I watched a Mr. Money Mustache video a few weeks ago. He said it costs $42.00 a gallon to drive a car. I don’t trust anyone but math so I thought it would be fun to mathematically figure out my transportation costs from last year. I don’t have a Cadillac or one of those trucks compensating for a small peanut so my math is a little different. I bought a car off of Craigslist that makes people think I have a small wallet. I also eliminated things like car crashes and the cost to my health for a sedentary lifestyle because I haven’t had an accident in years and my ADHD doesn’t allow for me to be too sedentary. I combed through a years-worth of Personal Capital expenditures and tallied up everything that went to my family’s transportation. I counted things such as the cost of tires, gas, registration, windshield wipers, et cetera. Some of these things were spent on my wife’s Kia, but I just divided it by two as she also got tires and windshield wipers on her car. Since her car is not as fuel efficient as mine and her tires were more expensive, the math is not perfect, but it gives me a good idea of how much I am spending when I drive.
It turns out that my little used 2012 Prius C costs about $0.25 per mile to operate. I even included the expect to replace the $1,200 battery during the car’s lifetime. I get 47 miles per gallon. In other words, a gallon of transportation juice actually costs a whopping 12 bucks. ($11.75 for all of you math nerds) If I drive 100 miles, that’s like literally burning $23.50. Since we drive approximately 20,000 miles per year, we are spending $5,000 per year to drive to jobs. It’s not $42.00 a gallon, but that’s still a lot of dough that could go a long way into baking my financial freedom.
This new mathematical revelation just gave me a huge epiphany. The price of a widget we see on the shelf is also not the true cost of consumption. When I go to a restaurant, they are really giving me some bullshit price to trick me into believing I am getting a better deal. The price of a meal on a menu is not really the true cost of the meal. I had to go to northern California for a funeral this last weekend. My aunt was generous to give us a hotel to stay in so that was covered, but we decided to go out for breakfast. We are watching our waistlines, so we tried to eat a light breakfast. I had steel cut oats with some dehydrated fruit and my wife had a yoghurt parfait. The steel cut oats were $8.00 and the yoghurt was $7.25. I thought we were eating a reasonably priced breakfast. Our meal should be about fifteen bucks…right? That was the quick math I did in my head anyway just like when I used to see gasoline cost 2.99 a gallon I think: hmmm… I have a ten-gallon tank so I must be spending about thirty bucks right now—Wrong! I’m spending $117.50 to fill my tank.
I was shocked when I signed the credit card bill to see that I had spent $30.13 on a meal that I thought was only $15.00. Here’s the problem. I just automatically ask for coffee because I am a caffeine junky. I never look at the price. I just ask for some java and hope the waitress brings a syringe full of the stuff so I can get my fix as soon as possible. This hotel restraint, non-peaches and cream flavored mocha, regular drip coffee costs 4.50. That means we spent nine bucks, on coffee that happens to be “free” if you make it in the hotel. (okay it’s included in the price of the hotel 😉) I know the old saying from Ben Franklin about death and taxes, but I rarely think about taxes. Add another $1.88 to the bill.
Then there’s this thing that I’ve always wondered about. Why don’t they just include the tip in the damn bill in the first place. Why don’t we just increase the price on the menu and pay these people a decent wage for busting their ass waiting on me instead of expecting someone to be good at math and not a dead beat. I round up to 4.00 using the double the tax method and now my bill comes out to $30.13 or $15.07 per meal. Why don’t they just list this price on the menu? It’s because less people would spend the money when faced with the true cost.
These FI (Financial Independence) blogs and books I’ve been reading as well as audiobooks and podcasts I’ve been listening to have got me thinking a bit differently. I suspect I might be starting to look like one of those weird people on TV like the guys who split two-ply into two rolls toilet paper or eat French fries people leave on their plates at restaurants. I am somewhat afraid of people looking at me this way. What if I become a social paruria? What if people make fun of me? What if people think I’m homeless, or worse—a cheapskate! What would my family think? What will my wife say if I implement all these crazy ideas? These are real fears of mine. I’m scared of being unable to hang out with my friends at the bar when they want to meet up for a drink. I’m afraid of being guilted into buying things… It’s such and such’s birthday, it is family, don’t you think you should spend time with your family? You just got a new job, you deserve a new car.
Instead of buying a new car, I have resolved to put my newfound skills into practice. All the books and all those podcasts are useless if I don’t apply the information to my life. I wanted a peacoat because it has felt like an Alaskan winter in Southern California this year, but I winced at the prices of new coats and there are not many options in our local thrift stores. I reasoned there would be more coats in Northern California thrift stores where the climate is cooler and the coat selection is bountiful.
I tried on this cashmere and wool overcoat that made me feel as rich as Captain Crunch. I looked in the mirror and the price said $50.00 because the 2 looked like a five when read backwards in the mirror. So I got this really warm coat for $20.00!
Then I perused the appliance section. Perused actually means to read carefully, so I didn’t really peruse the appliance section, but big words make sound smart. I came across something that looked like a hot plate. I once listened to an episode of The Radical Personal Finance show on how to save money while traveling. I found this episode completely fascinating and even took notes on it, but my wife did not find these frugal travel hacks so appealing. Joshua Sheets had great ideas such as using a Yeti cooler to keep your food cold in a hotel without a fridge, frying an egg on a tin-foil covered iron, using a hot plate and backpack cooking gear, turn on a crockpot while site-seeing and come back to a home cooked meal. It was time to stop wasting $30.00 on breakfast and put this information into action. I googled Hamilton Beach Hot surface and I found out that this little contraption was a breakfast sandwich maker. I also figured I could use it as a hot plate for my next trip.
I took a trip to Safeway and found this interesting CoinStar machine. I didn’t use it to buy bitcoin because they charge a 10% vigorish for counting change and they probably charge more for satoshis. (One bitcoin can be divided into 100,000,000 individual units. One satoshi is the smallest unit of bitcoin or 1/100,000,000 of one bitcoin) Mr. Money Mustache would not approve of such a machine, but I still love his blog. I bought some English muffins, half a dozen eggs, and a little bit of beer and wine. For the record, the beer and wine were not part of the breakfast.
I used the cup to mix the egg whites and got some salt and pepper from an earlier trip to Wendy’s. I’m a little worried that my wife is going to apply for me to get on a show called Extreme Cheapskates: Travel Edition, but so what?
A couple of years ago, I started reading stoic philosophy after hearing Tim Ferris talk about it on his poddcast. Here’s a passage that really resonated with me:
“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?”—Senneca
I once dressed in a stained t-shirt and some basketball shorts and paid for a piece of bread at a grocery store using some spare change I had around the house after reading this. The cashier looked disgusted because he obviously thought I was homeless. He didn’t want to touch my hand as I gave him the change. It was enlightening; but it was time to really put this passage into practice. What the hell did I read so many books for? What’s the use of reading Henry David Thoreau if you are not willing to be self-reliant, build your own house, chop your own wood, and grow your own beans? What if my wife did have me go on that extreme cheapskate show? Is this the condition that I feared? When I got home, I applied that to more things in my life. I realized that I was not saving as much money as I could because I was worried that people would consider me a miser. Look at all the words in the English language used to describe frugality.
Can you believe that stingy bastard making his own breakfast in a hotel? What kind of miser saves a buck like this? It must be St. Patrick’s day because he’s pinching that penny as if Abraham Lincoln didn’t wear green. What a tightwad! Can you believe how niggardly Scrooge MarcDuck is?
Is this the condition that I feared? People will talk behind my back and call me names. I will shrug. Seneca lived as a banker, playwright and advisor to the emperor. He actually had plenty of money until Nero had him killed. Another stoic philosopher named Epictetus was born a slave and then bought his freedom.
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”—Epictitus.
When I got home, I started reading Early Retirement Extreme, Your Money or Your Life and finished the Simple Path to Wealth. I decided that I wasn’t going to be afraid of what people thought of me because I have student loans to pay off. I believe a debt should be honored and paid back, nevertheless I can’t claim bankruptcy on my student loans, which is most of my debt. Think about what this means? I may not exactly be a slave like Epictetus was, but having a debt that can not be forgiven is indentured servitude.
Once I realized this, I turned off the heater and wore a sweater. I turn off the lights when I leave the room. I wait two weeks before I do my laundry with my own laundry soap.
I made my own Greek yoghurt.
I’ve started to consider every purchase I make. I go over my receipts and see if I could have done better. I didn’t buy that soda at Target. I use bodywash/facewash/shampoo, shave with a safety razor. Hopefully I can get my wife to cut my hair again. I’m no cheapskate. I am spending a lot of money on the thing I find the most valuable. I’m buying my freedom.
Note: I guess I did not include how much of a tip should be included on this menu. I’m not sure. My idea was to treat this blog as if I was a street performer offering entertainment. I also might try selling something to experiment with the technology. If a magazine costs about five bucks, and a blog is like an online magazine that I am giving away for free, 20% would be $1.00. At the time of this writing, $1.00=24,000 satoshis. Hopefully it is possible to make a profit without any ads.