The 10 most-hated money-saving tips
Trouble is, the topic has been bled dry. We've read every tip on how to save money, in magazines from Good Housekeeping to Money. And still the nation's savings rates are at historic lows. We don't seem to be getting the message.
So in a twist, I thought I'd take a look at the top 10 most-hated money-saving tips: the tropes we're all supposed to embrace in our ongoing attempt to save something for a rainy day. The ones nobody, if we're being honest, wants to have anything to do with.
1) Save for Retirement. This is obvious. But it also goes against every "Live for the moment" principle we've been taught to embrace. Americans hate thinking about getting older and no longer earning our keep, don't we? And judging from the headlines about how Boomers and those behind us are slacking in terms of saving for those elder days, this is a money tip we revile most.
2) Move to a less hip (cheaper) city. But Manhattan is so exciting! San Francisco is so gorgeous! LA is so...well, Kansas City is wayyyyy cheaper. And if you're self-employed or you telecommute (or you've got a highly mobile skill, like nursing, or a trade), you can save untold thousands each year by living where the sun don't shine (comparatively speaking, of course). Few of us heed this sensible call, however. A home is more than the house we live in -- it's about friends, family and community. Harder to import those.
3) Buy a used car. New cars are exciting and flashy. The financing that car companies offer these days is tempting. And who doesn't love that new car smell? Yes, we all know they depreciate the very minute we drive them off the lot. Americans still love the big and the shiny and the new. Also, there's the Joneses to keep up with. Nobody seems to care about the thousands to be saved by buying a quality pre-owned vehicle. It just doesn't jibe with the sweet smell of success (read: a shiny new car) we've all been bred to desire.
4) Brown bag it every day. You know this is probably one of the most obvious and easy ways to save a few hundred bucks every month. And yet every month your work colleagues wave you down at the noontime hour: "We're going to Jing-Jing's for the lunch special! You in?" And you look balefully at your soggy tuna sandwich and bottled water and you think, "But $4.95 for sweet and sour chicken AND soup AND rice isn't bad...." And again you fail. And you become defensive. And bitter. "Don't I work hard? Aren't I entitled to some small semblance of enjoyment during my working day?" And you'll be right. Right as rain. You just won't be saving any money.
5) Kill your cable. You'd be a better person, sure, if you came home from work and read Tolstoy instead of watching ESPN. Or would you...? Yes, there are lots of savings to be had by shirking the idiot-box (including time savings). But most people agree: Vegging in front of your favorite TV show is still the cultural pastime of champions. And they'll have to pry our remotes out of our cold, rigid fingers.
6) No more lattes. The gold standard of saving money in this day and age. Not surprising, given the $4 coffee drinks that have evolved. But c'mawn! Is it too much to ask for just a small cup of happiness before the morning commute?
7) Don't buy a house you can't afford. Not a message most people listened to in the past four or five years, when the banks were giving mortgages away to anyone with a pulse and a pen. Of course, the flip side to that argument is, there is no house anyone can afford. "Starter" homes on either coast hover around $500K, and since we're not all corporate attorneys, if you opt to buy a house at all, it's by definition a house you "can't afford."
8) Cut up your plastic. We all hate credit card companies. We all know they're evil, and reap obscene profits from our lax personal finance standards. And yet, we're products of our culture. Mao and Stalin couldn't have done a better job of indoctrinating the masses. There are very few in our generation who can resist the lure of immediate gratification. Is it really surprising that most of us spend years with "getting out of debt" at the top of our to-do list? Besides, you can't give up all your cards. You need at least one to buy airline tickets, rent cars...buy books on Amazon....
9) Save for the kids' college. Yes. Yes. Yes. We all mean to do this. We all have the very best of intentions. And yet every month, some very good reason to use that $300 comes up. Your car needs new tires. The kids need band uniforms. Emergency dental work. And what are you gonna do? Well, exactly. Your 401(k) ain't getting any bigger, but at least neither is your credit card debt...
10) Carpool/telecommute. This one cracks me up. Unless you live in New York City or perhaps Chicago, there is little chance of cutting down your commute dollar. Most of us are slaves to our cars, and that is by design. Only the obsessive would subject themselves to mass transportation (in cities where there isn't already a long-established, working mass-transit system, I mean). For everyone else, there's sitting in traffic all morning as a matter of course.
No hate mail please! I'm just pointing out which steps we love to hate. It's like admonishing ourselves to cut out sugar and fat. We know we'd be healthier people for it... but who wants to go through life without a little taste? Very few of us indeed.
So let's have it. What are your money-saving pet peeves?