It’s Fine To Spend Money

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America has a weird approach to money.  On one level, we love to spend it (if we have it) to judge by the things that people buy.  On another level, we continuously shame people for buying things. It’s a strange duality – until you think about it for a few minutes.

Americans believe money is a measure of virtue.  We believe having it shows virtue (even if someone inherited it or made it in questionable ways).  We believe spending it somehow shows virtue as long as it’s the right things.  To have money and spend it has a weird moral quality – if you’re the right person or kind of person.

On the other hand, we view the wrong people spending things on the wrong things to be bad.  Millennials get constantly bashed for A) wasting money while B) killing industries by not buying stuff they can’t afford anyway.  I’m sure you’ve encountered various cases of some scold telling you not to buy things – that they, of course, would do.

Me, I’m frugal.  OK, I’m quite cheap in some ways.  I am the last person to tell someone to spend money for no good reason.  So I’d like to chime in that it’s damn fine to spend money on things because sometimes it makes sense and is better than saving it.  Use this the next time you feel guilty, or some jerk decides to make you feel guilty.

Here’s where I think it’s damned fine to spend money.

Sometimes it’s fun.  There’s nothing wrong with fun.  People need more fun in their lives as far as I’m concerned.  So go, spend, have fun.

Sometimes it’s therapeutic.  I mean if a bar of chocolate or a mimosa makes you feel better, spend the money.  Indulge, feel better – I learned from my studies on diet and exercise that indulgences can be incredibly valuable to sanity.

It saves time.  Pay for that food to be delivered, pay for that restaurant to send you a pizza, spring for postage.  If time is money, sometimes you have to spend money to save time.

Capability.  Maybe you need to spend money on something you can’t do yourself due to not having the skills, illness, physical limitations, etc.  Know what, it’s fine to spring for someone to clean the apartment if you can’t, I mean seriously.

Cost-benefit.  Sometimes you get more out of spending money than not doing it.  That reasonably priced laptop that lets you send email, do your job search, practice your skills, etc. is worth it.

Sometimes you must do it.  Look sometimes stuff costs money and you can’t go without that stuff.  Don’t let the scolds tell you not to do it.

Temporary situations.  If you get sick and have to order out, fine, spend money.  Must change apartments because of a job move, fine, pay the move fees.  Spending money is not always a constant; sometimes it’s temporary.

Spending money as fine.  As an official skinflint, a man that has an involvement with spreadsheets bordering on the romantic, please, spend money.  Don’t listen to the scolds and the puritans who want to tell you what not to do so they can feel superior (and often they have money and positions that you don’t).

I’m all for frugality.  I’m all for careful spending.  But money is just a tool, and sometimes you gotta open the toolkit.  

Steven Savage

Frustration Friday: Fraudclosure Focus

We've entered a fascinating new phase of the Great Recession, differing from those stale, dull times where the world economy teetered on the brink of meltdown.  This fresh-faced new phase of the slow-mo Keystone Kop disaster is the "Fraudclosure" one.  Instead of Banks just failing and a solid recession and semi-systematic unemployment, we have something new – all those mortgages bundled up in investments are a wee bit hard to foreclose on because of bad record keeping, fraud, and general incompetence.

Yep, first too many mortgages with questionable terms, and now that everyone wonders where their money has gone, no one is actually sure who to foreclose on legitimately.  Illegitimately of course we're seeing some foreclosures, and that's making news enough to slap people in the face with the fact the bungling bureaucratic banker meltdown isn't done yet.

I could rant about the people behind this mess, about the need for better laws, and of course the need for jail time.  But instead I'd like to rant on the fact some people are ignoring this.

You can't ignore something like this because it is going to affect your career.  This is big.  Just as big as the  . . . last banking disaster.

First, you can't ignore it because this kind of messed-up maelstrom of monetary malfeasance can suck all of us into another recession.  It doesn't matter if you don't have a house and don't work in banking, this is a case of people not knowing who owns what among a lot of questionable investments.  That kind of destroys confidence in the economy and institutions involved in the economy – and if it turns out this lack of confidence is warranted and a lot of mortage-backed investments are total messes and no one knows who owns what, it could be a disaster for the global economy.

Secondly, even if the economy doesn't melt down, if you don't working banking, you may find it affects you negatively.  A bank that melts down doesn't purchase new hardware, doesn't hire ad agencies, doesn't hire IT gurus – in short, doesn't put money into the economy where you may work.  A bank that melts down may also mean your money goes into limbo and you're dealing with the FDIC.

Third, you don't have any direct work with banking, you may find you're doing peripheral work.  A company providing hardware to a bank may be being your company's microchips, a bank may be providing benefits through the insurance company you work for, etc. 

Fourth, if you end up needing loans, refinancing, etc. another bank crisis is going to make it pretty bloody hard on you to put the cash into your stash.  When banks are busy trying to find out if they actually own what they thought they did, they're going to be a might distracted. This also slows down other people launching businesses, of course.

Fifth, if you work in law . . . put on your party hat.  I've already heard the "Fraudclosure" mess called the Lawyer Full Employment Act.  Go get 'em legal eagles.

So pay attention.  This is not abstract and distant and boring, this is the economy and your life.

Also it gave us the cool term "Fraudclosure."  Really, go on and use it . . .

Steven Savage