Headline I read the other day: “Obama: ‘We Have To Pay Our Bills'”
It’s a good thing we have him to bring that to our attention; after all, most Americans have no concept of what it means to have bills hanging over their heads, right?
In return for this electrifying and eye-opening revelation, may I submit–out of the depths of our nation’s grateful heart–the average working-class guideline for budgeting, entitled
An Illustrated Budget Primer for The President and Congress:
1. If it looks like you’re about to run out of money: STOP SPENDING. This might mean that certain areas of your communal life, heretofore the repository of many good and comforting things might end up looking like this:
2. Determine the difference between wants and needs and stick with the needs. Note the milk and eggs? Those are needs. (Well, at least if you are running a daycare out of your home and the USDA says you have to feed the kids a certain amount of fluid milk and protein, it is.) The Worchester and lime are optional.
3. Get creative. If it’s July and your kid wants sandals, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out that his sneakers are already fully air conditioned:
Come on. Where does he have to go in the next month and a half that he’s going to need shoes, really? You don’t have any money, remember? You aren’t going to the store, the movies, or the swimming pool. Send him out to the garden to play in the mud. It’s (mostly) free. Depending on your view of property tax and where you get your water from.
4. Just because the experts say that you qualify for that loan, doesn’t mean taking it out is a good idea. Ask yourself: is this a matter of life or death? Is there anyway I could trade in my pride, comfort, or convenience in order to avoid that debt? Seriously. Maybe you’ll lose face and even weight because you have to bicycle to work, but you won’t lose your home to the bank, either. If you don’t go to the grocery store this week, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You use up those cans and boxes of bizarre food you keep pushing to the back of your pantry? You know you have some. And trust me, it will be good for your teens to realize just how good they had it when they had the option of pushing that food aside.
5. Get used to the whining that will surely erupt
from the socialists. It actually doesn’t last that long–the people who take for granted that somehow you owe it to them to fill their every need only whine until they are certain that whining will no longer result in another handout. They might surprise you with their own resourcefulness if you give them a chance. Turns out my thirteen year old will even make a batch of bread if he gets hungry enough.
6. Along those same lines: I know you want to give them every good thing, but there’s nothing wrong with letting them drive Hank.
7. Waste not, want not. That means that if the toddler does something like, say… This:
you don’t take the easy way out. I know, I know, you’ve been taught all your life that time is money. But it isn’t money unless someone is willing to pay you for it. Wind the t.p. back onto the roll; it won’t kill you.
6. Hopefully, back when the budget wasn’t quite so tight, you acquired tangible property of some sort. Sell as much of it as you possibly can. You might miss your television, but feel free to refer back to #2.
7. Differentiate your skill set. Learn how to transform what you already have into something you need, instead of buying new. I think this pan of whole wheat bagels cost me about six cents:
I’m not saying it’s ideal, or that you should settle for painful scrimping as a permanent way of life: I’m just pointing out reality. You can’t solve debt problems by increasing your available line of credit indefinitely. At some point you’ve gotta settle for eating oatmeal even when you really want a breakfast burrito.