The Escape Artist often talks about ridiculous spending as one reason why many people aren’t as rich as they should be.
This prompted one commenter on the blog recently to say that here in Britain they saw little evidence of ridiculous spending around them.
Now this might be true for them. If you are a hill farmer in Cumbria, visually impaired or are currently incarcerated in a secure institution then, yes, I guess its possible that you see no examples of ridiculous spending around you.
I put it to you that most of us live in towns and cities where evidence of ridiculous spending is all around us. Just open your eyes and walk down any high street. But its is a bit like in The Matrix. You only see it after you have taken the Red Pill.
In no particular order, here are 10 clues that ridiculous spending does exist in Britain.
1. Strip clubs
This is going to shock some readers…but there are actually places where people pay money to look at other people take their clothes off! I know!
When I was a young idiot, I visited a couple of strip clubs. Purely for the…ahem… noble purpose of researching my future blog and educating the next generation of young people about money, of course.
I verified for myself that these places are depressing and offer poor value for money. But it’s undeniable that they exist and contain lots of paying customers. You can form your own view on the morality of these places, but I’m pretty sure this is not essential spending.
If money is so tight and there is no ridiculous spending in Britain, then why are there so many strip clubs?
2. Fruit machines
There is a place in America called Las Vegas. Its not hard to get to: there are regular flights from Glasgow, Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester. It has become unexceptional for people to go there for stag dos and hen parties.
When I visited Las Vegas I was surprised to see how much spare money my fellow tourists wanted to get rid of. But they were nothing if not resourceful and had a cunning plan to dispose of that irritating surplus cash. They spent hour after hour feeding fruit machines with coins from plastic buckets. In return for taking the spare cash, the machines rewarded the customers with a negative edge and…wait for it….flashing lights and noises in their head.
If putting your money into a slot in return for an expected loss compensated by flashing lights and noises in your head isn’t a working definition of insanity, then what is?
At this point, some people may say that Las Vegas is not in Britain. That is true but I have to tell you that, like in Terminator, the machines are everywhere.
3. Money shops
Imagine you haven’t bought any Elizabeth Duke jewellery for several days. Your willpower and patience are wearing thin. Its basically a form of abuse that you have been deprived like this…its probably against your human rights or something. Not only do you want that 9 carat lucky gypsy charm bracelet, you deserve it! Why should rich people have all the bling?
Unfortunately, those nasty security guards at Argos are insisting that you pay for the bracelet before removing it from the shop. Worse, you are skint and payday is not for another 2 days. What to do? Aha!….your friendly local money shop is conveniently located next door to Argos. They helpfully offer to lend you the money!
Before you borrow the money, you leave a couple of children and a kidney as collateral, you check the loan pricing against the sterling yield curve and decide that 1,000% APR is a bit of a punchy mark-up over LIBOR…but what the hell? You only live once…am I right?
Tattoos are big business in the UK. According to a recent article in The Economist:
Tattoo parlours, once the preserve of sailors and ex-cons, have become a typical sight on the British high street. Their number grew 173% between 2003 and 2013. Meanwhile, demand has increased as tattoos become more mainstream. A survey by Harris Interactive showed 28% of middle-class people admitting to at least one tattoo (compared with 27% of working-class people).
If you have matching “Wayne & Shanice Forever” dolphins tattoed on your butt cheeks, that’s very sweet, no doubt. Or “Henry & Jemima Forever” dolphins for that matter.
But The Escape Artist does not regard tattoos as essential expenditure for the hard-working families and the squeezed middle class that we hear so much about during election campaigns.
5. Tanning salons
As Shakespeare might have said: Some people are born orange, some people drink Tango and others go to Tanning Salons.
According to the Guardian:
No one knows how many tanning salons there are in Britain – Kathy Banks of the Sunbed Association, an industry body which voluntarily regulates about 20% of sunbed providers, puts the figure at 6,000-7,000, but admits that is “just a guesstimate”. The influential Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (Comare) estimates “8,000 and rising”.
Now The Escape Artist does not want to rain on anyone’s parade, but those killjoys at The World Health Organisation list sunbeds as a cancer-causing habit, as dangerous as cigarettes. So perhaps not an essential item in the household budget.
If you are looking for ridiculous spending, why not take a look out of your window and inspect your vehicle choices. What do you see there? If it’s a couple of bikes, then I agree….no evidence of ridiculous spending.
If however you see a row of SUVs, then there is your ridiculous spending RIGHT THERE.
There are some exceptions:
- If you are in the Army and drive a green Land Rover; or
- If you are the farmer from Shaun the Sheep; or
- If you are competing in the Paris – Dakar rally this year….
…then I’m not talking about you. But if you have an SUV to pick up the Cabernet Sauvignon from Waitrose or because it snowed in Surrey three years ago, then yes that is fucking ridiculous.
7. Holiday homes
Let’s get controversial. I want to suggest a simple guideline. If you haven’t already achieved financial independence or at least mortgage freedom on your main house then it might be a teeny weeny bit premature to go off borrowing more money to buy additional houses that sit unoccupied for most of the year. Because, yes, in my book that counts as ridiculous spending.
If you are a member of the Royal Family, please don’t leave angry comments on my blog saying its vital that you have Sandringham, Balmoral, Windsor Castle, the Duchy of Cornwall etc etc for your onerous duties. I get that you can afford it. True, that’s mainly because your ancestors successfully oppressed mine, but hey, we’re all friends now and The Escape Artist does not believe in bearing grudges.
8. Shopping Malls
There is no law saying that on weekends you have to wander round Bluewater or the Trafford Centre etc etc in a trance of consumerism, your mind addled by easy finance and easy listening music and your hormones addled by processed carbohydrates.
There is no need these days to step inside a shop. With the magic of the interweb, you can get almost anything delivered to your own home.
I get that we all want shit. But the way you get value is by fighting the battle on your own terms, at a time and venue of your own choosing. That means in the comfort of your own home without being head-fucked by advertising, marketing and sales pressure.
There are shopping malls worth billions of pounds across the UK. These are legacy buildings, built on the false premise that shopping is a hobby. They are prima facie evidence of ridiculousness.
9. The Harry Potter Experience at Kings Cross
The Escape Artist is all in favour of Harry Potter. I used to read the books to my children at bedtime. But I’m writing this on a train from Kings Cross station (the setting for the Hogwarts Express) and I have to report the following.
Some marketing genius has come up with the idea of putting a sign saying platform 9 ¾ up on the wall and allowing people to imagine that they are in the Harry Potter books. You can then pay £10 for a photo of you pushing a trolley through the wall to the mythical platform.
This is all good harmless fun and I can imagine the temptation for the occasional member of the Saudi royal family to indulge their little prince / princess in this way. But what the fuck?!?…the queue was massive and there were NO children in it!! Instead the queue was full of 18 -40 year olds waiting to pay £10 to use their imaginations.
If you want to pay £10 to someone for the privilege of using your own imagination, that’s fine. In fact, you can wire me the money. I’ll use my magic wand to make the cash disappear and I’ll send you some Harry Potter branded air which I bottled at Hogwarts.
10. Sports betting
Isn’t it funny that we live in a society when everyone is told that shares are DANGEROUS and RISKY and they should consult a financial adviser before they consider buying any. Yet there are no health warnings when you gamble on horses or football and no one says you should consult a sane person before going to a bookmakers.
Gambling on sports reminds me of the City before the 1980s….insider dealing is rife and considered part of the process. The dealing costs (i.e. the spreads) are huge and most outsiders have no edge. The Escape Artist says this…if you are going to gamble, why not do it via equity investing where the odds are at least stacked in your favour?
Let me clarify. The Escape Artist is not Prime Minister and has no plans to ban any of the above. The Escape Artist is not trying to judge or shame anyone….in fact I have participated in many of these follies. The Escape Artist is a libertarian and does not believe in banning things.
So if you want to do any of the above, that’s fine. Its absolutely your right to do so. You don’t have to pursue financial independence or get rich. You don’t have to read this blog and get wound up. Just please don’t tell me that there is no evidence of ridiculous spending in Britain.
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