Make no mistake: there is no free anything in this world, or in this lifetime. Wherever a “capitalist” (a certain subtype of “mercenary”) economy exists, in all its shades and variations, there is always beast of burden, a conscience – however seared – and the communal acknowledgment that if you do not work or pay, you do not eat. That much is fair.
But what about deals? When some sales rep offers you a great deal “only to help out” should we trust them? NO! Is paying half the price for a service not ridiculously unsound business practice? YES! Because people go into buying and selling to make a profit; anyone telling you differently is trying to sell you something (else).
I recently switched Internet Service Providers. I was paying too much for a service that only worked two-thirds of the time, and, after a change in management, the technicians were sent out to amuse me, without doing any work. A different ISP promised 6 months at half the price, no contract, and all the bells and whistles. I took it, and, after many questions, it seemed to be the only other logical choice as I was cash-strapped. However, I ended up paying $16 more and the bill is still rising.
What conclusion I’ve come to is this: that most businesses and, hence, economies are built on tricking its consumers into believing a fantasy. Businesses never can offer what they claim because it doesn’t exist or they have an agenda to meet. All commercial enterprises fall short of the image they wish to portray of themselves. It literally is “fake it until you make it”. Everything from that shampoo that promises always to give good hair days, to ISPs doing charity work out of goodwill, it is all a fantasy world. It is difficult to believe that marketing teams essentially have not understood that we understand that, and so continue on with their mission to deceive.
What they haven’t underestimated is that the modern Zeitgeist is one of alienation in all its fatuous glory. The bored, the confused, and the lonely, will buy. Anything. Virtually anything. The confused and lonely will send money to a distant, third-world country in hopes of one day meeting a computer-generated lover who doesn’t exist. The bored will want to buy something to maintain their own sanity. The greedy servicing the wishful is what our global trading and retail offerings have become, if they hadn’t already since its inception.
Perhaps the most important lesson at the end of the day is that the key people in our economy, bankers and sales and service people, are not your friends. They may act like it, but tell them you have no money to spend, or walk in dressed in shabby shoes, and you’ll see how fast they’ll change their attitude. You’d have better luck at a soup kitchen in getting a return than trusting anyone with a gimmick or spiel. One writer puts it more extremely, and says that all persons TAKING money from you is to be seen as an enemy. This flies against my instinct as a person with family and friends. But there is a boundary for even some of my close ones. I think the idea behind that writer’s statement is that we must view all outgoing money as dubious until you’ve had a good night’s sleep, and have analyzed it. Just as you never do your finances at night, you never let go of money without thinking first. Impulse buying is so passé. With the austerity measures here to stay, (because the rich want to get richer), it is the lore of salespeople from yesteryear.
The best advice to the younger me? Save, like the dickens. Don’t use credit and don’t dip into your savings for any reason at all. Live off your interest but remember to reinvest some. To paraphrase the words of the late and great, former Finance Minister Jim Flarhety, if you can and are in the market (I’m not), buy real estate and pay it off as soon as possible (he must have been pretty well-off to say that so we can take real estate advice with a grain of salt in today’s market). Don’t gamble, and spend less than you are left with after savings and bills are paid off. Most of all, don’t be greedy. There is no such thing as a 300% return without potentially fatal risks; most wealth and savings are built slowly. Even if you should win the lottery, it is “Easy-come-easy-go.” Hitting the lotto jackpot is just a band-aid. It is not reliable income. And take up hiking. Enjoy the outdoors. It keeps you busy, you feel enriched, and you get it all for the price of a pair of hiking boots and bug spray.
So now you have it: a choice. Use your opportunity costs with great deliberation, and you still might just get into an emergency. But at least you’ll have saved enough to be prepared for that and not use your credit. Otherwise, you’re only benefitting your banker. ~V
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