pushing the envelope

I’m a cash person. I deal in cash and I don’t consume credit. I don’t have a checking account, savings account, no IRA and no ATM or credit cards which are bound to a checking account. From time to time I purchase a pre-paid Visa card so that I might make online purchases, but I prefer in-person cash payments over any other.

When I want something in the future, I put the money into an envelope, seal it and mark it with its purpose. I don’t allow myself to open that envelope to re-purpose those funds to something else I want or need. I exercise person fiscal responsibility.

I try to refrain from recurring payments if possible. Notable exceptions are my rent and my Internet bill.

Remembering the Past

At one time, I had a wallet full of credit cards. I recall that one of them alone had a credit limit of over $115,000 on it. That’s a lot of room to get into trouble if you think about it. I do remember making payments to those credit card companies. I can’t even remember how much combined interest I paid since we’re not really conditioned to think of such things—we only remember the things we bought at the time. And this is how we’re programmed to think within the credit-buying space:  focus on the reward and forget about the cost.

“And this is how we’re programmed to think within the credit-buying space:  focus on the reward and forget about the cost.”

Planning For the Future

I am proud to say that I have the next eight months rent in their respective envelopes. I think the average person in the U.S. is living paycheck to paycheck. In fact, it looks like 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck (according to a bankrate.com survey) so I guess that makes me special.

“…76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck…”

Minimize Consumption and Buy Locally

As a personal goal I try to minimize consumption, that is to say the purchasing of retail goods within the description of “shopping therapy”. When I do, I try to buy locally. If I can accomplish this, I’m moving more of my economical support to the same place where I live and that helps my local community instead of someone else’s.

Just think of the drop in the U.S.’s dependency on oil imports if we could cut our transportation costs by 80% across the board. And yet everyday the highways have a constant stream of trucks bringing goods and food interstate. We’re conditioned to believe that cost alone is the most critical factor in deciding from which vendor we purchase those goods. Maybe we should change our thinking to select instead the best vendors who are the closest to us. The fewer the miles, the less the transportation cost ultimately. This should go beyond which store we buy from but also from where that store gets its goods. Do all of our manufactured goods need to come from China? Well, they do if you’re shopping by price alone.

Re-use, Recycle, Maintain

I buy used cars and you should, too. The average person panics when their car’s odometer reaches the 100K mark but don’t fear a number, the car will continue to drive even at the six-digit mark, trust me. It does help to understand some basic car maintenance. Change your own spark plugs, the job isn’t that difficult.

I spend an extra $2 for the really good milk in glass bottles (some sort of pre-paid deposit). And then I use that bottle to store dry goods purchased in bulk at the grocery store. The average quart-sized glass storage container might cost from $5 to $30, by the way. As an added benefit the bugs that formerly lived in my cupboard have given up completely and moved on.

Learn how to fix things. Sew. Solder. Sand and refinish. I recently converted a pile of recycled PCs into a private cloud. The skills you learn now you get to keep for life.

Recognize That the Economy and the Market are Fickle

You can’t predict the future, you can only plan for it. I’m old enough to have survived lay-offs, company buy-outs, company closures and the like. I lost my largest customer one day to outsourcing and it took me quite some time to rebound because I wasn’t prepared for such an eventuality. The entire software development industry almost overnight changed and I didn’t see it coming. Although I was making great amounts of money I still wasn’t adequately setup to bounce back from such a sudden loss of income.

So now I think I’m a little more pessimistic about the market in general and I take pains to avoid repeating any past mistakes.

Push the Envelope

And finally, I come to the meaning behind this post’s title. Each paycheck I try to do what I can to seal yet another month’s rent into a new envelope, pushing my savings out into the future. It’s not a bad system. I’d suggest that you’ve been programmed to believe that you can’t exist without a checking account but I assure you, you can.