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Buying a car is like marriage to me; it is until death do us part. So far she has been the one dying and I remain to keep the memories alive. In 2009 I bought a 2007 Toyota Camry from the local credit union to help them clean up a bad loan. I have never had serious problems, but periodically I have to invest a bit into the vehicle so the ‘ol girl makes it to 20. The Camry had one of those days.
The exhaust pipe broke near the head next to the catalytic. The metal was too thin to weld so replacement was the only option. My neighbor across the road (how convenient living out in the country), Roger, has a lift in his garage and handles most minor repairs for me. I still change the oil so I can brag this accountant gets his hands dirty now and again.
The replacement part had the cat in it so it wasn’t going to be cheap. I went over the O’Reilly Auto Parts for the replacement. It set me back $184. Roger charged me $25 to change it. I knew it was going to be a bit more than a simple muffler repair. When I picked up the section of exhaust pipe the kindly clerk asked me if I was a member of their rewards club. I said I was now. It works like this: for every $150 you spend they send you a $5 coupon for a future purchase.
I’m a sucker for that crap. But when I really think about it for a minute I realize how much a waste it really is. I don’t buy stuff at O’Reilly’s that often. The only way to use the coupon is to run over there for oil and a filter before the coupon expires. All for $5. I charge $120 per hour minimum for my time at the office. I average just under $340 for every hour I actually work at the office. (I don’t work that much.) Even if it is a slow day and I only turn $200 per hour, my time is worth over $3 per minute. How much is that $5 coupon worth now?
And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut said. Mrs. Accountant sits at the kitchen table clipping coupons and testing products for surveys for some side change. She wants to feel she is contributing to the household finances. She doesn’t understand how valuable she is to me regardless the coupon clipping or product testing.
Mrs. Accountant is not alone in such foolish endeavors. I like to handle certain projects around the farm and at the office myself. How much money do I really save changing my own oil? Roger charges me ten bucks (I have to buy the oil and filter). He does it faster and cheaper than I ever can. I convince myself it is a good expenditure of time because I am not working at the office so I may as well do something that saves money. And it is the prime reason I am not richer; it is the prime reason I don’t help more clients. I spend too much time fucking around on projects I have no business doing in the first place. My free time is worth as much as my work hour rate! Free time is important time to recharge and refresh; time to grow the relationship with Mrs. Accountant and my girls. But at least I saved $10. Right?
People spend too much time crying about money when they need to focus on their strengths. I’m pretty good at earning money; I’m also tight with money so there is a stickiness between money and me. I’m not so good as an auto mechanic. I have ramps so I can crawl under the car and pull the plug. What if those ramps ever failed? I would be killed or worse over $10. Do they have a medicine for that level of stupidity? Doubtfully.
The $10 spending spree to pay someone to change the oil does not affect my financial situation one bit. In fact it makes it worse because I am focusing my time on a weakness. A short consult with a client during the same time the oil is changed would yield 20 times more wealth.
The line becomes blurred as the activities change. Some people steal (yes, steal) soap from hotels. Vacation time is an opportunity to fill the soap drawer back home. Jesus fucking Christ people! The last several years I have earned 8% interest guaranteed from banks around town on up to $50,000 at a time. Every bank with a bonus offer had your favorite accountant enjoying a FREE cup of coffee and opening an account. One day after the bonus period ended I went back and got my money. Yes, I know that is $4,000 per year, but the full $50,000 wasn’t always invested as there were a varying number of banks with offers at any one time. The amount of time I spent dicking around opening accounts and closing them for what ended up as no more than $2,500 per year was a fool’s errand.
My sanity has returned. Sort of. I have given up on the idea of sticking it to the banks and their bonus programs. I’m still a sucker for a credit card bonus, but the time involved is small and I rarely cancel a card. I don’t sign up for as many cards as I once did. I carry two with me and another dozen reside in the sock drawer with other assorted personal possessions. The card I always use pays 2% back on everything. Story over. Time to live life.
It’s not just about money either. All this stupid stuff takes time. Because we have employers (or are a motivated business owners) we keep the coupon clipping and other crazy stuff to our personal time. While Roger is fixing the Camry I will not be on the phone with a client. I stuck around and helped (if Roger reads this don’t believe a word he said about me standing around the entire time with my hands in my pockets). Between busted knuckles we talked. You know neighbors used to do that kind of thing.
Filling our down time with tasks destroys happiness. Everyone needs downtime to recharge. Not every second of every day needs to be filled with productive labor. It is okay to read a book, watch a movie, and make small talk with the wife. AAHHHHHHH! Yes, you must talk with your wife. She is a nice lady if you ever got to know her.
When was the last time you had a beer with a neighbor? When was the last time you snuggled your wife. . . for hours? When was the last time you sat quietly alone in a room doing nothing, only you and your thoughts? Yeah, I thought so.
Friday night is cards for your favorite accountant. I play sheepshead with family and neighbors. As a bunch of old codgers, we don’t play late. My youngest daughter likes to sit behind one of the neighbors and watch him play. The memories created on Friday night will make us smile a lifetime and one of the experiences every one of us will hold fondly on our death bed.
Turning Failure into Success
You are a failure because you focus on the unimportant. Financial independence is not built on 30 cent coupons. Yes, Mrs. Accountant still uses coupons, but a hell of a lot fewer than in the past. Most grocery coupons are for processed food we should not eat anyway. Mrs. Accountant loves testing products and reporting her results. It makes her happy so I support her efforts. The $250 or so a month she earns testing said products is not a productive use of time unless it brings happiness. It is not a real moneymaker. If she did anything else it would earn more.
Elon Musk is so hyper focused on his businesses and ideas there is no time for a personal life. People like Musk create the world we live in with their products and services. I am okay with that. Most of us don’t possess the ability to be so driven. Most business owners live their business, but still need down time to maintain good health.
Yet, we all try to act like Elon Musk, filling our days with stuff to do. We fail because what we focus on is unimportant time wasters. A free second waiting in line causes fidgeting. Soon the Mister Spoke tricorder, aka, the smartphone, comes out. Gotta check the time, email, and news. God forbid we have more than nine seconds without mental stimulation.
You can turn failure into success. Money is not the indicator; happiness and satisfaction are. When you sacrifice time with your significant other and kids to save $10 changing the oil in the car you need your head examined.
Instead of wasting time saving a few dollars, educate yourself to earn more. Improve your investing skills by learning how great investors like Warren Buffett control their emotions during market turmoil. Time is your most precious commodity. You get the same exact (notice the redundancy in my writing here) amount of time as the greatest men and women in our society. Bill Gates revolutionized the world with his software and had no more time available to him than you do. So why the difference in results? I can tell you one thing. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t make his money Facebooking all day. He did it by building Facebook. When you learn the difference you will start living a significant life with plenty of money.
Money doesn’t make you happy so success is not measured by the size of your Vanguard account. I know plenty of people with eight figure net worth’s so unhappy they contemplate suicide. I know happy, well-adjusted people with very little money. It is all between the ears, my friend.
Failure and success are measured by how you live your life. For some reason, people who live life right always seem to accumulate enough money to satisfy their needs and more. When you get greedy things tend to head south fast. Stop checking your email all day; same applies to social media and news. If you are a business owner stop selling to every person you meet. It’s annoying. As an accountant people want to ask me tax questions at inappropriate times. For example, while standing at the urinal is not the time to ask me about your required distributions from your IRA. I’m just saying. If I lose my concentration I might piss on your shoe. What I am trying to say is: turn it off. I am as guilty as hell on this, too, so go ahead and rub it in. An hour is not enough. The world will not end if you take a few days off here and there. Trust me. (Nothing ever goes wrong when someone says, “Trust me.”)
The most productive, successful, and happy people know how to separate work from play. They know how to come home and unwind. Happiness is not another $10 in your pocket. Happiness is handing Roger $10 to change the oil in your car and catching up with him on family news.
If you are failing in life, if you are not living the life you want, then maybe this post explains why. Focus on the important. Anything is possible when you believe. Start thinking big. You can do this. It is too important not to. Your family—your children, for Christ’s sake—depend on you. They need you; quality time with you. Kids could give two shits if you worked more overtime for more stuff. The time spent together playing cards or throwing ball are gifts they will never forget. If you enjoy changing the oil in your car at least bring junior along and have some bonding time while you work on the car.
There is so much more I have to say on this. Maybe later. I have a $5 coupon in my email with an expiration date and the Camry is due for an oil change.