I know I haven’t posted in roughly forever, and no, I haven’t had the baby yet. I am currently three days overdue, uncomfortable, and cranky.
So perhaps that’s why this article from January’s Toronto Life irritated me so much.
I suppose I should have more sympathy for people getting by on a mere $10K or so a month, but I can’t help but find the entire exercise one of the more execrable things to appear in print in a very long time.
By way of an analogy: a couple of years ago a friend of mine dated a guy in his mid-twenties who still lived with his parents. She told me once that she was wary to get too deeply involved with him, because he had no life skills.
“He’s never had to pay rent or do his own laundry or buy groceries,” she said. “If I moved in with him I’d have to teach him how to do everything.”
So I offered to make him my intern – he could come and learn my domestic routines and budget skills. Because while I would not exactly call myself the proverbial Excellent Wife, I do have a shit ton of experience running an establisment on an income that has never quite crossed the boundary from inadequate to adequate.
Anyway, shortly after that she broke up with him for calling her a cougar in public (she was a few months shy of her 30th birthday at the time, FYI), so I never got to gather that bit of karma for myself. So in the spirit of positivity and all that crap I offer to share my experience with the cash-strapped upper-upper-upper middle class:
Budget tips for the 1%
If you find that your 10-15 grand a month just isn’t cutting it any more, here are a few simple money-saving tips from someone who is living on just a fraction of your income! In the exact same city as you, no less.
– Those really expensive cars you have? You might consider getting rid of one and sharing between the two of you, with an Autoshare membership as a back-up for when you really, really can’t do without two cars. It costs at minimum about $8000 to run a car in this city, so you’d save a lot even if you used Autoshare two or three times a week. You can also get a Metropass for about $1300/year.
– That expensive gym membership you have? You can cut seriously down on your need for that, cancelling it altogether or going for a cheaper option, by investing in a wonderful contraption called “the bicycle”. This can also take care of some of your transportation needs (see above), and will give you instant street cred with your kids, as well as something to feel superior to others over, which is clearly very important to you. (Note: I don’t recommend this to the couple in their 80s, clearly. I would suggest that if they want to save a bit they stop buying new Mercedes every three years and either stick with the cars they have or buy something a bit more modest, but hey. They’ll be dead soon enough, might as well splurge.)
– The several hundred dollars/month you spend on eating out? Because you’re too tired to cook when you get home from work? I suggest you suck it up and cook. I am frequently too tired to cook when I come home from work. I cook anyway, because I do not pull in $10000 per month and I can only rarely afford to eat out. You might want to stock up on some quick pull-together dinner things like prepared pasta sauce, prepared soups, and frozen entrees. These are less than ideal but cost a hell of a lot less than dinner out, even at Swiss Chalet.
– That $400/month you spend on wine? Buy cheaper wine. Or if you are already buying cheap wine, seek treatment, because if you’re averaging $11/bottle that’s 33.33333333 etc bottles of wine/month. If two adults are consuming more than a bottle of wine/day every day between the two of them, one or both has a problem. However, if you’re spending an average of $30/bottle that comes out to a more respectable 13.333333333 etc bottles/month. If you limited yourself to a couple of $11 bottles a week and one or two $30 bottles a month, you’d save about $250.
– That $5000 that one couple (who had no savings) spent on a chair? Buy a perfectly good chair for a couple hundred bucks and put the rest in your RRSP. Seriously. That is just dumb.
– There’s not an awful lot you can do about your mortgage, because real estate in Toronto is very expensive, but if you have the opportunity to do so consider moving to a smaller and/or less expensive house. Also turn your lights off when you leave a room and keep your furnace and air conditioning at reasonable levels, and if you run the A/C all day while you’re not there because it feels so nice to come home to a cool house, get a programmable thermostat and set it to start cooling 30 minutes before you get home. Or I will come over and beat you.
– Those nice designer clothes you wear? Wash them less frequently, every two or three times you wear them rather than every time. Trust me, no one will know, and not only will you save big on your energy bills, they’ll last a lot longer.
– Those vacations you take? Consider taking less expensive vacations. It’s nice to get away and all, but $7000/week is a bit much. You might think of travelling somewhere within Canada – hell, somewhere within driving distance – which is usually a lot cheaper than going overseas.
– And if you have kids, send them to public school. Trust me, they’re actually good here! There are even special arts and alternative schools that are hard to get in to, so little Peyton and Florence can still be superior to most children without it costing you $30000/child/year.
Anyway. I feel the need to add that I’m not hating on rich people (or marginally rich people, or people on the border of the upper-middle-class and the rich). I know a good number of people who fall into this income bracket, who have expensive cars and send their kids to private schools, and the vast majority are very nice people who don’t complain about not having enough money. (At least not to my face.)
But this article made me feel like a bomb-throwing 19th century anarchist. It is a loathsome apologia for privilege. It exists, like a lot cultural ephemera, to massage the feelings of the well-to-do, to make really quite wealthy people feel hard done by. And like a lot of cultural ephemera it works, which is why we live in a city where it’s apparently unconscionable to ask drivers to pay $60/year for the privilege of polluting our air and clogging our streets, but totally OK to raise the price of a transit pass by that exact same amount while cutting service. Where outlying areas of the city deserve subways that will never be fully used, but poor seniors don’t deserve discount walkers. Where a cyclist’s life is put on par with a driver’s feelings. Where it’s legal to arrest and brutalize peaceful protesters, but not to peacefully protest.
I wish there were an award for the most despicable piece of journalism, because this would be a shoo-in. Well done, Toronto Life!