How to save money, if you are complete and total idiot

My wife told me about this article from Yahoo news.  It is about how a family is saving money in these tough times.  Sure, I’ve got lots of things I need to catch up with on the blog, but this was just too awesomely stupid not to fisk.  Judging from the over 6,000 comments about how ridiculous this is, I’d say I’m not alone.  As usual, they are in italics, I am in bold.

In these difficult times it is always useful to learn how other people have tightened their belts. Let’s see what wisdom Yahoo: News For Imbeciles has to share.

How do you explain to your kid that he can’t have a summer vacation because of inflation?

Easy. You just explain it to them as you would with any complex subject. As a good parent you owe it to your children to teach them about fiscal responsibility. Only a total loser parent would turn their kids out into the world without understanding how to balance a budget.

Instead, my family and I looked for meaningful ways to save on our summer activities.

Yep. Loser parent.  

By doing some of the work ourselves, looking at money more rationally, and committing to stuff, not fluff, we plan to save $12,975 in summer 2011.

That’s not too shabby. That sounds like some really serious cuts! Let’s see how they pulled it off.

Summer entertaining – Garden parties, barbecues, and family reunions make summer special. To keep our menus rich while saving money, my sister and I agreed to serve ground beef instead of steak at all 10 of our family get-togethers. In this way, we plan to spend $1.50 per person on meat instead of $15, for total savings of $1,350 this summer.

Holy crap!  Who has 10 family get-togethers over the summer? My wife has 62 first cousins (no, that isn’t a typo) and they don’t come close to that. Who the hell are these people? The House of Saud? $15 in meat per person?  You invite all of your relatives over two out of every three weekends and give each of them a lobster tail?

Summer vacation – To save on airfare and rising fuel prices, we searched the Internet for a local venue that would make a good vacation site.

You used the internet? Wow! I hear they have the internet on computers now!

We chose Mount Baker, located 30 minutes from our home. We plan to pitch a tent, camp for a week, fish, hike, play guitar, and listen to audio books by the campfire. Instead of our usual $5,000 vacation allowance, we plan to spend $400, thus saving $4,600.

Wha…. Huh?  Your usual vacation allowance is FIVE GRAND per YEAR? I’ve been married for 13 years and I spent about half that on a vacation. Once. And I’m now upper middle class. You do that EVERY YEAR?

I’m suspicious that this was either written by Timothy Geitner or a Kardashian sister. It really could go either way.  

Painting the house – Every year we hire student painters to refresh the exterior paint to keep our home looking pristine and to protect the wood siding.

Seriously? You PAINT your house every year? Where do you live? Mars? Are you outside the terraformed zone?

What in the hell is wrong with you idiots? A financial article from these people is like reading an article on safe sex from Ron Jeremy.  “I only did it with 200 hookers this year, for a savings of nearly 100 hookers!”

Our neighbors, on the other hand, paint their homes every five years. To save money this summer, we’ve decided to paint the trim around the windows and doors only and to do the work ourselves. That will save us $1,500 this summer.

I hope you die in a fire.

I like to put a new roof on my house every year, not that I’ve ever done it. So this year I didn’t do it again for another savings of $20,000!

Garden landscaping -In summer, we typically hire an arborist to trim our trees, spray them against parasites, and feed the roots. We also hire landscapers to edge the lawn, mulch the yard, and plant perennials.

A real financial savings article would tell you what brand of shotgun shells trim tall branches the best… Or in really lean times the article should tell you what types of bark are edible when boiled.  

This year we plan to do the work ourselves and to borrow tools from our neighbors.

If I was your neighbor and you asked to borrow my tools, I would hit you in the face with a shovel. Then I would throw your corpse into the pig pen I built in the back yard, which would not only conceal the evidence, but would also fatten up my pigs! By slaughtering my own hogs without having to pay for feed, I’ll save nearly $1,500 on bacon!  

We also intend to mulch the flowerbeds and give up on perennials. In this way, we intend to save $625.

A proper article on financial savings and gardening would point out which species of weeds can be woven into shoes.  

Summer clothing – Every year we shop for clothes by inspiration, walking through the mall and picking out a new bathing suit, dress, T-shirt. This year, we will each get a small summer-clothing budget, which will force us to shop at outlets or secondhand stores. This step will help us save $1,400.

You know you are in trouble when one of your big tips is to buy clothes on sale. Cavemen who wear skin cut off of dead caribou with sharp rocks know that.

Summer remodeling – Because of dropping home values, this year we will not go ahead with the deck remodel we were planning. Instead, we will patch the old wood with wood putty and prime and will paint it once more to protect against water damage. In this way, we will save $3,500.

I was totally going to add a tower onto my house made out of gold bars, unicorn horn, and Faberge eggs. Instead I bought the kids a Slip & Slide. In this way, I saved a billion dollars!

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that whoever wrote this was one of the people we had to bail out from under their interest-only home loan. Thanks, Yahoo, now I have even less faith in my fellow man.


Why spending $50 to be eligible to vote for the Hugos is actually a really good deal
Back from mega-tour, need to catch up

89 thoughts on “How to save money, if you are complete and total idiot”

  1. Wow… It amazes me how out of touch the rich can be with the middle class. Vacation? What’s a vacation? My family’s idea of a new summer wardrobe is a new t-shirt and a pair of shorts. My wife and I made a deal. We each get $20 to spend however we want each pay period–every two weeks–and the rest goes to keeping our little family above water.

  2. Remodel a deck with wood putty? Bob Vila meet Maybelline? Why don’t you retouch the screws with eye liner while you are at it.
    Sand, Repaint, grab a beer and let it dry.

  3. I feel pretty spoiled now. Not as spoiled as the people in the article but certainly pretty well off compared to a lot of people out there. I haven’t learned much about being fiscally responsible from this article but I certainly will be more gracious for what I have from now on.

  4. Excellent fisking. The author sounds like an old money Northeasterner who really thinks that this kind of advice is useful to regular people.

    If I was their neighbor, I’d hand them a map to the nearest big box store so they could purchase their own tools.

    I think one of the commentors on the original article pointed out that not spending $3500 is not the same as savng $3500–typical liberal accounting practice.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  5. At….work…call…center…can’t…stop…laughing…!!

    If I lose my job because of this it will be worth it. I couldn’t hold it in on the “I want to remodel my roof every year but I don’t! LOOK AT ALL THE MONEY I SAVED!” comment. 😛

    1. I made it all the way to the second to last paragraph before I completely and totally lost it.

      Oh, man… gold bars and unicorn horns… I’m dyin’ ovah heah!

    2. I made it as far as the best brand of shotgun shells to trim tall branches, and started cracking up in the middle of class. Stop Ruining My Life!!! lol

  6. Because I liked this post and because I agree with you, I am now going to go read Monster Hunter International.

    Thanks for the laugh. 😉

  7. This reminds me of a woman I heard on a radio program a few years ago, her husband, some kind of broker, made one million dollars a year, “But I don’t feel rich, I mean I still clip cupons”

    I couldn’t believe that chick then and still can’t believe people like this. What the writer of the article is saying is that his/her family has more than $4,000 a month in disposable income. I’m lucky if I have $100.

    I hope they die in a fire too.

  8. sweet cheebus 5k a year on a vacation?? I could afford all the vacations I’ve ever been on for 5 grand.

    and clothes? Listen, most of my pants are torn up and covered in paint. but if you just wear a shirt that’s also torn up and covered in paint, people think you were painting. new clothes budget, $0.

    who knows, i mean knows right now without checking, how often their neighbors paint their houses?

    my only consolation comes from the fact that even if these people’s camping trip takes place in view of a hospital and police station that there is no way they will survive one night in charge of a tent and a fire and that their bodies will be found 3 months from now clutching a dead diamond encrusted GPS unit.

    1. Yeah, my daily clothes are worn out T shirts and worn out pants from Goodwill, Target or a surplus store.

      My weekend clothes are new pants from a surplus store (I like BDU pants. They’re useful), and new T shirts with inappropriate sayings.

      I DO have formal wear, a kilt, dinner jacket, etc, but I only wear those, GEE, for formal events.

  9. I’m pretty sure Timothy Geitner didn’t have anything to with this, if he did it would have gone something like “we spent $5k on our vacation last year. This year we were planning on spending $30k, but we have no money so we only spent $10k for a savings of $20k.

    I’m really surprised that it didn’t say something like “instead of hiring a legitimate company to do work on our property, we hired some day laborers from by the home depot to do it for a savings of $10k. After all, we can’t get our hands dirty”

  10. Larry, I don’t know why you’re giving these people such a hard time. I mean, this is some incredibly valuable information. I’ve found so many ways of getting money back!

    Let’s see here:

    Summer Entertaining- I don’t entertain. Ever. So that’s $1500 back into my bank account.

    Summer Vacation- I work full time, and until recently, attended school full time, so I haven’t been able to afford vacations. That’s another $5000.

    Painting the House- I haven’t had the time to paint my house, or the money to hire people to do it for me. So that’s $1500.

    Landscaping- Does mowing the yard count? I spend about $4 in gas per year (maybe) for my lawnmower. So that saves me $620.

    Clothing- I actually take care of my clothes, and have gotten years of use out of them. I think my newest piece of clothing are some jeans I bought two or three years ago. So that’s another $1400.

    Remodeling- I don’t have a deck, so I save $3500 by not remodeling something I don’t own.

    Altogether, my yearly savings are about $13,520. Of course, I’d have to HAVE 13 grand in order to be able to save it, but my point remains. See how easy it is to save money by suffering?

      1. Ah, but if you did rob a bank, you’d have free meals and cable TV for those 5-10 years. A savings of $60K to $120K. 😉

  11. I can’t wait to share this new belt tightening mindset with my wife tonight.

    “Honey, If I DON’T buy a new Barret .50 cal like I wanted, I can save enough money to customize another Rem 700 action AND build another AR rifle PLUS I’ll have enough left over for an Arsenal SGL-31.”

    “And I’ll still have some left to spend on you!”

    Right after that, I intend to fade to the left somewhat and duck….

  12. These people are not rich.

    They have been taught to keep borrowing until they are as deep in debt as Thomas Jefferson, but without his forgiving creditors.

    It is apparently a novel idea to these folks to refrain from:

    Throwing lavish feasts for inlaws
    Going on extended airline vacation trips yearly
    Paying landscapers to maintain the yard
    Remodeling and repainting yearly
    Buying the latests fashions seasonally

    I suppose these five tips might put off bankruptcy for a typical creditcard spendthrift family for maybe a decade.

  13. The real amusing part? On that ditz’s website she lists AYN RAND as one of her favorite authors. Really? Seriously? I wonder if she ever heard of that new fad called “Capitalism” that Ayn occasionally gabs about in a book or two?

  14. Here are (Ms? Miss? Mrs?) Boldo’s credentials:
    4 year renovation of an old House, B.A. in English Literature and B.A. in Sociology, published novelist. ”

    She also writes for the Seattle Examiner as a restaurant reviewer (she eats on the East side, it appears, in the expensive Bellevue/Redmond area):
    Her profile there claims the following:
    “Tal Boldo is a published novelist with 15 years experience in freelance writing. Her first novel, “To Sculpt a Living Statue,” was published in 2004. Two years later she won her first literary competition with her short story, “Vera Icon.” Tal writes professionally for Associated Content on a rich array of topics from home improvement to restaurant reviews. Ethnic restaurants are her particular passion, since from an early age she had been living in different cultures and sampling diverse flavors and spices, from Moroccan to Chinese, Indian to Malaysian, Mediterranean to East European.”

    Hmm…15 years experience in freelance writing–sounds impressive, but I wonder if it really means 15 years of trying to be a writer (BA in English, right?) but not quite storming the market? Maybe she should write about…oh, I dunno…a school in Scotland for misunderstood mercenary kids who hunt vampires…

    And last but not least, here is her other website:
    “Inventive Home Improvement: Your Website for Home Remodeling And Decorating Ideas”
    Clearly a person who thinks that the rarified air she breathes is the norm–I mean, doesn’t EVERYBODY in Bellevue toss away $5000 bucks on a vacation every year?

    1. wow, if you go to her home improvement website there are plans for a “heavy duty” work bench.

      1. she apparently built her husbands work bench for him
      2. its so strong that two adults can stand on it! (dear God the money i’d have paid to watch that product testing on that)
      3. i’m not a professional but i do build a lot. you couldn’t give me a work bench built the way her instructions show for free.

      1. The last workbench I built I figured it would support a car, a heavy duty bench should be able to hold a diesel pickup.

      2. Wow. That’s a lot of material for little result. Mine normally has about 200 lbs of tools and parts on it. It probably will take 1000 lbs. What she’s built is a glorified rustic card table.

      3. LOL is that for a sewing machine?

        the last bench I built had a 6″ thick oak top (FREE from and old conference room table) covered with a .072″ stainless sheet (20.00 from a scrap yard).

        I might’ve spent 100.00 building it but I used grade 8 stainless hardware.

        What a bunch of out of touch idiots. I make a good living as a military contractor and both my cars together (95 Honda and 95 Bronco) might be worth 3 grand but both have been paid off for years.

  15. “We also intend to mulch the flowerbeds and give up on perennials. In this way, we intend to save $625. ”

    So, they’re giving up on perennials….plants that reappear every year without help. Prior to your cost cutting spree you were what, planting perennials and ripping them out every spring?

    All the other stupid was already well covered…….

      1. Sure, they obviously don’t know anything about finance, why would they know about horticulture?

      2. While Ms. Boldo may not understand horticulture, she claims an English degree. While this is nitpicking compared to the glaring flaws in the rest of article, perennial and annual should not be confused to someone with a degree in their own native language.

  16. Gee. . .WE save money by Extreme Couponing (and, hint, with a little effort every week, we’ve been saving ~50% on the average. And we’re building up a nice supply of staples and canned goods in the process. . .), not buying things we don’t need, and starting a veggie garden in the back yard. We make do with what we have, as long as it’s functional, and don’t buy the latest plastic fantastic JUST because it’s new.

    Or, in other words, we’re living within our means. A pity these yahoos, and more importantly, our Illustrious Government can’t do so. . .

    1. Skip the coupons and go straight to Aldi. Save time. Save money. Get good staples. Even when I’m flush I shop there. HINT: They’re the secret to my ribs that everyone loves so much.

    1. Hopefully they don’t, but the fact that their vote cancels out mine is still scary.

      1. I think someone needs to create an “Apathy Now!” campaign to encourage people to stay home… hmm… CafePress, here I come!! 😀

  17. I really, really want to believe the author of that article was writing that as a parody. It would be truely depressing to know that there really was someone THAT stupid with that much money and that they were breeding. God help us all.

  18. These tips are even better when you read them outloud in either the voice of Thurston Howell, III or his wife Lovey.

  19. I read that article this morning, Larry, and I couldn’t get past the part about painting their house every year. I mean really, who the hell paints their house every year?

  20. Wow. Simply… The rational part of my mind refuses to believe that there are people who live like this, and think everyone else does too! Agree with the poster who said that they’re probably swimming in debt at the same time.

  21. Better question. In the era of no-finish siding, who doesn’t replace their old ‘needs paint’ siding with something that lasts for 10-15 years or more, with just a good spraying with the hose once a year?

    1. In minor defense of the painting your house bit: there’s only one justification for that. Living in a Victorian that’s got gingerbread everywhere. You pretty much can’t get proper siding for those old ladies and still keep their charm. Of course living in an old Victorian is just straight up expensive no matter what you do. But you can still get damnably good paint that’ll easily last five years. Who cares about the VOC count?

      Then again, they can do some amazing things with PVC these days. I haven’t tried to price out the cost of making PVC replacements for all the gingerbread. In the long run I’m sure it would be cheaper than maintaining the wood. but your snooty neighbors would probably look down on you.

  22. Past LOL right into full on silent mode. Thank you.
    Oh, and if you spend any time in East Coast money spots like Martha’s Vinyard you will see some folks who paint every year. Salty sea air and all.

  23. I’ll go out on an olive branch here.. I’ll let them borrow my tools, and use them under my tutelage. Once.

    See folks- this is how us common folk live, we occasionally do things for ourselves.

    If their eyes remained unopen to reality after that, God help them when the Zombie Apocalypse comes. they’ll be the first to die.

    1. @ The Norseman:

      “God help them when the Zombie Apocalypse comes. they’ll be the first we throw out to bait the killzone.”

      Touched that up for you 🙂

      1. Baiting the kill zone turns them into zombies.

        Better to shoo them first to prevent them from being turned.

        The best defense for a zombie apocalypse is to kill all who may become zombies before the event happens. No idiots, no zombies!

  24. “A proper article on financial savings and gardening would point out which species of weeds can be woven into shoes.”

    Unlikely, growing hemp in this country has been illegal for a long time.

    1. Wisteria and kudzu can be woven into anything that doesn’t require too much flexibility; shoes, baskets, porch awnings, door mats, and hats come to mind. Wisteria and kudzu vines can also be used to restrain children, small animals, and neighbors looking to borrow your tools, but you have to strip the thorns off first if you use it on the children. Otherwise their parents get all pissy.

      1. Yeah, but deliberately growing kudzu is kinda dumb… and may in fact be considered grounds for assault and battery, if you live in the south.

    2. agave, palm fiber, ramie, and linen can all be retted and the fibers woven into very high quality goods.

      most all of them grow extremely well in the US.

  25. Larry, man, you need to send a copy of that article to Dave Ramsey! He’d have such fun tearing it apart on the air…That’d be worth watching!

  26. How do you spend $5000 on a vacation? The most expensive vacation me and my wife took was a trip to the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. The total cost was under $1000 and even if you include the cost of buying the jeep an modifying it for use off road use it was still under $3000.

    1. Plane tickets for two to Europe will run $1,000 just to get there and back.

      But dear lord, going to Europe every summer?

  27. That Yahoo article is all too typical of what passes for “thinking” nowadays. Pretty much every Yahoo article giving financial advice that I’ve read has been just as bad.

  28. $5,000 for a vacation? Wow, I’ve been saving money for years and didn’t even know it!

    My wife and I take a trip to visit her parents once a year. Even including the ammo I bring to shoot with my father-in-law it doesn’t cost us $1,000 a year, much less five grand!

    The optimist in me hopes that there really aren’t people like this and this was a parody piece. Sadly, I know enough clueless people that I think this was actually some well-meaning total moron. The really sad thing is my tax dollars paid for their bailout while I’m slowly paying down my fixed-rate mortgage. Ain’t democracy great?

  29. Oh my word!

    I have a running joke with family and friends how I can save thousands of dollars – by not buying stuff that I can’t afford and don’t want anyway. Now you find people that actually believe in that kind of “logic”.

    By the way, I really do want to know what the best brand of shotgun shells are for trimming trees 🙂

    1. We’ve been using Remington 12 Gauge, #00 Lead Buck Shot to clear the branches around the deer stand. Much easier than climbing a rickety assed ladder with a chainsaw and hoping for the best.

    1. Bingo. My budget for next year includes two new cars, steak dinners every night, a trip to Hawaii for research, a new house, landscaping and a full wardrobe. And a GLOCK. Total cost is $285,000 against our income of $120,000. I’ve cut the budget by eliminating the Glock. We’ll pay the interest, and the kids can take care of the $165,000 shortfall in a decade.

      What’s wrong with my math? It works for the Fed.

  30. This reminds me of all those NFL players in the lockout who are talking about how tough it is for them right now. Many of them stated how, in efforts to save money during this “crisis” they were going to pass on buying a Bentley THIS YEAR.

    Geez. Larry knows how much I make a year, and my wife and I manage to live quite well considering my garbage wage. I can’t believe Yahoo even published this nonsense. Heaven forbid they ask people who don’t have 12-15K of wastable income to burn in their personal incinerator.

  31. About the house painting, they live on the coast in Alaska, so painting frequently will prolong the life of the materials. But they could probably just do it every five years like their neighbors.

  32. My wife’s family lives in another country (China – though Hong Kong is a lot less hassle & expense since US visitors don’t need a visa for short visits). And we have 2 kids. But we can usually fly there, and (mostly) stay with family for less than that. And airfare to HK is the only reason we might come close to the 5K boundary.

    I think we may have spent > 5K on family vacations twice in nearly 30 years of marriage: our 20th anniversary (two week cruise, separate cabin for the kids) and the summer our oldest kid graduated from High School (3 week family trip to UK & Ireland). These were both luxuries, not necessities – we wouldn’t have done either if cash was too tight.

    Though we live in an expensive area (San Jose, CA), have a decent income, and have many friends and coworkers with incomes well into the six figure range, I know very few people that budget $15K a year – or even half that – for vacations. Especially if they have children, mortgages, or (younger folks) school loans.

  33. I have no problem with people who have this kind of disposable income. In fact, we need more people who can afford $5000 vacations. They keep people working.

    The problem here is definitely the skewed thinking that not spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need equals savings.

    That, and the the top-down thinking where someone, who most assuredly thinks of themselves as an ‘elite’, can tell the rest of us rubes how much better we can live if we only follow their advice.

    I wish I had the problem of only being able to spend $400 on vacation – instead of working 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, just to keep paying my mortgage.

  34. The most hilarious I saw was the guy who “saved” for a house by eating out for lunch every day, buying lots of stuff with cash, hauling the change into one of those change machines that takes 7%, and then putting the resulting cash into simple savings.

    I often wonder if these people are trolling the press.

  35. I wanted to buy a pair of matching STI 9mm Legends, but my wife wouldn’t let me. She saved us over $5,000. Woo!

  36. A couple of summers ago I took a driving tour of the country, and saved money on motels by sleeping in my car and bathing in rest stop bathrooms. It’s nice to know that there are other people living as adventurously as I am </sarcasm.

  37. So… I’m just thinking that I could save myself a headache if certain parties died in a fire. :p
    Great article, Larry. I woke my housemates up. 😀

  38. Yes! ^ this. I read that MSN article this morning and immediatly thought about how great it would feel to read Larry tearing it apart.

  39. I think the problem here is that a lot of lower class people believe they belong to the middle class. If you can barely scrape by without going bankrupt you probably do not belong to the middle class! You may actually be a working poor.

    I don’t see how you need to be rich to spend $5000/year on vacations. That should certainly be in the grasp of a middle class family. I guess the question is when do you consider somebody to be rich. Does a family income of $100’000/year qualify already?


  40. Hey, remember that ‘Today’ show(I think it was Today) a year or so ago that had the big piece on “How to make a nice dinner for the family for less than $45!” ? They actually thought that making a dinner for hubby, wife and two kids for $44.87 or whatever was a MARVELOUS piece of work!

  41. Really, a bunch of friends and I get together each week for dinner, and we almost never spend more than $50 and there are about 10 of us most weeks.

  42. A well crafted post Larry and I agree with MidWest Chick. The original poster clearly clearly comes from an “old money” world…well it seems that way to me anyway. Hilarious post though…keep them coming. Five grand on one vacation…my heart bleeds for these poor folks having to slum it like that!

  43. Really had a good laugh while reading this post Larry. Can’t believe they spend that much on vacation and other things, but I guess if you worked hard for it and can afford it, why not. Not representative of the average Joe & Family, though. I’ll be sure to keep reading your blog, as this has been truly entertaining!

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