Today we are talking about how people often struggle to join the dots between their spending choices and the fact that they are not as rich, healthy and happy as they could be.
To show us what this looks like, I’ve got Mr “LunchMoney” Lewis to give us a demonstration of how not to manage your personal finances.
In real life, I haven’t met LunchMoney. But let’s assume he’s a wise and wealthy man who made the educational video below to to help others by showing the perils of poor lifestyle and personal finance choices. We’ve all made some of these mistakes at one point or another…even The Escape Artist! And that’s OK…the point is to learn and to get better.
To draw out the learning points, The Escape Artist has created some commentary to accompany the video. Please remember that we’re all on the same side and I’m only passing on what I wish I’d known when I was younger. 😉
The video starts with LunchMoney in his dressing gown and slippers. Having overslept, he’s late for work. And sitting on the toilet reading The News is not helping.
We see LunchMoney’s housing choice which doesn’t make sense for someone in financial difficulties. Despite living alone, he’s chosen to live in a large, single-storey detached house in a sprawling suburb.
There are many things to admire about America but The Escape Artist would have to agree with MMM that much of the town planning is a gigantic cluster-fuck. Many suburbs lack real hubs to foster community…almost as if designed to cause social isolation. Britain is not immune from these mistakes either. We need to build more higher quality housing in more attractive cities.
Sprawling suburbs of low density, single storey housing waste thousands of acres of land that could otherwise be used to grow food or left as a nature reserve. This is not just an environmental disaster, it’s a personal finance disaster for those on low incomes.
Large, detached houses are expensive and come with higher energy bills and maintenance costs than an apartment or townhouse. And the larger the garden, the more maintenance is required (The Escape Artist found this out the hard way).
The public transport in sprawling suburbs is often almost non-existent so car usage becomes a virtual necessity. And cars are Money Incineration Units….the bigger they are, the more money they burn.
At 0.30 we are introduced to LunchMoney’s girlfriend who pulls up (inevitably) in a car….and not a particularly fuel efficient one at that. She might want to read this.
LunchMoney has had some romantic success and, dare I say it, appears to be “punching above his weight” with a physically attractive girlfriend. All credit to him for this.
But sometimes inner beauty is more important than outer beauty and The Escape Artist feels obliged to point out to LunchMoney that his choices may come with some strings attached.
It’s a full moon out
And my girl just keep on howlin’ (ooh, ooh)
She said she gonna leave me
If I don’t come home with fifty thousand (fifty thousand?)
Its not clear whether Ms LunchMoney has gone back to work herself after staying at home with LunchMoney Junior for the first few years. Don’t get me wrong. I ain’t saying she a gold digger….its just that she seems rather focused on LunchMoney’s salary.
LunchMoney’s response is to complain bitterly.
God damn, God damn, God damn, God damn
Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man
LunchMoney needs to take some personal responsibility here. LunchMoney could start by reading How Not To Be A Walking Wallet. Perhaps his other half is ready to make some changes? In any event, he can lead by example and can initiate a constructive and open discussion about money.
To his credit, LunchMoney recognises his responsibilities to provide for his children:
I got mouths I gotta feed,
So I’m gon’ make sure everybody eats
All the little kids run around
I can hear their stomachs growl (grrr!)
The Escape Artist admires this and, having 3 kids of my own, I can totally empathise with LunchMoney’s worries about having lots of mouths to feed.
The Escape Artist loves his children and can even agree with Whitney Houston that the children are the future. But, let’s be honest, having children is stressful and makes getting to financial independence harder. So remember…you’re allowed to have just one kid…or none!
At 1.30 LunchMoney walks over to the fridge and seems surprised to find it empty.
Opened the fridge and the food all gone
LunchMoney might want to take a look in the mirror and ask himself where did it all go? It doesn’t look like his girlfriend scoffed it all.
LunchMoney can’t see any scope to cut his spending. But could there be a clue right there in his name?
The Escape Artist has previously solved The Obesity Crisis so LunchMoney doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Its easy to shed fat by eating natural food. LunchMoney just needs to take ownership and change his diet. He could reduce his grocery bill whilst eating healthier with a low-carb paleo diet and by eliminating food waste.
Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are ticking time bombs for our bodies and, without some changes, LunchMoney is heading for back and knee problems not to mention Type 2 diabetes and a host of other nasties.
At 1.34 LunchMoney then discovers the hidden costs of pet ownership.
Neighbour’s damn dog crapped on my lawn
LunchMoney has a fair point here. I don’t blame him for feeling a bit miffed that his neighbour has imposed on him what economists call a “negative externality”. In this case, LunchMoney has the downsides of pet ownership sat there on his lawn…without any benefit. I guess it’s a reminder that pets are expensive in more ways than one.
LunchMoney is not having a good day and at 1.37 we see some of the problems with over-reliance on car use.
Hopped in the car and the car won’t start
It’s too damn hot but I still gotta walk
LunchMoney seems to be over-looking the benefits of muscle over motor for short journeys. Perhaps if he walked or cycled more, he might be in better shape and happier generally? The Escape Artist respectfully suggests that LunchMoney gives some consideration to The Inestimable Advantages of Hardening the Fuck Up.
At 1.40 we find Lunch Money queuing at the local lemonade stand, created as a side hustle by an smart and enterprising young lady who has read The Correct Way to Start a Business and is now on the path to financial independence. Unfortunately, thanks to his unwise reliance on credit cards, this situation leads to further stress for LunchMoney:
Behind an old lady in the grocery line
Praying that my card don’t get declined
This stress triggers another emotional outburst of complaints:
God damn, God damn, God damn, God damn
Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man
LunchMoney is in danger of becoming a complainypants. His situation may not be easy but it would be better for him to expend energy improving his position rather than complaining or angrily defending his past choices.
At 1.55 we see the youthful yet wise entrepreneur shaking her head at LunchMoney’s clownery. Some might say that the young girl guide is being “preachy”. But I don’t see it that way. I see someone with a small business who is quietly saving and focusing on what she can control.
At 2.00 we see the mountain of unpaid bills that has piled up.
All these bills pile up my desk
They looking like a mount Everest!
Here LunchMoney is teaching us a valuable lesson…which is that you should get your finances set up so they are simple and require as little manual intervention as possible.
If you are messing around with paperwork, cheques or cash, you are doing it wrong. Your finances should run on automatic pilot and you should pay yourself first. You can set up a direct debit so your savings leave your bank account immediately after you get paid. And put essential utility bills (water, electric, gas) on direct debit.
I admire LunchMoney’s willingness to work hard. Work is a good thing when it provides meaning and purpose in your life. But it’s not good to work jobs you don’t really like to finance over-consumption that trashes the planet.
I’m not saying LunchMoney has to do the whole early retirement thing….it may not be what he wants…and that’s fine. But everyone should have a cash emergency reserve of say 3 – 6 months worth of spending to cover unforeseen expenses. Dig a well before you are thirsty.