Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How much money do I need to live?

How Stuff Works analyzes how much money you really need to live. Now this is a topic I know a lot about and I think their tips are weak.

My main number one secret to not buying useless shit is this Philosophical Test -- If I buy this, where will I put it? There's nothing like living in 216 sq ft to make you get over your acquisition phase quickly. Never does this article suggest reducing your living space.

How Stuff works suggests these things:
Buy generic: Even if it means saving the old brand-name boxes and planting generic products inside to fool your family (or yourself), buying generic is a smart choice.
What? That's idiotic. I don't know what they're even talking about. They want me to put Oatey Circles in a Cheerios box? Well I'll go ahead and tell you right now that processed cereal is right out of the budget. If you want the goodness of oats, buy plain oatmeal and cook that stuff up. Wait until it goes on sale.
Use coupons: Most likely, you can find coupons for many of the items that you buy on a regular basis, taking a chunk off the cost. Investing a few minutes in finding coupons will save you money.
I totally don't do this. Where do coupons come from anyway? The Sunday paper? I'm allergic to that thing. It's a waste of money and not an enjoyable use of my time to go through that nonsense. I don't even have room to spread that nasty thing out in my house. My roommate in college used to get the Sunday paper for the coupons and it just made us buy stuff we wouldn't usually get. No coupons.
Don't buy it just because it's on sale: Whether you are on a weekly grocery store trip or are clothes shopping at the mall, you're probably going to spot a tempting sale.
Ridiculous. What it should say is don't buy it UNLESS it's on sale. I go to the grocery store and look for the things I would like to eat. If I eat up all my Triscuit crackers and I go to the store but Triscuits aren't two for one anymore, I don't get Triscuits. And it's important to know two for one means 50% off each box. I don't buy two boxes. Where would I put them? I get one for half off. Here's how they get you though, Buy-one-get-one-free means you have to get two for the savings to count. Sometimes I'll get two bags of buy-one-get-one-free salad mix because I have plenty of room in my vegetable crisper.
Cook: Rather than eating out at restaurants, cooking at home can save money. This doesn't just apply to dinner, either. If you prepare lunches to bring to work, you can save a good deal more -- some people estimate $960 a year on lunch alone [source: Kiplinger].
If I had a job then I would damn sure be going out to lunch. That's the best part of having a job! Now I might only eat half of what I'm served and have the rest for dinner. That cuts the price in half already. As a single person it's not necessarily true that cooking is more efficient. The ingredients don't work out. You end up with too much of some ingredient and it goes bad before you can use it up. It may be less expensive to go out for Chinese and bring half of it home with you and eat it again the next day. Plus I just don't have room for a lot of shelf stable ingredients. Turkey tetrazzini is delicious because it has sherry in it. I have room for a bottle of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar, but that's it. I can't have sherry too. But it's already in Stouffer's turkey tetrazzini and that comes in a compact rectangular box.

It is important to buy prepared frozen food when it's on sale so you always have something convenient to eat. This allows flexibility in your schedule. If somebody wants to go out, off you go, no worry about some fresh meat or produce spoiling in your refrigerator. And if you always have a handy bowl of noodle soup in the house you can put off going to the grocery store longer. Nothing makes you spend money like going to the store. The longer you put it off the better.
If not owning a microwave oven makes other people think you live in poverty, it counts as a necessity from a social perspective. But people got along fine without microwaves for millennia.
Microwaves are freakin' cheap! You need a microwave. What you don't need is a RANGE. Those are expensive, take a lot of electricity and a lot of space in your house.

I made up an oatmeal recipe, far cheaper than processed cereal. It is made in the microwave. I start by dispensing the oatmeal out of the box into a canister on the counter so it's always handy. I mix my oatmeal with oat bran about half and half. This makes the oatmeal creamy yet it still has some actual calories in it. It is specifically suited for an unemployed person or home office type who isn't in a rush. It will never boil over and make a mess in your microwave. All the ingredients stay fresh a long time and don't take up much room.
The Devil's Oatmeal
Scoop 5 heaping teaspoons of oatmeal/oat bran mixture into a ceramic bowl 
Add an 1/8 tsp of salt
Pour in 1 cup of water and stir
Put in the microwave and push 666, Power level 3, Start
When it stops, add raisins and stir again
Repeat 666, Power level 3, Start
Get it out whenever you get around to it. It will stay warm for a while. 
Add butter, walnuts, and honey
Stir and enjoy

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