Things I no longer buy.

th4 150x150 Things I no longer buy.Last year I voluntarily downsized my salary, i.e., I decided not to rush to replace all the income lost when MSN Money kicked all its writers to the virtual curb.

Since then I’ve had to make some very conscious choices about what – and whether – to buy. Less money = fewer expenditures.

News flash, right? But what surprises me isn’t that I’m spending less. It’s that I don’t miss any of those things very much.


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th3 Smartphones: As important as deodorant?Some people are a bit too e-connected: carrying their smartphones around like fifth limbs, endlessly checking their screens, ignoring their children in favor of cat photos or an updated Facebook status.

The recent Bank of America “Trends in Consumer Mobility Report” indicates just how wired some of us have become. Nine out of 10 respondents said their smartphones are just as important to their daily lives as deodorant and toothbrushes.

I see a distinct difference: If you forget to use the phone your coworkers won’t look trapped when you enter their cubicles.

Just 7 percent of respondents find it annoying when someone checks a phone during mealtime. Personally, I think that unless you’re waiting for the transplant center to call about that kidney, you should back away from the phone now and then. Meals eaten with other people are an excellent place to start.

If they had to give something up to be able to get access to a cellphone, the majority of respondents (45 percent) said “alcohol.” Which, of course, would solve the problem of drunk-dialing.


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th1 Wealthy people think you could live on less. Here’s a piece of advice from the rich: You ought to be able to live comfortably on $25,000 to $50,000 per year.

This was one of the takeaways from the Country Financial Security Index, a survey of about 3,000 U.S. residents published a few months ago. More than half (55 percent) of the respondents consider themselves “middle-class,” even though some of them made incomes of as much as $200,000 a year.

Depending on where you live, $200k might not be enough to live on, at least comfortably. Which brings us to another result, something called the survey authors call the “comfort gap.” Nearly half of the respondents believe that $50,000 to $100,00 is enough to live comfortably. Yet only 34 percent consider the people who earn such incomes to be “financially well-off.”

Sure, they may have nice stuff. But actual security? Not gonna happen on that salary.

And here’s the part that concerns me: More than half of the respondents who described themselves as “wealthy” believe that an individual could live comfortably on $25,000 to $50,000 a year.


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th 1 How much underwear do you have?While chatting with a relative recently about small vs. large savings, I mentioned that I wasn’t interested in making my own laundry soap. The money saved would amount to about 8 cents per load, and DF and I generally do no more than six loads of laundry per month (and usually fewer).

The relative was shocked: “We do two or three loads a week for just the three of us.”

Then again, one of those three is a very active 8-year-old – in other words, lots of dirty clothes. That also means an extra set of sheets each week. And for all I know, that family uses a bath towel only once.

That’s how I grew up; my mom didn’t think it was sanitary to reuse a towel. Boy, did I get over that idea when I moved out on my own.

But that got me to thinking: Are we really grimy people for not caring whether the towel gets used, reused and re-reused?


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th 8 pointed questions to ask before you buy.A comment on a Get Rich Slowly article got my attention today. In “Four ways to make money with your old junk,” a woman posting as Winterlady noted one of the tactics she uses to prevent overbuying:

“I hold the item and think ‘How quickly will I want to garage-sale this?’”

Having seen more than a few like-new or still-in-the-shrink-wrap items at yard sales, I expect her comment is not particularly flippant.

I also liked another thing she said: “It is easier to control the purchases than figure out how to dispose of them.”

This.

I’m a big fan of informed consumerism, i.e., of asking the right questions before you decide to buy something. In a post on Wise Bread, I described the queries along the lines of, “Do I really need it? Do I already have something like it? Is there a way to get it for free? If not, what’s the most affordable way to get it?”

Yet even after applying this frugal filter, you sometimes just waaaaant something – right now. That’s when you ask yourself a question like the one cited by Winterlady.

I’ve got a few more to add. They’re not all questions as such, but they should encourage a little self-interrogation.


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