I put “minimalist” in quotes because I’ve always had a few issues with the term.
Firstly, a true minimalist possesses almost zero worldly possessions, other than the clothes on their back. That includes money, a 401(k) account, pension, etc. They live like a monk. They don’t fret about things like passive income streams or side hustles because they don’t have them.
Historically, true minimalists were pretty badass. Think Gandhi, Jesus, Socrates, or Jules Winnfield at the end of Pulp Fiction. The only things they “owned” were the thoughts in their head, and the loyalty of their followers.
But nowadays the term has been softenend, mainstreamed, watered down. Most minimalists today aren’t really minimalists. They just hate buying furniture, and evidently all choose to live in white-walled apartments, and make videos of themselves sitting on hardwood floors. Calling themselves minimalists in one breath while talking about their massive portfolios in the next. Hypocrites all.
You can’t call yourself a minimalist if you’ve got a half mil in the bank and make $3k a month from dividends, swing trading, or crypto staking. Even digital nothings like Bitcoin and the numbers in your WeBull account count as actual possessions.
I guess the term “cheap ass mofo” (CAM) is less desirable than the cleaner, more P.C. term “minimalist.” Though CAM is far more fitting.
To the degree that minimalism is about rejecting an excessively materialistic life of needless product consumption, I’m totally on board. But remember, if you own stocks, you’re still supporting the corporate power structure. You’re still an uber capitalist. So don’t try to pretend like you’re making some grand philosophical statement because you buy shit at Goodwill.
Most so-called minimalists are really just lazy capitalists under the surface. But rather than doing the hard work of building multiple income streams or a business — the real way to become wealthy — they’d rather ooze their way to F.I.R.E. (financial independence retire early) by cheaping out at every turn.
You want to be a real minimalist? Give away everything you have — I mean EVERYTHING — and go live in Kenya or Vietnam or somewhere. Most of the people in the world truly have nothing in the real sense of the word. Not the Western sense, where “nothing” just means you didn’t fill your apartment with IKEA junk. Until these so-called minimalists start doing that, they can just shut the hell up.
Being a cheap ass mofo is a little different. As a CAM, I don’t not spend money so much out of some compulsive pathological need to save dollars or virtue signal my empty apartment in the gentrified part of town. It’s more about not spending unless I believe I’m getting good value for my money. A rare thing. But also — it’s getting value while simultaneously hating the fuck out of institutions and businesses that are trying to rip you off. Which is ALL of them.
Here are a few ways I aggressively save money as a CAM:
Restaurants are scams. Especially fast food joints like McDonald’s. They load their “food” up with sugar and fat, and then charge you a premium for an amount that hardly qualifies as “filling.” So you pay a ton for “food” that’s going to clog your arteries with Play-Doh, to sit in a dirty restaurant, and usually while getting shitty service.
That’s a trifecta of B.S.
It’s a terrible value for your money. It’s dehumanizing, too. I recently had the misfortune of having to go to a Mcdonald’s while on a road trip. You don’t even have to order at the counter anymore. You walk up to these giant smartphone screens, tap in whatever garbage you want, and then sit at a table and wait for someone to come plop it down. Supposedly this is done for “efficiency.” Yet every table in the joint was dirty and needed to be wiped down. The floor was sticky. The bathroom looked like a war zone. And this was during off-peak hours after the lunch rush, and before dinner. So even if Mcdonald’s is saving time and money, where is it going? The whole scene was near dystopian. Like something out of that movie Brazil by Terry Gilliam.
Next time, I’ll just eat tuna right out of the can in my car.
But my Mcdonald’s experience is hardly unique. This is why I rarely, if ever, eat out, and usually only when I have to travel. And even when forced, I still feel like some used-up whore who had to go back to the street corner because the rent was due, and I hate myself for days after.
Eating out is almost always a gigantic waste of money and almost never a good value either. It’s a total scam, wasteful, and unhealthy. I’ve saved probably tens of thousands of dollars by cooking for myself at home. I’m not a culinary genius. I have about ten to fifteen meals I cycle through. I even make my own pizza, because most store pizza or order out pizza sucks and is loaded up with sodium and preservatives.
Cooking for yourself is healthier, cheaper, filling, and even therapeutic. It’s the only way I fly, and it’s one of the best ways to stretch your budget.
New Cars Suck
Another HUGE way I save money as a CAM is by driving a senior vehicle. Notice I didn’t say “shitty car” or “piece of crap used vehicle,” or some other demeaning term. Older cars deserve respect, just like people. They’ve done their time, fulfilled their duty, and most importantly, survived.
New cars are like the douchebag frat party boys just out of their MBA programs that their equally douchey fathers paid for, who think they’re entitled to run your life because they once did a Powerpoint on Milton Friedman. They haven’t earned their place yet in society. They’re wet and shiny looking. They have no character. No authenticity. No humanity about them. They look nice. That’s it.
Senior cars, by contrast, have character. They’re like the grizzled combat vet who did two tours in ‘Nam, but still has the work ethic to be a Wal-Mart greeter, and shows up on time every shift. Or like my beloved grandmother, who renewed her nurse’s license at age 76, and then proceeded to work the graveyard shift reliably, without fail, for the next ten years, because retirement bored her. Senior cars rock.
I drive a stick shift 2006 Saturn Ion that has almost 180,000 miles, which I’ve had for over ten years. Saturn went out of business in 2010 after the Great Financial Crisis. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m driving a classic automobile, because they’re not making anymore of them. I call my car “Baby.” I give her regular oil changes and maintenance. She’s getting new shoes (tires) this weekend, and some brake work. I treat her right, and she continues to perform fine for me. She drove me across the country from Pennsylvania to North Dakota back in 2012. She took me on a West Coast road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles, then all the way across the country back to PA then back to ND back in 2013.
I love my car. And even though I make good money and could easily afford something newer in cash, I have no intention of buying anything. One day Baby will break down for good. And when she does, I’ll have to go out and buy something. And it’ll be fine, because Baby has paid for herself many, many times over. She’s probably saved me not just tens, but hundreds of thousands of dollars. She’s my Millenium Falcon. And when the day comes for her to take that final trip to the Big Scrap Heap in the Sky, I plan on giving her a Viking funeral with Scottish bagpipes.
You know what the average car payment is in the United States? According to Bankrate it’s $677. But there are morons out there who take out car loans that are as big as some mortgages. I saw a TikTok video recently where a guy was going around an office asking people how much their monthly car payment was. And people were giving numbers like $1,200, to almost as high as $2,000.
All that money for what exactly? A pile of shiny metal that literally shrinks in value by a third the moment you sign on the dotted line for it. Insanity. I will ride a bike or jog down the highway Forrest Gump-style than ever finance a car again.
I financed a car once. Baby, when I first got her. My previous senior car had locked up on the highway a few weeks earlier. At the time I was living in Philadelphia while commuting to work in New Jersey. I needed wheels, and I barely had any savings. So, like many unfortunate people out there, I was forced into financing a car. But even then, I had the good sense to buy something cheap and reliable. I struggled with the payment terms. I had a predatory interest rate of like 17%. I missed one payment one month when I was totally strapped. But eventually, about two years later, I paid the whole thing off, and swore never to have to go through that again.
When news reports come out about how most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, it’s no surprise why. If the average income for Americans is about $63,000 according to DQYDJ, and the average car payment s $677 as stated above, then that means the average person is blowing roughly 13% of their annual income on a vehicle. But remember, that number $63,000 is the average, and skewed by the higher earners. Most people make way less, yet still finance more car than they need. So the actual percentage in their budget people blow on cars may actually be way higher.
I already talked about my stance on alcohol at length in my article Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol. Check it out, it’s a banger. One thing I didn’t get into too much was the high cost of bar-hopping and clubbing. Two things that will quickly drain your account. Drinking alone or at home on a budget won’t hurt you much financially, though it’s still not something I do. But going out with friends to get smashed? Celebrating the end of the work week with a round of shots? That’s the kind of stuff that makes credit cards companies rejoice, and you cry in your vomit-stained carpet. It’s unhealthy and time wasting, of course. But also it’s usually ridiculously expensive. You’re paying hundreds for flavored liquid that will do nothing but make you make bad decisions for the next eight hours.
On top of that, people make all sorts of bad and costly impulse buys when they get drunk. Take me, for instance. Back in my Stupid Days, I had just finished my first novel, a crappy navel-gazing screed moaning about office work, and to celebrate, I got more lit than Chinese New Year. At some point during my revelry, I decided to finally act on my lifetime dream of owning an English Bulldog. So I clicked around online until I found a puppy mill, and plunked down a deposit of $1000 on a credit card. A non-refundable deposit, mind you. The whole cost was $3000. Because I couldn’t back out, I decided to hell with it and pressed on. Well, three weeks later “Bronco” was delivered to my doorway, and my “dream” quickly turned into a nightmare. That little beast chewed up every piece of furniture I had, shit and pissed everywhere out of spite whenever I left for work, humped me left and right to show dominance when I was home, and whined and complained for attention constantly if I so much as used the bathroom.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved the little dude, and I took care of him. But I had no business taking on a puppy. Especially not one that was a gremlin in disguise. Thankfully, I was able to eventually give him to a loving family with a big yard and kids. And a good lesson was learned. Don’t buy fucking animals you have no business owning when you get plastered.
I hope this article has spiked your enthusiasm for saving money with a little aggressiveness. Some anger is good, because the reality is that most of the world is trying to rip you off in one way or another. Most people inexplicably don’t guard their hard-earned money or seriously examine supposed necessities and requirements before plunking down a fortune on them. College, for instance, is mostly a scam, other than STEM degrees and the networking qualities. Almost everything you learn in college nowadays can be replaced with YouTube, online courses, coaching, apprenticeships, or books at the library. Just about entirely for free. So can most of public school for that matter. I was homeschooled myself for three years. And while I missed the socialization to some degree, public school is a ridiculously inefficient knowledge distribution system. The best kind of learning you’ll ever do is self-taught anyway, and you usually don’t do that until after you leave school.
Then you have houses. Which are not not always scams and don’t always suck, but they are certainly overrated. And the whole idea of “buying” a home is misrepresented, as you don’t actually own the home. The bank does. But even if you pay cash, you’re still paying “rent” to the government in the form of property taxes. And a house usually ends up as just an excuse to go out and buy more shit to fill it up with. Then you’ve got all the maintenance costs. Sure, you get equity. And if you live in a good area and hold for the right amount of time, you may just end up making out really well when you sell. But in the end most average home buyers just about break even with all costs factored in.
In summation, be careful out there. You don’t have to be a Cheap Ass Mofo like myself, but recognize that most businesses and instititions are not about providing you equal value for your money. They are wealth extraction systems designed to seperate you from the digits in your bank account. Too many people think it’s only carnival games or obvious boogeymen like Wall Street that are rigged. But actually everything is to a degree. So stay sharp.