Come in out of the scold

What did we do to deserve this? Almost certainly nothing:

One of the things making the rounds (and predictably getting dumped on both by people to the right of me and people to the left of me) is this infographic USA Today put out talking about “what all people spend money ‘unnecessarily’ on” and they claim the “average” American spends about $1500 a month “unnecessarily.” (the story is here but because they want you to either pay for a subscription (heh) or allow whatever ads their adserver serves up, I haven’t read the full story)

It wasm’t so long ago that my entire budget for a month was $1500.

I dislike scolds, and there was an undercurrent really of “Look, if you gave up every small pleasure in life and washed your entire body and hair and clothes with Super-Cheap-Industrial-Strength-Trust-Us-It’s-Walmart brand soap, you could have some more money for retirement!” and I get that underfunded retirements are a big problem but … I’ve been in a place (a few times) where I had to give up all “nonessential” spending, and it’s a miserable way to live.

(Also, the whole “$1500 a month” thing does make me think it’s strongly influenced by people far wealthier than I am, and that somehow USA Today is using that to shame us ordinary schlubs about “OMG, you bought MOVIE TICKETS for your family last month? How terrible!”)

But really: suggesting people give up the little things that make life in the here-and-now better is … not good. Yes, I hear the standard “blame poor people” argument of “if they only ate beans and rice every single day instead of getting fast food all the time” (presupposing the time, energy, and kitchen facilities to cook dry beans … I don’t make beans “from scratch” very often myself despite having a good kitchen, because of the time factor) or yelling at people for buying some new toy … or paying for Netflix or engaging in some form of not-free entertainment.

There has always been a strong puritanical streak in this land, at least partially because actual Puritans played a small but well-publicized role in the national history. And Washington is absolutely infested with such creatures. I plan to ignore them until such time as they learn how to balance a budget.


  1. McGehee »

    10 May 2019 · 12:22 am

    I’ll listen to how they want me to spend my money when they listen to how I want them to not spend my money.

  2. hollyh »

    10 May 2019 · 8:14 am

    I think it can all be boiled down to a coffee analogy. One extreme is to buy super-cheap Folger’s with Walmart creamer (yuck!), vs the opposite extreme of spending 6 bucks per round at Starbucks. There’s a happy medium between these two, a perfect balance between self-deprivation and foolish extravagance.

  3. McGehee »

    10 May 2019 · 10:02 am

    And none of it is anybody else’s business.

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