Several years ago, the Dr. Phil wannabes of personal finance were rubbing elbow patches at their annual convention. Between nibbles of the mealy hotel melon salad, they all agreed to start putting the word out that small daily expenses add up to big bucks. It was genius: personal finance gurus everywhere had found their theme of the year! The only piece missing?: what daily expense to tell people to cut.
Then one Dr. Phil wannabe came late to the discussion with a paper Starbucks cup of coffee in hand. That’s it! Coffee! Even better, that superfancy gourmet coffee — especially when we all know that old, rusty can of Folger’s will do. And thus the public crusade to get rich by giving up coffee was born: Settle Down, Beavis: Cup of Coffee or New Turbo? – Jalopnik. There is even an online calculator to help you find how much money you’ll save by pouring hot water through a sock filled with sawdust instead of frivolously spending your money on palatable coffee.
The weight loss analogy
The logic behind this assertion is completely valid in isolation. But that’s just the problem: although it might elegantly solve a mathematical thought problem, reality is far more complex and interdependent. It’s the personal finance equivalent of my favorite physics joke punchline, “assume a spherical chicken” — which illustrates how a gross oversimplification might lead to seemingly useful results, but the entire exercise is pointless because it’s founded on false assumptions to begin with.
This “skip coffee, buy a house” myth is analogous to a lot of diet advice, since long-term weight loss is also founded upon the routine accumulation of small, daily habits. Skip a sweetened, 12-ounce can of soda a day, and at 355 calories a pop that amounts to 65,700 lost calories a year — or a loss of 18 pounds of body flab and fat each year. It’s common knowledge, and people are downing diet and reduced calorie sodas in ridiculous numbers. So why aren’t we a nation of supermodels? Instead, obesity rates have climbed to epidemic, record levels just as we’re drinking more diet soda than ever.
As the wise Tom Vu once told us, “You want luxurious lifestyle like mine?”
The premise of coffee-aversion-based-riches is so ludicrous, I started thinking about similar strategies to save on daily expenses and make you rich. Take eating, for example. Americans are already too fat as it is. Why make the grocery stores rich when all you need for lunch is a trip down to Glide Memorial‘s soup line? And if you’re one of those fussy types who prefers fancy restaurant food, Dumpster diving behind your favorite restaurant can provide an all-you-can-eat smorgasborg of the daily menu — without the bill nor the fussy service. That alone should save you many more dollars each day than your get-rich-slow, cup-of-coffee plan.
Health care can be really expensive too. Why not drop the daily cost of health care, which can run hundreds of dollars each month, and rely instead on emergency room care like much of America’s uninsured? Start ordering the yacht catalogs now!
Or why should we always talk in the negative?…of giving up things to get rich? How about living life in the affirmative to become obscenely wealthy? Semi-weekly donations of blood plasma should put an extra $50 per week in your pocket — and you can buy a lotta lattes with that. And why stop there? — you could earn that much more each day by giving out sexual favors like George Michael at an I-5 rest stop bathroom!
Then you can drink in your tremendous wealth and success by blowing it all on a bad marriage to that Vegas stripper. (OK, so it sure seemed like a good idea at 3am after six or seventeen mojitos.) Just be sure to skip the coffee in divorce court…unless it’s free.
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