Today we woke up to a winter wonderland. A fine snow is covering everything. It’s magical!
We live in a community with 93 houses. These are middle-class families, mostly in their 30s and 40s with children.
This year the pandemic forced us to hold our annual homeowners’ association meeting virtually via Zoom. To maintain security, this meeting was by invitation only.
The meeting was published on our community FaceBook page in the middle of November, and again by flyer to each household on the last weekend of November. Residents were asked to email the association by December 1st to request an invitation to the meeting. This would afford the association the time to prepare a mailing list and send out invitations by December 8th. The meeting was scheduled for December 14th.
We received 15 requests by the deadline. Add in the 5 board members and our list grew to 20. Invitations were sent out to those 20 individuals on December 8th as promised.
We expected a few stragglers and received a couple of requests past the deadline. We received another 8 requests throughout the day of the meeting. This is the part I don’t understand. Why do people think it is ok to ignore the deadline and then seem indignant when their invitation isn’t emailed immediately when they finally got around to requesting one on the day of the meeting? They went to great lengths emailing board members multiple times asking for the invitation. We eventually had to post the invitation on our FB page.
The good news in all this was that our virtual meeting was attended by more than double the usual number of attendees. The bad news it that still amounted to only about 30% of the households.
Pearls of wisdom worth repeating
1. Always Live Below Your Means
Your means is defined as your net take-home pay for your regular workweek. It doesn’t include overtime pay or bonus pay. I worked in the auto industry where we had many years when overtime was abundant. People made much more than their base salary year after year. They would get accustomed to having this money and would spend it as if they were guaranteed to make this much every year. The automotive industry is a boom or bust industry in a big way. Inevitably we would have four or five years when it was booming, and then we would have the lean years when we didn’t manage to work steady for 50 weeks out of the year. The plant would shut down for weeks on end and that meant unemployment. Now unemployment wasn’t bad for the union workers. With supplemental pay from the union, it amounted to about 98% of regular wages. For the people living above their means, by spending all their base pay plus overtime pay, 98% of regular wages was often a 50% cut in wages. Many people got in big trouble this way.
2. Never Purchase a Vehicle New
This may sound odd coming from somebody who used to work in the auto industry but the automobiles of today are nothing like the automobiles of 30 or 40 years ago. I remember when automobiles were rusted out after 3 years and started having serious mechanical issues after 70,000 miles or so. Today’s automobiles are highly reliable vehicles that will last a decade or more and are relatively problem free for 200,000 miles or more. Several thousand dollars can be saved by purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle. You still have the 5 year/100,000 mile warranty and can rest assured that you are buying a trustworthy vehicle.
3. Don’t Trip Over a Dollar to Save a Penny
I knew a guy who would drive across town to buy gasoline 10 cents cheaper than it was across the street. He easily burnt up his savings in the gas it took him to drive across town. I know gas 10 cents cheaper sounds attractive but if you do the math it really isn’t a big deal. The average vehicle will take about 15 gallons to fill up. At 10 cents per gallon cheaper, you just saved $1.50. Even on a 30 gallon tank you only saved $3.00. You get the idea. Understand what your net savings are. Does it make sense to buy the more expensive item at the grocery store because you have a coupon? Many times the store brand is cheaper than the name brand minus the coupon savings. I don’t find enough difference in quality between name brands and store brands to warrant the difference in cost in most cases.
4. Don’t Carry Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt is a financial death spiral. They allow you to spend money you don’t have to buy things that you can’t really afford. It’s ok to use credit cards and when used properly, they have some pretty good perks. But if you can’t pay them off at the end of the month, don’t buy it. The interest on credit cards is usually high and before long, paying the interest on the debt is sucking up all your extra cash. And if you are late on a payment or miss one, the interest goes through the roof. Pay them off every month no matter what.
5. Cheapest Isn’t Always The Best Deal
This may seem like conflicting advice from item #3 but let me explain. I was in the market for a blender. The Vitamix I wanted is a top of the line blender but it also comes with a hefty price tag. I did a little research and compromised on a lesser blender at half the price. This blender did an adequate job. It wasn’t a Vitamix but for the price I felt the compromises were worth it. Now I don’t use a blender every day and before a year was up the motor on this blender burned up. I tried to do a warranty exchange but got nowhere with it. Luckily, I had purchased it at Costco, so I could return it under their replacement policy. I got a full refund and walked to the other side of the store where I purchased the Vitamix that I should have bought in the first place. I was lucky to have purchased it at Costco or I would have been out more than half the cost of a Vitamix blender and I probably would have purchased the Vitamix as the replacement anyway. The more expensive blender ended up being the more economical purchase over time.
This is easy people. When you look at the sacrifices that people have made in the past and the hard times that we have weathered as a nation, this is pretty easy.
During the Great Depression in the 30’s people had it much tougher for a much longer time. This lasted almost 10 years with high unemployment. People struggled just to take care of basic human needs like shelter, food, and clothing.
In World War Two the people in our armed services were gone for 4 years. They ate K rations out of cans, slept in fox holes much of the time, and were lucky if they got a hot meal and had the proper clothing for the climate they were in. A treat were the 2 cigarettes and piece of chocolate that were included with the K rations.
And back home wasn’t a cake walk either. Most of the women had to go to work. The men were all away fighting. Several things were rationed; tires, gasoline, sugar, butter, shoes. The list goes on and on.
I had a similar situation when I was in Dahran Saudi Arabia during the first Persian Gulf war. I was deployed there on August 8, 1990 and returned home March 8, 1991. From August until the actual war started in January, we really didn’t have much of anything to do. Our planes flew air defense sorties but that wasn’t too demanding. We were on duty 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with nothing to do during that 12 hours. There weren’t any telephones, smart phones, computers, or internet. We played a lot of games, read books, wrote letters home, and smoked a lot of cigarettes. Overcoming the boredom was our number 1 issue.
We are six months into this pandemic. It isn’t going away anytime soon. Best guesses for a vaccine being widely available are another six months. Without any reliable information from our federal government, we all need to use common sense, wear masks when appropriate, and maintain social distance.