It’s the weekend, and the MMM family is deep into our annual Summertime in Canada tradition. That makes it an ideal time to run a little side story from my Ottawa* friend Mr. Frugal Toque.
He and his lovely supportive wife are now approaching their own financial independence milestone, just 8 years after us. It shows that you don’t have to copy Adm Karpinsk exactly, to have a successful financial life. But he’s a quick study, as you’ll see from the wisdom exuded in this article.
Stuff Holds You Down
by Mr. Frugal Toque
It seems almost cliche, doesn’t it?
Here comes another lecture about how you have too much stuff and how it’s holding you back from growing into the person you could be.
But I have to speak up because I’m still reading stuff like the following:
“MMM, it feels good to spend a little money on frivolous things.”
“I don’t outspend my income, so what if I have a ‘do whatever’ column in there?”
“Stop sucking all the fun out of my life. I deserve this.”
You know, I kind of get it.
I see that 64Gig USB thumb drive with a foot print of a penny and I buy it and I feel this endorphin rush. Woo! I own something shiny and new!
Then this voice whispers in my ear: Come, let the Consumerism flow through you. Let it permeate every vein in your body, then your journey to the Clown side will be complete.
Sure, it feels good – for a little while. Sure, you’re staying inside your budget. I’ll even assume that, like me, you’re a relatively decent person and that you, in some sense, deserve a 64Gig USB drive, a new pair of heels or whatever strikes your fancy.
But now I ask you to look in your garage, your attic or your basement; wherever it is that you store all the previous results of your Clown purchasing habits. Perhaps you have even achieved Super Clown Status and you’ve had to rent space in a self-storage facility of the type that is currently cropping up all over North America to appease the purchasing habits of the middle class. Think about that for a moment: the population has massive credit card debt but doesn’t even have room for all the stuff it’s buying.
What is that stuff doing for you? It’s rusting, falling apart, cracking, drying out or otherwise deteriorating. It’s an asset, but it’s declining in value instead of earning you more money and funding your retirement.
You need to store that stuff, don’t you? Is it taking up too much space, forcing you rent storage? Do you feel the clutter, closing you in, shortening your breath?
If you want to shorten your commute or take a better job somewhere else, you have to take all that with you don’t you? Do you feel the harness around your body, tying you to your purchases of days gone by, slowing you down, holding you back?
What if there’s a fire or a flood? Don’t you have to insure all that stuff? Do you sense the leak in your cash flow, lengthening your working years and setting back your retirement?
Stuff holds you down. You should be able to feel that now.
Until a few days ago, I owned a motorcycle. It was an absolutely beautiful, perfectly tuned piece of modern engineering. When I drove down the street, it sounded like an intensely powerful, gasoline-powered sewing machine. I’ve been told that it could do 240 kilometres per hour, though I’ve never been there myself. It was a gift, believe it or not, from Mrs. Toque – an engagement present, in fact, so take that “Tradition of Buying Jewelry.” Mrs. Toque very much enjoyed being the Official Passenger.
The bike, however, was also expensive. Insurance in Canada is unpleasantly high, over $100 per month for the months I could actually ride it. Because it sat around all winter, there was always something that had to be fixed come spring. On top of that, once family life set in and I began bicycle commuting, there were few chances to ride the motorcycle.
On days with terrible weather or days when family travel was necessary, the economical car is now the mode of transportation. On solo days, it’s the bicycle. Doing the math, I was riding the motorcycle once a week during the summer and it was costing me in excess of $40 per ride.
So, last year, the bike sat in the garage. I didn’t insure, didn’t license it, didn’t ride it. But I didn’t sell it, either.
Did I mention it was beautiful and, more importantly, a gift from the woman I love? I’m sure I did. Emotions can slow down rational decisions. In some sense, that’s what this blog is about: letting science, logic, statistics and financial rationality take precedence over preconceptions and emotions.
One week ago, we made the decision. I got the motorcycle running and posted an ad on the local Kijiji and Craiglist sites. Within 24 hours, I had about a dozen replies. (As an aside, why do people still offer trades when I say “no trades, please”? One guy offered a crossbow …) Of the people who wrote to me, it was the second one who showed up, tested the bike out and opted to buy it.
There was a funny feeling as I counted out the cash and signed the ownership transfer papers. It got funnier as I helped the guy and his friends push the motorbike up the ramp into their pickup truck.
Yes, I was sad. So was Mrs. Toque.
But I also felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t have to worry any more about the thing in my garage getting older and perhaps breaking a seal or rusting away a bolt. Gone from my mind was the burden of gasoline going stale. Out of my circle of concern were the maintenance and insurance issues.
That’s why I’ve written this. I want to convey to you, the few people who are still piercing themselves in the rump on the pointy edge of the “Buying things makes me happy” picket fence, that all that stuff you’re buying is not a source of happiness.
In the end, that stuff is a burden you want to avoid. It’s going to make you less happy, less mobile and later in reaching retirement. It’s going to impinge on your freedom.
I invite you to examine your possessions. Do they really improve your life, or do they sit there, silently mocking your Clownish behaviour while holding you back from becoming the individual you could be?
MMM note: I too have many of my joyful memories of youth mixed up with motorcycles. A 1982 Yamaha DT125 dirt bike before I was of street-legal age (bought on a minimum wage income), then a classic 1983 Kawasaki GPZ550 throughout high school.. and finally a 2001 Honda VFR800 up until 2008. Although they were ideal adventure companions for a young guy growing up, the freedom and simplicity of having only leg-powered bikes right now suits me even better.
*Ottawa: So you live here and want to have a huge meetup with all the other local Mustachians, preferably in a friendly environment while watching the sunset with food and drink? Fine, bust out your calendar: Saturday, July 20th at 6:00PM, location to be announced, but probably somewhere central yet convenient to all modes of transport. More details to come in a post.