Daily, we watch interviews with people who cannot fathom the tragic difficulties of managing with only one in-flight carry-on, or laminate counter tops (horrors!), or last year’s designer shoes. Their major project is choosing fabulously profitable investments (which often involve taking unfair advantage of workers who are “unfortunate”). They need to “shelter” their income because it’s so embarrassingly out of proportion with the funds normal people can earn. Kindly, they tell the rest of us how to tighten our belts so we have hope of surviving a setback:
Get rid of your television services. Your family can’t afford to go anywhere. The price of airline tickets sends Dad into cardiac arrest. Even the price of “family attractions” looks more like a bid to buy your children than to entertain them. So now you’re supposed to get rid of television. Instead, you can buy an endless stream of t.v. marathons or movies (of course, you’ll run out of options you haven’t seen fairly quickly). Those who make this suggestion obviously own homes that are so large they can’t hear the kids screaming when they’re hungry, you’re tired, and you’re trying to get dinner on the table before everyone becomes violent. They figure you don’t need in-depth information such as that available from PBS stations or news specials because you aren’t a player.
Get rid of your landline phone. The weather has gone mad. The power goes out, and you must report your condition to the utilities company. You’re dependent on your local cell tower and your batteries. You had been about to plug in your cell to recharge. Arrgh! You take out your solar-powered charger, but there’s no sun. Bad weather—duh. The power outage stretches on. You need to call your distant family to tell them you’re still alive, but the people who have crank chargers (you can identify them by their huge biceps) and have found a cell tower that’s functional tell you their cells say “Emergency Calls Only.” Is going mad an emergency?
Freeze your credit cards. It’s the day after you paid the “regular” bills and it’s Little Johnny’s birthday (didn’t he just have one last year?), the extended family has come for a visit (they never diet when they’re “on vacation”), the car expired on the Interstate, and Zoe needs school supplies yesterday (her teacher says she’d do better if she had her own tablet). You’d like to think this is an unusual week, but it isn’t. It’s the reason people have credit cards in the first place.
Get rid of your gym membership. Are you covered for the mugging you’ll endure as you walk or run the streets at night? (In my neighborhood, you’re risking being mauled by wild animals if you run at dawn or dusk.) Where in your house do you store your frighteningly expensive workout equipment, if you use your credit card to buy some? The kids don’t really need their own bedroom, do they?
While we who are financially challenged appreciate the solicitude of the wealthy, we have trouble embracing their advice—maybe because our brains have been poisoned by fatty meat and contaminated vegetables.