that money was tight for a long time.  I was working at a private school, making a lot less money than I am now.  I didn’t have a lot of money left at the end of the month, and paying more to get Internet on my phone just wasn’t the top priority.  It seems like, over the course of the last several decades, life has just gotten a lot more expensive in general, as things that were once seen as luxuries for the wealthy are now expected to be necessities.

I also don’t like what I call smartphone culture, in general.  People these days seem to be obsessed with their phones. A lot of people don’t pay attention to their surroundings because they depend on their phones to tell them everything.  Smart phones, dumb people.  I don’t want to turn into that. Also, certain phone manufacturers even seem to inspire a cult-like devotion among their users.  People with perfectly good phones that work just fine line up for hours every few months whenever a new phone is released, so they can blow their money on something that’s half an inch longer and about 5% faster.  (I know, I know, there’s a dirty joke somewhere in that.)  It’s ridiculous, and it’s scary how phone manufacturers have been able to brainwash people like this.  I had a dumbphone that I bought in 2011 when it was already somewhat outdated technology.  It works just fine.  The battery typically lasts at least three days.  And I was paying $27/month for unlimited text and far more voice minutes than I ever used.  And people were constantly giving me funny looks, wondering why I had never “upgraded” to a phone that would cost about three times as much per month with 10% of the battery life.

So why did I suddenly get a smartphone now?  Because one thing I’ve learned about myself recently is that I tend to assume things and sabotage myself, and I’m not willing to try new things because of my assumptions about what things will be like.  Despite all my hangups about smartphones, there are plenty of times I’ve wished I had one.  I can afford it now.  Worst case scenario, if I hate it, I’ll do something else after a couple years. And as for turning into the kind of person who doesn’t pay attention, I don’t think that will ever happen to me. I held out on getting a cell phone of any kind until 2003 for the same reason, and 12 years of using dumbphones didn’t stop me from paying attention, so I don’t think having a smartphone will either.

Let’s see how this turns out.