I was recently at a drug store picking up a few things. As I was leaving, another man was getting into his car parked right next to mine. He was a young guy, driving a 7 Series BMW. A six figure car. I thought to myself, I wonder what he does for a living?
He backed out of his parking spot and I did the same. I ended up behind him pulling into the street that leads to my neighborhood. Mr. BMW turned into a house that everyone in the neighborhood has always regarded as the ugly duckling. A small, 2 bed / 1 bath house in distress. The lawn is overgrown, the exterior is long overdue for new paint and the fence is falling over.
The garage door pulls up, he whips in and the garage door goes down. That tells me he lives there.
Mr. BMW is car poor, or at least on the surface it looks as though he is. It’s a lesson that many of us (especially millennial’s) need to understand.
See, there’s an interesting association that people have between stuff and wealth. I often hear people say things like:
“Oh, she drives a BMW, so she must make a lot of money.”
“The Johnson’s have a huge boat, they must have big salaries.”
“Mary always has a new designer bag, she must make big bank rolls” (Can we stop saying that?).
Let me give you a quick revelation. In many current situations in the United States, people with nice stuff are usually cash poor. Many up to their eyeballs in debt.
It is a ridiculous phenomenon that is happening across the country. Our ‘look at me’ culture is getting us into deep, deep, trouble.
It has become so bad that when I see someone with a nice car, my judgment screams poor man walking. Even though they may be well off. Which is the polar opposite of the way we have been trained to think.
Don’t believe me?
Credit card balances are higher than they have ever been. Car sales are through the roof, while income levels have remained stagnant. The average cash value of bank account balance in comparison to the average sale price of a car in almost dumbfounding.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the average car sale this year was $34,000.
While a survey of American savings came to the conclusion that 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts.
This is literally insane.
Americans are spending all their money on ‘stuff’.
If you are falling behind with your money, feeling you can’t get ahead in life, take a hard look at yourself.
Stop going broke by acting rich. Click To Tweet
This doesn’t have to be outwardly noticeable things like designer clothes or fancy cars. It can also be things like eating out many times a week, racking up a grocery bill, or spending money on booze. Grow up and find out where you are consuming. Millennial’s live like royalty on a peasants salary. It’s pathetic.
Listen, I want you to have fancy pants. I want you to have the fanciest pants you can afford. It just can’t get in the way of your families financial future.
When I was in college I had a job delivering sandwiches. I was paid an hourly wage in addition to cash tips. This would result in an extra $20-$120 cash in my pocket each day. A fortune for a college student. My parents would cover my necessities so this become money that I could use freely. Guess how much of that money I have left today? Not a single penny. I was making money, but eating out frequently, buying expensive clothes, and having a grand ole’ time. I was spending everything I made. If I saved any money it was so I could spend it on bigger things. I was way too fancy for my income level.
Don’t fall into this spending trap.
You can have nice things. You should aspire for nice things, but they must equal your income level. Here’s a few examples:
Your mortgage should be a maximum of 25% of your monthly income. I talk extensively about how to buy a house here.
Cars should generally be paid for in cash. They are depreciating asset, not an investment. Yet If you truly value cars, or have a job the requires your car to be presentable, then I have a life hack for you on how to get a car essentially free. I talk about the hack here. Oh, and ‘lease’ is a cuss word at DXD. Don’t ever lease!
It’s not hard to find cheap quality clothes these days. My wife works in the fashion industry and we probably spend less on clothes than most. You have to plan and be ready to pounce when a true deal arrives. I can’t tell you how many people I have been to the mall with who just buy things because they are 50% off. You don’t buy things because they are on sale, you buy things you need when they on sale.
If you love to vacation and are not familiar with travel hacking, it’s time to blow your mind (call me Gwen Stefani). You can travel the world for free with reward credit cards. Now let me preface this by saying if you don’t have the best credit card discipline, this is not an option for you. You need to do this in a responsible manner. I would start with The Points Guy, Travel Miles 101, or Abroaders. I will dig deeper into how my wife and I travel hack in the future.
Simply put, if your pants are fancier than your wallet, you need to make a change. As Paula Pant says “You can afford almost anything that brings value to your life, but you can’t afford everything.” If you want a boat. Save up and buy a boat, work hard to get there. Look to get raises, build a side business, or pick up an extra gig. Then enjoy the heck out of that boat. Just don’t go into debt or wreck your future for a boat (you’ll just have a floating prison). Luxuries are just that, a luxury. If you are not where you want to be in life, take a chill pill and work to get there. Nothing comes easy, but you can obtain anything with consistency, perseverance, and plain hard work.
I’ll leave you with something I wrote some time back:
It’s an interesting concept, us living beyond our means. Emotions that ride the coat tails of others perceptions, outweigh our financial well being. The desire to have a ‘thing’ can consume our entire mental state until that desire is granted.
One thing rings true, living beyond our means is because we are completely selfish by nature.
The selfless give. The selfish consume. Click To Tweet
Where do you fall?