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Posts Tagged ‘frugality’

I need a new job. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or have a really impressive title, but I do have a few conditions. Here they are:

1) My bonuses have to be tied to my performance, but inversely. I want to be able to fail — and fail spectacularly — and then be rewarded spectacularly.

2) Once I have successfully driven whatever I’m responsible for into the ground, I want to be able to turn to somebody — I don’t really care who — and insist that they get me out of the jam I’m in because, after all … well, just because. And they should have to do it.

3) My office has to be nice — I mean really nice. And if I don’t like it, I need to be able to redecorate in any way I want to, sparing no expense. For all the hard work I’ll have to put in to fail in a big way, I should think it’s a no-brainer that if I want a real pony in my office (to complement my cowboy at the rodeo theme), I should be able to have one.

4) Two words: corporate jet.

4) I expect to get fired. That doesn’t worry me. But after I’m fired, I want to be able to take another job that draws on my experience at courting disaster and ignoring warning signs and gives me the same perks as I’ve outlined here.

Frankly, I dont think this is too much to ask for. And I know these jobs are out there. I’ve already got applications in at Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, but I’m wondering if maybe any of you know of any openings.

It’s gotta be quick, though. I already missed the boat on the Lehman Brothers thing, and I’m hearing rumors that the gravy train may not last much longer.

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Hey, listen. Um, about that money you loaned me — you know, that $100 grand that I told you I was going to use to help get my financial house in order, kinda settle things down a little bit. Yeah, well, I … uh … well, some things came up and that money’s gone and I … um … I kinda need the other $100 grand, too.

What’s that? You want to know where the money went? Yeah, well, that’s kinda complicated, really. My cross-eyed Uncle Abner got some. Not sure exactly what he was going to do with it, but he’s got a pretty good head for business. And then my second cousin had a chance to get in on the ground floor of a new development over by the sewage treatment plant,  so she got a little, too. And then those big-screen plasma TVs went on sale and I’ve been wanting one of those for a while and figured I might as well do the whole Blu-Ray home theater thing, too. So, you know, it’s just kinda gone and I can’t really say where the rest went. Like I said, it’s pretty complicated.

So, anyway, can I get the other $100 grand now? I really need to get things straightened out. So can I have it, you know, like now?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not moved by this kind of argument. Personally, if I loaned anybody that kind of money (as if I had that kind of money to loan!), I’d expect some accountability. I would want to know that the argument you made to convince me to loan you the money was what you used it for. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it?

Well, apparently, it is too much to ask. At least it seems to be when you’re talking about big, big numbers — numbers like, say, $350 billion.

Part of the problem is that this really doesn’t seem like real money. It doesn’t even seem like a real number. Most of us don’t have a very good conception of how much a billion is. I’m not terribly proficient at math, but one source put it this way.

A million seconds is 12 years. I think most of us can comprehend that. But how long is a billion seconds? 31 years.

Now multiply that by 350. What the heck, go ahead and multiply it by 700. Are you getting some idea of how much money we’re talking about here, and how much money seems to be vanishing into the sinkhole our economy has become.

Look, I have no idea how this is supposed to work. I understand a little about how it was supposed to work, but that plan only seemed to last until the money was actually approved. Now it’s being spent for … well, like I said, it’s pretty complicated.

So, about that other $100 grand …

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You would think that an industry in trouble would change, wouldn’t you? You would imagine that these unprecedented times would call for newer ways of doing business, wouldn’t you? You would like to believe that American carmakers would finally get the message that their business model sucks, wouldn’t you? Well, if the ads I saw during a few football games this year are any indication, you’re going to be disappointed.

Consider the following contrast: GMC is running ads that look exactly like last year’s and the year before that and the year before that and so on and so forth. And what are they offering? Well, at least one ad promised low finance rates on 60 month loans on overpowered, over-engineered, over-priced trucks and SUVs.

Think about that for a minute. Here’s a company that just weeks ago was caterwauling that if it didn’t get significant government support and get it NOW, it would go under. Why? Well, there may be some debate, but I’m guessing that most of us believe that GMC, like many carmakers, spent way too many years making cars that cost too much that no one wanted.

So now their idea is to run the same old ads hawking the same old vehicles with the same old incentives? Even if I wanted a gas-guzzling bad-boy pick-em-up truck, why would I finance one for five years from a company that just a few weeks ago was telling America that they might have to shut down? Is it just me, or do these doofuses have their head even deeper in the sand (or … ahem … elsewhere) than they ever have?

On the other hand, consider the ads from Hyundai. They’re promoting something they call the Hyundai Assurance program. Buy a new car from Hyundai and, if you should lose your income at any time in the coming year, they’ll let you return it — free of negative equity.

Look, I realize the Hyundai plan likely has many holes as — well, a really holey thing — but come on. Who do you think has a better handle on the way America’s thinking these days? Who do you think has really been paying attention? Who do you think has got your back?

The Koreans? Who knew?

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I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty confident about the economy — confident that it’s likely to get worse before it gets better, that is. Can you blame me? I’m simply taking my lead from the president-elect. Of course, as long as I’m filling up my car with gas that’s less than $2 a gallon, it’s a little tough to maintain my hard-earned pessimism. I suppose I could always take a look at my retirement portfolio. That would surely help.

But sometimes it’s a little hard to feel the crunch, truth be told. I know I may be asking for trouble with that confession, but the fact is that we — my little family — have been frugal for a long time already. It’s just something that we’ve practiced naturally for most of our lives. That doesn’t mean that we reuse coffee grounds (though we do reuse most of our ziplocs) or live on cabbage soup (though we do eat a lot of beans) or sew our own clothes (though, as the defacto family tailor, I do a fair bit of mending). Of course, it’s nothing compared to what my parents and grandparents practiced. But it was different for them. It was a necessity.

Our frugality isn’t exactly about keeping us afloat, though it has certainly been that in the past. These days, we pinch pennies so that we can use those pennies where we feel it’s more important to use them — mostly educating our kids and enriching their lives, and supporting our favorite charities. (Speaking of which, the kids just supplied an impoverished family with a brood of chicks, and we offered up — are you ready for this — a GOAT!!)

Still, there are plenty of days when it feels like we’re cutting it pretty close, and there are lots of things I covet that I probably don’t actually need. But we’ve gotten in the habit of not giving in, and overall, it feels like the right path for us. Besides, I read the other day that — gasp — lots of other people may actually revert to the old barbaric method of spending only what they have.

So maybe they’re sharing my confidence. Are you?

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