Simple Pleasures

I was cleaning up my basement and realized the best things I’ve bought were simple and affordable, and have provided years of entertainment.

Here’s my list:

  • A pair of Hi-tech hiking boots.  Cost: $65.  Age: 5 years.
  • A Cannondale mountain bike.  Cost $250.  Age: 7 years.
  • A Wilson Basketball.  Cost $30.  Age: 4 years.
  • A Martin acoustic guitar.  Cost $350.  Age: 10 years.

The great thing about this list is that pretty much anybody can afford all four or at least one of the four.  How easy it is to strap on a pair of hiking shoes and go for a zen journey into the wilderness. How nice it is to go for a ride down the back roads without a care in the world.  There are community centers all around with indoor gyms, which are especially convenient during the winter months.  Finally, nothing beats strumming that new tune until your fingers go numb.

Maybe it’s true.  The best things in life are free, or close to it! It makes me happy knowing that if I ever had to go back to my old McDonald’s job again, my leisure activities wouldn’t decline as precipitously as my income.

Readers, what are the inexpensive things you like to do?  What are the affordable things you’ve bought that have provided you years of enjoyment?  Have a great weekend!

Best,

RB

Financial Samurai

30 Minutes At Starbucks

So here I am at Starbucks, testing to see if being here among the bustle of loungers helps gives me writing inspiration.  They say it’s good to get out of the house once in a while to recharge the soul.  I take the first seat that’s available, and what do I notice?  Hanging on the side of the chair, hidden behind the backrest is a white purse.  I look around wondering if someone had dared claim their space with something so valuable.  Several minutes past, and I thought to myself definitely not.  A poor woman must be frantically back-tracking where she could have misplaced her purse.  Eventually she would return, or will she?

As I waited, I felt like a culprit.  I didn’t want to take the purse and give it to the front counter.  For what if in that instant, the woman popped into the store and saw me?  I’d be implicated as the thief and would have to explain myself.  Maybe she was simply taking a long time in the bathroom after a venti mint mocha frappuccino and had a very large husband to boot?  I was trapped, and felt like I was on candid camera, being tested on what I should do.  The temptation to open the purse and reveal any treasures was not great.

PlayPlay

Obama’s Universal Healthcare Proposal


In Sarah’s first online post since quitting her job as Governor of Alaska, she writes that Obama’s Healthcare Plan is “Evil” because of its support for euthanasia. Obama later explains, “Nobody is going to be forcing you to make a set of decisions on end-of-life care based on some bureaucratic law in Washington.” What’s interesting to note is how this story has garnered so much more attention rather than the costs and implementation of Obama’s healthcare plan. I have admittedly not paid attention to this debate, but feel I should. In this post, I attempt to provide a brief understanding of this controversial topic, along with various viewpoints.

THE SKINNY ON UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE:

WHAT IS IT?
* Universal health care is also known as single-payer system, united health care system, or national health care. Universal health care is similar to the current US Medicaid program for low-income folks, and would apply to all citizens of the US regardless of the ability to pay.

WHY HAVE IT?
* Supposedly 50 million or so Americans, or almost 20% of the country’s population is without healthcare. People will argue that it should be the right of every American to have coverage, just like the Canadians and the British.

ADVANTAGES
* With a single Universal Healthcare system, Americans will save money because the new system will slash billions of dollars in administrative costs. Furthermore, 50 million people will have coverage.

DISADVANTAGES
* To provide 50 million more people with free healthcare, someone has got to pay for it. Some don’t believe big government will be able to run the new system as efficiently as the private sector.

With this quick understanding, here are various opinions from real people I’d like to share with you.

Losing Your Way To More Money

At the beginning of every year, I tell myself that I’m going to eat better and exercise more. Yet, every December, I look and weigh exactly the same and get frustrated until the New Year, when the cycle starts anew. My theory on weight is simply that we all have a weight range we fluctuate in, and every 5 years that band increases towards the heavier side! That was my excuse for my lack of improvement.

I used to also think that our weight was 70% hereditary and 30% diet and exercise until I saw the show “The Biggest Loser!” Now I think the ratios are the complete opposite. If you really want to get motivated and cry at the same time, you’ve got to watch the show. The show’s concept is simple. After 3 months of boot camp, whoever loses the most weight wins gobs of money! The results are astonishing. Season 7′s winner, Helen lost an amazing 140lbs from her original 255lbs start weight. Go Helen!

The Biggest Loser show demonstrates that with enough motivation and discipline we can lose a lot of undesired weight. In fact, for 7 seasons in a row each of the winners have lost over 100lbs!

FOOD EXPENSE & GOALS

On average, I spend about $20 a weekday for food and $100 per weekend for a total weekly cost of $200 and a total monthly cost of around $800! I had no idea how much I was spending until I decided to write everything down for two weeks and annualize accordingly. $800 was clearly overkill, especially since it accounts for over 65% of my then, discretionary spending.

When the downturn hit, I decided to do an experiment partly to bring down my food expenses by 30%, and partly because I was inspired by The Biggest Loser, to shed 15lbs and get down to my college fighting weight of 160. At 160 lbs, my
Body Mass Index
would be 23 (18.5-24.9 is normal weight) from slightly overweight at 25.5. If Helen can lose 140 pounds, why can’t I lose a lousy 15?!