Friday, April 27, 2012

Get off the Train

Money equals power and freedom. Be very careful about that for which you trade your freedom and power. I choose not to hand over mine for knick-knacks like an iPhone, Tupperware, gold wedding bands, an electric clothes dryer, matching luggage, designer sunglasses, or chrome wheels.

I don't live to have, I live to do. I have never spent $50 on a coffee table book with photos of the Costa Rican cloud forest, but I have been there, carrying my gear in an old ice chest ($3 at Goodwill) instead of a $200 REI backpack. I never buy $25 concert t-shirts, but I have been to thousands of concerts. I take night classes at a community college, and now I speak Spanish, I can do body and paint work on my car or motorcycle, and I keep in shape in their gym. I have the time and money to do these things because I got off the consumer train.

 If you put your money in the bank, and someone fucks you, you can pay for a lawyer. If you put your money in the bank, and your child wins an award, you can get on a plane and go to the ceremony. If you put your money in the bank, and your boss is an ass, you can resign. But people who sell stuff want to take away your money and give you crap in return. When they have loaded you up with Franklin Mint bronze statues of John Wayne and Hello Kitty mouse pads, you won't have money left for lawyers and planes and telling your boss of fuck off. So stop spending money on anything that does not meaningfully improve your life. (And if it is merely an aesthetic improvement, it is not really an improvement.)

How? Stop consuming advertising, to the extent you can. Also, kill your television. Aside from the commercials, your television sends you the message about 1 bazillion times an hour that the kind of person you want to be drives a shiny SUV. Try not to let that message get near you. Associate with a different class of people.

Instead of playing golf on Saturdays with people who are on the train, people who buy custom exhaust systems to get a few more horsepower from their cars (How fucking fast do you need to go?), people who have stainless steel barbeques, people who get their cars washed by a machine, spend the day at a protest march, or a bluegrass festival, or in the community garden with people who share your values.
The most important thing you can do is stop telling yourself that the solution to all of your problems is a trip to the mall. You don't need to go to a mall. Ever.

If something breaks, do not write on your list of things to do, "Get a new one." Instead, write on your list of things to do, "Learn to repair the one I have." Or, "Learn to live without a lawn edger, or power mirrors in the car, or Vitamix." Write that on your list of things to do. Wear things out. You don't need new Nikes because yours are dingy. When they have holes, get an upholstery needle and sew them up. Do that until you can't do it anymore, then get new ones. Use the shit you have. If you already have a computer, you don't need a Playstation. Make do. Your phone is pretty goddamned good. You don't need a new one just because there is a new one. Stop talking to people about the latest phones. It has nothing to do with you.

 This is not easy. You might not know where to start. Try an experiment: Make a solemn oath that nobody in your family will buy anything new for 90 days. Okay, if you run out of toothpaste, you can make an exception. But no clothes, no DVDs, no books, no kitchen gadgets, no tires, no nothing. If you MUST have something, get it from Freecycle, get it from a flea market, make it yourself, but buy nothing new for 90 days.

 Then, after the first 90 days elapses, do 90 days without carrying cash. Set a limit for everyone in your family. Maybe $10 for adults, $5 for kids. (No credit cards.) This is going to mean that sometimes you are going to buy only $10 worth of gas and have to go to the gas station twice in a week instead of filling up once. Small inconvenience. It is going to force you to consider what is important. With only ten bucks in your pocket, you might stop after work to get some milk, but you won't buy anything else. If it is really important, you can go back and get it later. But you will learn that many of the things you thought were important aren't. In these 6 months, join r/frugal, read DIY blogs, take a welding course at a community college. Replace all of the spiritual junk food you have been consuming (like TV, like the magazines in the seat-back pockets of airplanes, like the ads in the Sunday newspapers) with nutritious food for your soul (like r/simpleliving, and How To Make Sausage videos on YouTube).

Ask yourself as frequently as you can, "Do I want to spend my Saturday afternoon shopping for shit I don't need, or playing Frisbee with my kids?" Then go play Frisbee.

I am off the train. I invite you to disembark. Here is how you stop struggling:
Put two sticks of softened margarine in a bowl. Add 1 cup of white sugar, and one cup of brown sugar. Add two eggs. Blend this. Add three cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and one tablespoon of baking powder. Mix well. Stir in 2/3 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Spray a cookie sheet with Pam, and lay out 12 generous spoonsful of dough, evenly spaced.
Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

As soon as you can put a toothpick into the middle of a cookie and take it out clean, remove them from the oven. Put the cookies on a wire cooling rack. When they are cool enough to eat, but still warm, eat half. Then lie to your wife about how many you made.

What were we talking about before? Something that is not very important, as I recall. Your life is better already, isn't it?

Original post at Reddit

No comments: