Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cold Cash

October is such a wonderful month, and I don't know if I ever fully appreciated it.  Virginia's autumns were knock-out gorgeous, but eventually turned into freezing bleary winters.  This year I can look forward to cool temps for the next 5 months -- and then it'll get warm again! Sweet.

Among other sweet things:



 - Hard cider: yes it's sold year-round, but it is so much more enjoyable right now.


- Not paying for air-conditioning.


- Camping again next week.







- Trying caramel apples, those most delectable produce-section beauties my mom never bought me on grocery trips as a kid.  I can't blame her.  I've had some amount of spending money since grade-school.  I don't know why I waited so long to fork over two bucks and buy some myself.

I bought a three-pack of the apples and told myself I'd space them out, which I did.  I ate one at 1815, the second at 2130, and just polished off the last one twenty minutes ago. My heart goes out to all people with peanut allergies.

- There was $200 more on my last paycheck than I was expecting, and I am really excited about money right now.  My sister sent me four Dave Ramsey books for my birthday and got me on a budget kick.  The best thing about Dave is that he's a no gimmicks guy: 1) Have a plan for every dollar your earn and 2) don't buy what you don't have money for.

You can say "duh" at first, but how many Americans actually follow through with that wisdom? Ramsey is the first to admit that there is nothing new about what he teaches, it's just that he's teaching it to two generations who are accustomed to living in debt.  Heck, as a country we're used to being in debt. (As a kid I was always confused why credit cards weren't called debit cards, and vice versa. When you borrow money, you're in debt, but the money you have in your bank account is to your credit. Hmmm.)

Ramsey claims to have had an epiphany after his family and business went practically bankrupt. He started interviewing rich people and discovered that most people who are financially well-off are not doing well because they are skilled investors and know all the secrets of Wall Street. Rather, they do well because they make a goal, a plan, and stick to them.  Unfortunately, the Bernie Madoff's of the world give money a bad name in the press. We are so quick to equate wealth with white collar crime.

But I think Ramsey makes a good point, and it's an encouraging one. You can have the important things in life (land, house, college savings, retirement, etc) if you're willing to say no to all the little spending temptations standing between you and your dream home.  I think about Michael Jackson who left his family struggling to pay off his debts when he died. This guy was the King of Pop, an American music legend, and the most successful entertainer of all time. Plus, didn't he own all the rights to the Beatle's songs?  If anyone should have been good to go, it would have been MJ.  Instead, he died in numeric poverty.

On the other hand, there's Steve Economides (the last name is no joke) who paid off his family's first home in 9 years with an average annual income of less than $35,000.  His wife Annette stayed home with their five kids.  Neither Steve nor Annette had any accounting background.  They just planned well and spent/saved with zealous discipline.

What I like best about Ramsey's message is that it's not just about numbers, it's about behavior.  And unlike your job, that's something you can control.

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