Living Expenses

In my article Coming Home article I said: “Most of us could live off of less than we are making now,” A bold statement and one I believe to be true and one I did not think I would be touching upon so soon. However the past few days I have run across a few articles regarding the money that Alex Rodriguez (the Yankees third baseman) makes, and find myself preoccupied with the idea of money and how much we actually need to live .

Personally I am doing my best to tighten my budget, mainly because in my perfect world I would not have to work a part time job and would be able to write and play music full time. With this goal in mind I have been investigating every single purchase I have made this year (yes I do keep track of every single one using an app called: Checkbook) and have found that I waste a lot of my income.

This revelation is not to say that I have put myself in debt, because I have not, and it is not to say that I have been overspending. Simply put I have found that the funds I actually need to live off of are not as great as I thought.

Gas, groceries, housing, clothes, the staples, as expensive as they are are not nearly as bad as most of us make them out to be. I know kids are expensive, that student debt can be a burden, but in the end I know most of us can live off of much less than we currently make if we simply put things into perspective and truly explore where, why, and how we spend our money.

A few years back the documentary TV. show “30 days” showed that the number one cost hitting low income families were kids and medical costs. I do not think that I need to get into the medical insurance debate right now, however it is safe to assume that it is something that needs to be addressed in open, honesty, good intentioned discussions.

With this said though I can only begin to guess at why the cost of kids are so high (because I am not ready, nor am I a father yet). Clothes, shoes, tech gadgets, and keeping up with the Jones’s is not cheap, and is something that I have seen first hand when going over my own budget.

A meal out here, a puzzle there, movie out, video game etc... All of these things for the first part of the year were going into a place in my budget titled “entertainment.” Funny I am being more specific with them now because all in all that title was so appropriate. What entertainment equaled was “stuff you do not really need, but are spending money on anyways.”

Do not misinterpret what I am saying here, I am by no means telling us to forgo all forms of fun and pinch every penny. To live on Ramen and such to show ourselves how little we can live off of. On the contrary I want you to live a full and happy life, but think if you look back at your budget you will see extraneous expenditures that not only take money, but distract us from our ultimate goal of happiness.

How many times have you eaten out this week? I myself even in the short week have eaten out twice... That is right and even with my endeavor to lose weight my fiancé and I are eating out while trying to trim our budget. We do cook a lot at home, but did we need to eat out either of these times? No. In the end most of what we had was not nearly as healthy if we had just cooked for ourselves.  In the end we are buying convenience, a convenience that is not working towards our end goal.

That is the problem. There was a time when paying for convenience meant something. When buying a lighter laptop meant being ten pounds instead of 20-30. There was a time where convenience did not give up quality, but now every day as technology exponentially develops we need to re-evaluate what is important in our lives.

On first glance most people would say family and friends are the most important thing in their life. Now think about how many times you are trying to have a conversation with someone while they are playing on their iphone or ipad, or watching TV. Think about how many times people say things like “I can’t live without my phone.” Now step back for a second and think about how crazy that sounds.

We have become so embedded with technology, convenience, and constant stimulation that our idea of what we need to live has ballooned out of control. T.V. cable, an unlimited data plan, the latest cell phone, the newest computer, a brand new surround sound system, etc... are not necessities, but luxuries.

My mom is an accountant and has seen people who make hundreds of thousands be miserable and unable to manage their money. At the same time she has had clients who have lived off of what would be considered poverty and thrive. They tithe ten percent, pay off their student loans, their mortgages, eat well, and live very happily on a very small pay check. Studies have continually shown us that the salary where money brings happiness is continually dropping and is down to $75,000 per year for a family of four.

To me all of these signs point to the simple point that: money does not bring happiness and we need to acknowledge that. We all have bills and things that we need paid. We all have luxuries and indulgences and in no way am I saying not to ever indulge. I am however asking all of us to look at how we spend our lives and our monies and figure out if what we are doing is working towards the goals that we have truly set for our self.

In today’s world there is no real reason to work a job that you hate unless it is doing something to bring you to an end goal of some sort. I do understand that some people are in that situation where they have to work a job, two, or three to survive, however for most of us that is simply not the case.

Look over your bills, your budget, and look at what you are spending your money on. I dare you. See how many coffee’s and energy drinks you buy and add up how much they cost you a month. Find out how much the cookies you buy cost and see if the convenience is worth it compared to baking your own with your family and kids. Look at your toys and luxuries that and see if they are really bringing you the happiness that you expected.

We now live in a world where a cellphones are subsidized to the poor like food stamps once were. With how everything is now I can not think of a better time for us to examine our spending habits and what makes us happy.

When I said that “Most of us make more money than we need,” I was inviting all of us to

reexamine our spending habits and discover why we spend out money the way we do. Because to me it is amazing how different a purchase looks in hindsight. It is amazing to me how little we truly need.