Randomly flipping through television stations the other day, I paused to hear a blonde talking head cheerfully announce her suggestions on how to cut back and budget in today’s economy. Being newly retired, my curiosity became piqued immediately. My retirement check, less than half of my previous income, needs to stretch like Silly Putty—many directions simultaneously! I reasoned this “expert” could, perhaps, give me a few tips on budgeting that I’d overlooked or forgotten.
The first point this perky reporter suggested made me want to reach through the screen and slap her silly. As she continued down her list, my head almost exploded. One suggestion? When you go out to eat, don’t order mixed drinks with your meal. Instead, drink alcohol at home after an evening out. Now, I don’t know about other people out there on tight budgets, but when I brought home a full paycheck, I couldn’t afford drinks and dinner (it’s one or the other, rarely both). Suddenly, it occurred to me that this woman didn’t realize that people who have low incomes don’t go out to eat at all!
Another suggestion by this clueless bimbo? Cut back your cable service. Don’t have Showtime or HBO. Again, I thought, “What an idiot!” I have never, ever had these cable services. It’s difficult to cut from you budget items you never could afford at any point in time! The woman went on with suggestions like going to the movies during matinees (I haven’t seen a new release movie at a theater since Star Trek, which I think was in 2009!) Don’t even get me started on her vacation tips (again, we’ve gone as long as ten years between vacations, so there’s not room to save there).
Obviously, when people who have money need to “budget” their dollars, they have a lot more wiggle room than someone who’s already scrimping to make it through each month. And the expert’s advice to leave 401K plans alone? Again, really? A person must have money left over at the end of each month to invest. Never part of my reality!
I spent many years teasing my father and brother for yelling at the T.V. set during football games, but I suddenly understood exactly why they shouted in frustration. I learned, from this financial whiz, that there’s no hope for me.
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman