Debt Now – Pay Later

Some people are forced to go into debt…by health or family crises. By disasters. By any number of disturbing events in the universe. This column is not for them.

It is for the people who are daily being bombarded by the debt industry…the complex mechanism that wishes to enslave you and to wring as much money out of you as it can before you die. In many cases if you take refuge in the grave it will succeed in squeezing your family to get more money…and you will not be able to stop them.

It is for the people who have a vague notion that they are missing out on something if they do not have the shiny new toy in the KB HiFi catalogue – or the new telephone from the Orange store – or the furniture from the giant warehouse. And who are tempted into having now with the idea of paying later.

In some cases the temptation contains a phrase that tells you there is no payment required for six months – or no interest charged for a year. Be sure that this is not altruism or pity for you – the finance companies and the stores will extract the full measure in time. And in the case of some deals that full measure can be payment two or four times the initial price.

The time to avoid this is at the start. By all means read the advertising flyer before you ball it up and start the chip heater with it. But scrunch it all the same. Whenever you are looking at luxury goods you are looking at a wound – not a bandage. If you did not need them before your read the flyer, you do not need them after you’ve read it either. Be happy with the warm water from the chip heater.

No debt is good and having no debt is better. The people who tell you that you need to enter into it to qualify for more of it are the moral equivalent of dynamiters.

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What Do You Do When…

  • When Facebook is not an option: When you have committed yourself to a month of no FB to see what the effect on your life will be.
  • When you do not want the latest toy that your toy retailer has put out on the shelf because your current toy is working just fine.
  • When the motion pictures on offer at your local cinema are too juvenile for words or too politically correct to stomach.
  • When every new trendy drink costs $ 20 and every new trendy food in the restaurant costs $ 50.

Answer? You blink twice, knock the water out of your ears, and come to your senses.

  • Firstly, you do things that do not involve Facebook. Hobbies, for instance. Or reading. Or writing. Or visiting friends. Or going for little trips. The things you did before you first bought one of Mr. Zuckerberg’s nickel bags.

You’ll have time for things that you ran out of time for prior to Facebook eating your day hollow. Or to put it in another way, you can call into a bar for a drink and walk out again or you can live in a bar and venture out for brief periods. Same bar, different life.

  • If you are playing with your toys so hard that the wheels fall off and all the paint is gone, you may need to get new ones at regular intervals. If you are not, the old ones can serve a great deal more time than you’d think. The money you save using the old ones can be put to other uses.
  • A motion picture is someone with millions of dollars in the bank telling you a story for ninety minutes while you sit in the dark and cringe at the price of a chocolate ice cream. The story may be well worth the telling and well worth the seeing  – if the story teller and the tale are good. If they are new, they gain a whole dimension.

If the tale is not new – if it’s a re-hash of something you saw in a comic book in 1957 – or if it’s so puerile as to suggest a Little Golden Book worth $ 4,000,000, you are perfectly justified in giving it a bye rather than a buy. With ninety extra minutes and the price of the ticket and the chocolate ice cream in your pocket you can immerse yourself in the best of new or classic literature and feel a lot more adult for it.

  • At the end of spending from $ 70 to $ 120 at dinner time you are entitled to feel both full and foolish – but in some cases you’ll only get the latter. Some restaurants do, indeed, see you coming. And then they see you off.

You need not spend that much to feed yourself, either at home or on your travels. You need not eat badly, unless you’ve fetched up at a country town that has nothing on offer at all except a blood pit pub. If you’re going to be on the road, take an emergency pack of beer, soup, crackers, sausage, and cheese, and  even if the town has closed for the night you should be able to go to bed fed. If you are in a strange city look for a Chinese, Vietnamese, or Greek restaurant and eat what they cook.

If you are at home, consider the advantages you have – your own pantry, your own icebox, your own cellar. Your own expertise at preparing something that you like. Your own schedule. Do not sacrifice these for those fast-food lights winking down the road.

Suppose You Were Worth A Million Dollars

If you were me you’d be overjoyed. If you were a billionaire you’d be furious.

That’s what having money does to you.

I’ll amend that statement – that’s what having too much money does to you. Whether it is your own or someone else’s, the stuff will eat into your soul and leave holes. Then other things come and live in those holes, and it is darned hard to get them out.

The trick is having just the right amount. Not too little – so that you are pinched and sad and sick – nor too much so that you are arrogant, anxious, and aggressive. Just enough to eat well, play well, and sleep well. If you get it by working well, so much the better.

If you get it by desperate drudgery, criminality, or vile practices, so much the worse. These will take their toll and eventually the doors to the happier parts of life will close.

I think I have the right amount at present. I can do what I want to do as long as I do not want to do expensive things too often. And I am fortunate in that I honestly don’t want to do expensive things. Though I would like roast beef for dinner.

 

Chinese Leftovers

No, I’m not talking about Taiwan.

I mean the oblong plastic containers that h0ld the remnants of last night’s takeaway. They  are the most valuable asset that you can find in the fridge:

  1. If you were not a cook last night, it is doubtful whether you will be one tonight. Skill with cuisine doesn’t set in at 3:00PM . Those leftovers are what stands between you and hunger at midnight.
  2. If you look critically at what is in the containers you’re likely to encounter meat, vegetables and rice in considerable quantities. I’ve no idea whether it has gluten, lactose, fructose, sucrose, or twinkletoes, but if you eat a little from each container you are likely to have a balanced meal.
  3. It is all tasty. Depending upon which uncle or cousin was cooking there will be various Asian spices in the mix and enough variety in the textures to make for an interesting dinner.
  4. It is paid for, and will not last longer than another day. Eat now, or waste money. Which should not be a matter for any debate.
  5. We need the container for model airplane parts so hurry up and wash it out.
  6. That’s all that is on the menu tonight. Eat or starve.
  7. You’re allowed to drink Goon with Chinese leftovers with no loss of social status.

Yup. It’s A Car Wash.

And not just any car wash. A hand car wash. As opposed to the ones that they operate with their feet or ears…

Our local shopping centre has used up one of their limited car parks for the hand car wash. The building’s being finished and the signage is going up. Soon employees in rubber boots will be standing in the winter rain washing cars. Or not, if the state of the other hand car wash facilities in the area are any indication…

The proliferation of car washes has been an interesting phenomenon here in Perth. I remember the establishment of one of the first ones on the site of an old petrol station. It straddles a major highway and a busy feeder road and stands opposite a 24 Hr McDonalds. ( for our North American readers, McDonalds is a franchised fast-food restaurant. ) It was probably a good choice of location as it gives the people who leave their cars to be cleaned a place to go during the process. Interestingly, the owners of the car wash also put up a café on their site. This, and the stated prices on the signage, indicates that they would like each post to be a winner…

I suspect this is the case, as well, for the owners of the shopping centre. They have already leased out a great deal of their land to a tavern, Asian restaurants, and…a McDonalds…but would seem to want to cram more on the area. I’m betting that the rent they demand from the car wash owners will make the washing fees pretty remarkable.

I mourn the loss of adequate parking, but as I own a bucket, a sponge, and my own hands, I am not too frightened by the car wash.

 

The Lease Is Up

I note that there are a number of premises for lease in…

Everywhere.

Just back from a trip to Melbourne and Sydney and the number of ” for lease ” signs that line the streets are staggering. Not so much on the main city streets – though there are plenty of empty premises in the arcades and back ways. It’s the secondary suburbs that are really quite surprising…even Brunswick Street in Fitzroy – my favourite crap shop and dodgy restaurant district – is thinning out and looking for tenants.

Our own city suburbs have long stretches of highway that are all going begging. But the interesting thing is I bet they are not willing to beg. I suspect the landlords are still trying for every price increase and every winning extra charge that they can get. The fact that they cannot get them hasn’t quite registered.

I even see the foolishness of our local large shopping centre -a place that has a lack of parking space most of the time – ripping up the carpark for more stand-alone businesses at a time when other shops and spaces in their main building are hoarded over.

I am not sure whether it is the lease or the jig that is up…

The Sordid Joy Of Charity

When is charity not charity? When it is extorted in consequence of threats. Then it becomes demanding money with menaces. A police matter…

In this unsavoury category I include nearly all professional fund-raising ventures that bombard the householder demanding money for unspecified people with sufferings that can only be assuaged through the accountant. They are but one stage cleaner than the ragged beggar that bails you up in the street or the thuggish hoodie who tries it on in the shopping centre car park.

Occasionally the organised charities will try it on with co-religion, national identity, or consanguinity. They will play the guilt harp as loud as the strings will stretch. They will try to inveigle you to fund-raising dinners that scour your pockets and then spotlight you to make sure you give out plenty.

Some will send you valueless goods – trinkets, stamps, stickers, or cards – that purport to benefit their poor makers  – and dare you to reject them. Or they will expose a  more ambitious range of quasi-ethnic junk in shops upon the premise that there is some sort of fair trade going on. Consider whether you need the tribal mask or the Australian dollars it takes to buy it. You can buy bread and vegetables with the dollars but try taking that mask to Woolies at grocery time.

But is it all bleak? Is it all hell with heels? Perhaps not.

The Sally Ann – Salvation Army to non-Australians – has had some dodgy money practices and some dodgy administrative policies in the past, but they still save bums from the street and still help poor families. The normal Salvationist is not dipping the till. They are still worth crossing the street to put money in the tin. And remember to tip your hat.