Technically, I’m pretty poor. But I don’t think of myself that way. I’m able to do what I want. It’s just that I’m really lucky to be focused on things that cost little money. I understand that other people have greater needs. But it annoys me when I see people making a big deal out of what they’ve come to think of as necessities of their lives. This is what I thought when I read an article by Tobias van Schneider, I Had No Alcohol and No Coffee for 15 Months and This Is What Happened. What happened is that he saved a thousand bucks a month.
That comes to roughly $33 per day. According to van Schneider, “Some might think that this is heavy alcoholism, but trust me when I say that having 1-2 drinks everyday in New York is more than normal.” I guess he means that his drinking more than 1-2 drinks is more than normal for him. And it isn’t the drinking that really costs the the money, “Going out drinking means that the occasional dinner & snacks are more frequent.” I see it: a drink or two, some beer-battered onion rings, and a couple of expensive Starbucks coffees a day and you easily get to a thousand bucks a month.
Van Schneider also noted that the second thing that happened was, “Less gossip.” What he means is that he socializes less. So what really happened was that he cut a big part of his social life away. Before, he had a thousand dollars a month that he spent on entertainment, and now he doesn’t. That’s fine. How ever he wants to focus his life is his business. But it isn’t really about coffee and alcohol, is it? It’s about a certain notion he had of his lifestyle.
My lifestyle is what most people would consider pathetic, but it is more or less the one that I want. Each day, I drink upwards of three cups of tea. I usually drink Trader Joe’s Irish breakfast tea. It comes in boxes of 80 bags for $2.99. That about 4¢ per bag, or 12¢ per day. Then, when I’m feeling flush, I buy beer. Right now, because it is in season, I’m drinking Lagunitas Brown Shugga’. It’s about $10 for a six-pack, and over $11 once tax and CRV is paid for. So let’s say it is two dollars a bottle. I drink a bottle a night — religiously. (Well, sometimes I forget; I’m not naturally religious.) If a friend stops by, I will give them a beer. That is rare. But even if it weren’t, my entertainment budget comes out to perhaps $100 per month.
I don’t point this out because I think I’m superior to van Schneider. But it’s ridiculous to say that cutting out alcohol and coffee saved you a thousand bucks a month. And that was what he led with. I would say the main thing he really got from the experience was this, “It made me realize how many friendships are actually based mostly on your drinking habits.” Yes. Most of your relationships really aren’t any more deep than that. Friendship is an art, and very few people practice it.
But other than that, the whole thing reeks of privilege. It comes off as a rich man saying, “I can’t believe how much money I saved since I cut out caviar and champagne!” Yeah. It’s funny how when you stop spending money on expensive stuff you, well, stop spending money on expensive stuff. It’s right up there with, “I’ve lost weight since I started eating less and exercising more.” And, “I feel better since I stopped banging my head with a wooden mallet.