The personal finance blogger community is a realm not unlike Fight Club. Writers and their followers go to extreme lengths to prove who’s the hardest of the hardcore.
The lady who’s killed off tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt gets one-upped by someone who’s overcome hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt to become a millionaire philanthropist with his own Batcave.
The dude who’s published a helpful e-book on frugality gets punked by the guy with the New York Times bestseller. The old lady who survived a year in Costa Rica on $5 is shamed by the older man who got by for a decade in Ottawa on a single Canadian dollar.
In the ongoing effort to prove who’s the smartest, least materialistic person who understands, loves and hates money most of all, bloggers engage in self-destructive stunts meant to top one another and assert their superiority. While some of these can be halfway useful, most of them are just sad and painful. Let’s explore those, shall we?
The game is to set a pre-determined period of time without spending any money. Ideally, it’s an exercise that teaches you how to get by on resources you already have, avoid wasteful spending and see which spending habits you can overcome. That’s not a bad idea.
In reality, however, no-spend periods turn into one of those street magician tricks in which the dude locks himself inside a plastic box as everyone walks by and gawks. In the absolute best-case scenario, the non-spender boringly announces that he’s succeeded in doing nothing for a week or a month. He was bored, and now we are, too.
In the worst case scenario, he admits that he broke down and went to Starbucks because he really wanted a pumpkin spice latte on Tuesday. We might get a spark of pleasure from his breakdown in willpower, but at the end of it, we’re still bored.
Avoiding motorized transportation of any kind.
Cars are the devil; that’s something I won’t refute. But as far as evils go, they are necessary ones for most people.
Some get off on avoiding driving by biking, running or hitching rides from others, but they ignore the downsides of the endeavors.
Sure, those who avoid pushing pedals in order to exercise on their way to work fail to admit that it takes so long for them to make it to their destinations that they have to begin the next day’s commute shortly after the previous day’s ends. Also ignored are the costs others pay for the extreme frugality. For instance, once exercisers show up at work, they stink so badly that others can hardly stand to be around them. And there’s nothing to take pride in about mooching rides off of others.
Ignoring advances in modern heating and cooling.
Who needs a heater when you can just keep putting on sweaters, light up the fireplace and stave off frostbite by keeping extremities stuffed in pockets? Who needs air conditioning when you can dip your head in a bowl of water, fold a fan out of paper and lounge stark naked so as not to retain any of the massive heat you’re radiating?
What extreme temperature monks fail to grasp is that it’s impossible to function as a human being when you allow yourself to be plagued by the elements. Have these folks learned nothing from the movie 127 Hours? How much work did James Franco accomplish when he was pinned into his frozen death trap? Other than severing off his own arm with a dull knife, not a whole lot.
So remember, folks. Keep your arms, wits, cars and pumpkin spice lattes about you and remember that you’re not impressing anyone by doing ridiculous things to save money. Unless, that is, you’re willing to do really ridiculous things to save a buck.