Damn, maybe I should sell drugs - these cartels seem to have everything figured out...
Periodically I’ll be on Facebook or Reddit and I’ll see a link to some Mother Jones article about a guy who’s been living completely without money for years and is loving his life, or the guy who, to protest the Iraq War, asked his boss to give him a 75% pay cut on his six figure salary so he’d make around $36,000 a year and thus not have to pay income taxes to fund an unjust war. These articles usually end with the subject talking about how happy and satisfied they are now, and how much richer their lives are without money.
I always wonder if these money-free types are, in fact, miserable, but are just putting on a brave face for the media because they don’t want to come out and admit that their lives are actually considerably worse without money, and the only reason that they haven’t gone back to it is because, after making a principled stand, it’s kind of tough to sit down again without everybody noticing and laughing at you.
Reading these articles makes me feel a little bit shitty, because my initial reaction to hearing about somebody getting rid of all the money they’ve ever had is always, ‘What the hell are you doing, you dope!?’ I mean, yeah, I was against the Iraq War, but I my level of defiance went about as far as writing nasty things about President Bush in the Oregon Daily Emerald. And I know that money doesn’t buy happiness; I read The Great Gatsby just like everybody else.
I just can’t help myself, I guess – I love money. It’s great! Money is probably one of my favorite things, and having money is probably one of my favorite activities. Go ahead and guess what my favorite song from Dark Side of the Moon is. That’s right: Time, followed by Any Colour You Like, followed by The Great Gig In The Sky, followed by Money.
Maybe this makes me sound greedy, but I’d ask you not to cast judgment on me for who (okay, what) I love – I think I pointed out in the last update that we shouldn’t do that sort of thing. Honestly, though, I shouldn’t be feeling this way this soon – 23 year olds are supposed to be fighting the man and soul searching. Presumably, I searched my own soul and found some Gollum-like creature who really loves money.
What I’ve found, though, is that I don’t love money because I can buy things with it. As it happens, I absolutely hate spending money. Whether I’m between jobs or fully employed, every time I pull out my credit card I wince a little bit on the inside and think about the money I’m about to part with like it’s some sort of adorable puppy that I’m about to shoot out of a cannon into the sun. The fact that I’m getting, say, a burrito in return for my puppy doesn’t really sink in until later – usually halfway through the burrito.
So, to recap: I am a terrible person who loves money, hates spending it, and currently does not have enough cash on hand to make a money swimming pool like Scrooge McDuck. If I were Jewish, I’d be fulfilling a really ugly anti-Semitic stereotype.
I think I hate spending money so much because, as previously established in every other blog I’ve written, I spend a lot of my time worrying about things I have no control over and generally assuming all of the worst things in the world will happen to me. Some of this probably stems from being raised by two parents who’ve spent decades working in the insurance industry.
Money is the ultimate insurance policy; if you throw enough of it at a problem, it’ll eventually go away. So I stockpile money the way that people in Idaho stockpile guns – we’re both preparing for some sort of future disaster. The only difference is that mine is usually my laptop breaking or burglary and theirs is a race war. Likewise, I enjoy parting with my money just as much as Idaho survivalists enjoy parting with their guns.
So, I was at Best Buy on Saturday.
At the moment, I have a job – it’s a freelance job, though, and while the work has been steady I can’t be 100% sure it’ll be there forever. I also blew through most of my savings during my 7 months of spotty employment in LA, so I’ve been even more miserly than usual, outside of my raging Chipotle addiction,* while I try to replenish what I lost.
*There’s a Chipotle basically two blocks from my office. Do you know how many days in a row you have to go to Chipotle for lunch before you get sick of it? Neither do I.
But over the past couple of months, one desire overpowered by desire to not spend money: The desire for a Playstation 3 and a TV in my room to play it on. The way I see it, I’m a nerdy single guy who works 55 hours a week and has approximately five close friends within 200 miles – if I’m not going to have a social life, at the very least I can build some hand-eye coordination with a rigorous video gaming schedule.
So there I was at Best Buy, flatly refusing the salesman’s attempts to upsell me to a slightly larger and significantly more expensive TV and feeling nauseous as I watched him ring up a cheap HDTV (on sale), a Playstation 3, and all three Uncharted games. I declined all financing options, forked over my card, and minutes later was driving back to my apartment, hating myself for how much money I’d just parted with.
I recently listened to an interview with Louis CK in which he talked about living in New York and working as a standup comedian when he was in his 20s. At that point in time, standup was somehow really lucrative, and Louis was making upwards of $500 a night. One night, he explained, he’d come home on his motorcycle from a show with his pockets bulging with cash and consciously thought, “This is amazing. I’m kicking ass at life.” The next night, he got into a motorcycle accident and nearly killed himself, and in that same week two of the most profitable comedy clubs he’d been performing at closed, ushering in an era of poverty that lasted for years and an era of self-doubt that continues today.
I took that, like most things Louis CK says, very seriously – as soon as you get comfortable, life throws you a disaster-shaped curveball to fuck it all up. This is why, after bringing my TV and PS3 into the house, I sat on the bed and stared blankly at the boxes for God only knows how long, eying my receipt and considering taking them back.
What if the agency I’m at closes tomorrow? My advertising resume isn’t impressive, and I doubt the incredible luck that got me this job could get me in the door elsewhere. Once the money I’ve made – less what I just dropped on a PS3 and television – runs out, I’d have to go back to being a production assistant, which is infrequent, low paying work that I hate. And God forbid I should get paid very little to do a job I don’t like, because we all know nobody else in the world has to do that.
I eventually unpacked my TV and found that it actually looked quite nice sitting on the stand in front of my bed – same with the PS3 beneath it. Then I started playing these Uncharted games I’d been hearing so much about, and next thing I knew it was Sunday and I was making the conscious decision not to write a blog so I could keep shooting evil enemy treasure hunters in the face.
It took me longer than most people to get to this point, but I’ve decided I’m very satisfied with my purchases. No matter what happens to me employment-wise in the future, the TV and the PS3 are a sunk cost – rain or shine, work or no work, I’ll be able to play video games. Come to think of it, my PS3 was really just an investment in cheap home entertainment for the next couple of years.
At least, that’s how I’m going to try and spin it when I write it off on my taxes next year.
Truman Capps can see easy access to video games being a real obstacle to his writing career.