Miser v. Stunna: A Case Study
Ever considered where you are on the consumer/financial PH chart?
Meet Gene Burd. He is an eccentric old journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin. I call the septuagenarian scholar eccentric because he's rich. If he were poor he would just be weird. This is a man who according to campus legend and local news reports never married, holds his hand over his mouth when he talks so as not to waste that valuable oxygen. He has no ride and walks seven miles per day to work. He lives in a flat so small if he did the splits his heels would be hanging out of his front and back door. He finds kicks in the trash, cleans them up and rocks them to school. He collects pennies to pay his phone bill. Funny, because he's not keen on using the phone. Yet he has amassed a fortune on a teacher's salary because he's extremely cheap. He was then able to donate a cool $1 million to an educational foundation. You can’t argue that his methods, however uncanny, garnered results. Sick disciplined genius or fiscal pathology?
Now meet Brian "Baby" Williams, known professionally as "Birdman," known para-professionally as the "#1 Stunna." He's the founder and CEO of New Orleans-based Cash Money Records. In his latest poetic opus, he quips, "I got a hundred million dollars and I come from the ghetto!" In a passage from another one of his songs, he says that he leaves the sticker on the Bentley to "show off the price" and makes sure his arm is out of the window so he can floss his "ice." He spent $2 million on a necklace. Sick price of fame or fiscal pathology?
We all fall somewhere in between the extremes of these two gentleman but often exhibit both traits, albeit on a smaller scale.
The most important thing in money management is not financial wit, business savvy or even mathematical prowess. It is attitude. Ask yourself what your thoughts, feelings, prejudices, inclinations and tendencies are around moolah. If you can answer the question honestly, then you can save hundreds or perhaps thousands everyday -- especially in your initial consultation with whatever funds guru you're counting on to help you get your life together.
Sadly, many of us can't answer these questions honestly because we live in a society of instant gratification, a modern realm where we're told we have to have things, where people stand in line overnight not to get paid but to pay for the new, new thing. The dishonesty lies at the intersection of our choice pendulum.
We convince ourselves we need -- "I need an iPhone so I can e-mail my cat from the train and then I'll just have one topless dance at the strip club instead of a full nude, gotta save some money." -- a good or service.
Or we bargain with ourselves -- "I'll get this bottle of Patron tonight for all the fellas and the ladiezzzzzz, but next week I'm at the crib chillin, not spending any money. I swear."
Worst of all, we chastise ourselves -- "I'm not being unreasonable, I deserve this $1,500 spa weekend on the island of Tu Dahmuche, I never get time off!"
Worst still, when things get tight, when confidence dissipates, when we grimace looking at our bank statements, our pendulum swings entirely the other way. All of a sudden we tell ourselves that we're staying home for eternity. Some start collecting Hot Sauce, Soy Sauce and Ketchup packets. Others buy one big whole chicken, chop it up and put it in a stew so they can piecemeal for a fortnight.
Wowww people, you don't have to do that.
There is a logical range of frugality that you and you alone must consider. At one end is the self-rationalizing spend thrift and manic consumer. At the other is the miser, the cheap weirdo.
You should take lessons from both and try to be practical.