my thoughts on money

Life is unfair / I am cheap / Tipping

Note: The bulk of this was written... I'm not sure when exactly, but I'm sure I've updated it a few times, without always noting that it even was updated, let alone when. I'm re-reading it at this moment, in February of 2009, because there's another update I planned to make, but as I was re-reading it, I found I should update some other bits, as well. And this time I will make note of it, but before that, I just wanted to start this paragraph. Alot of the stuff I wrote was probably sometime within the first few years of the first decade of the 21st century. I wish I could be more precise than that, but hell, it could even have been late 20th century... I dunno. I do feel that most of it was written after having had at least one or two jobs that were hard to come by crappy little jobs, though I'm not sure if I was employed at the time I wrote this. I know I updated it at least in 2008, and it's possible I wrote the original draft less than a year prior to that, sometime when I had the job I still hold as I update this in 2009. Anyway, my feelings about some things may have softend a bit over the years, and my means improved ever so slightly, though alot of my old feelings will probably always hold true to one degree or another. But anyway, on with the old:

First of all, maybe I should direct you to one of my articles in another section of my website, moneyless capitalism, which is a plan I've long had for abolishing the existence of money entirely, when I become President of the World. Because I hate money. I mean, given that it's necessary for acquiring the goods and services I require to make life tolerable, then yeah, I wanna get money. But I hate the fact that it is necessary. Not only for things that make remaining alive physically possible or comfortable, but also for the things that, as I say, make life tolerable. Things like entertainment. TV, movies, books, music, etc. Things which I could, physically, live without, but which psychologically, I'd literally rather die than live without. If you told me today that I could never again in my life watch any TV, DVD, movie, no music, no reading of any kind, no games, no internet... in short, cut out entertainment altogether... but that I could have any other pleasure that life affords... I shit you not my friends, I would kill myself without a moment's hesitation.

And when I think of how many people in the world are working hard all day, every day, and barely getting by, barely surviving without having any money left for entertainment... And then how many people can't even afford more basic necessisities like, food, clothes, shelter... how many people can't even get jobs, for whatever reason... Fuck. Makes me loathe this planet. And it doesn't make me feel any better about my own situation. Whether I have a job or not, I don't have to be homeless or starving, cuz I have family who will take care of me. I loathe depending on others, so I really hate it whenever I can't find a damn job, even looking for minimum wage stuff that literally anyone, from a teenager to a retiree, can do, even (no offense) developmentally challenged people get these jobs... and I can't get hired, month after month of job-hunting with no standards to speak of.... I'd be overjoyed to be given a chance to do a crappy job that most people wouldn't touch with a 100 foot pole... And even some of the people who do get these jobs don't give a shit about them. So it pisses me off that I can't get hired.

And even if I do have a job, it's not like I could afford to entirely support myself, I require a roommate (like my sister) to share the bills. And I hate living with other people, I desperately want to live alone, but I can accept the situation because it's necessary, and because at least I'd feel better about partially supporting myself than depending on others entirely. And yet, I will have a few very simple luxuries, if you consider basic cable or dial-up internet luxuries (which I do only in the most technical sense, in practical terms I consider them necessities for maintaining my sanity, such as it is). (Update 2-10-09: actually for a few years now I've had cable internet and DVR, which have now become things I couldn't do without. Yep, I couldn't go back to dial-up.) Every once in a great while, I can afford to go see a movie, while others go to the movies as often as they like, even see the same movie multiple times in the theater. Every once in a great while I can afford to buy a DVD, though usually I feel fiscally irresponsible just digging through the 2 for $11 bin at Wal-mart (update 09: hey, a couple years ago the bin went down to $5). I can't really afford to collect comics or CDs or video games or much of anything that I want, except very rarely (update 09: well I do now get a few comics more often, though not like in my high school days, sadly). I flip through magazines assigning price values, say a quarter, to a picture or article that I think might be nice to have, and see if it all adds up to the cover price. Which is usually doesn't, so I don't buy the magazine, and miss out on whatever I did want in there. Of course, even if it does add up, sometimes I don't even have the few dollars it would cost, or need to save it for something else, so flipping through magazines is often little more than compulsion.

Things that lower class (or at least lower middle class) people, people who are constantly struggling with money themselves, can get far more often than I, are pretty much beyond my reach, most of the time, and I hate it, but I accept it. I hate worrying about things that cost a few dollars. I hate that I can barely contemplate the possibility of getting something that costs dozens of dollars at some unspecified point in the future, and things that cost a few hundred dollars are pipe dreams, things I feel I'd have to be a millionaire to afford. I can't afford a car (I am 30 years old as I write this, and I've never owned a car; update 09, at 33, still can't afford a car), and if I was given one for free I couldn't afford the insurance, maintenance, nor gas (even in a time when gas is at a sane price). Seriously, gas could be a dollar a gallon, the car, insurance, and all other expenses could be paid for by someone else, and I really think I'd only be able to drive on rare occasions, if I just had to pay for gas.

And speaking of being a millionaire, I could win a million dollars (or receive it for selling a book or something), and it's not like I'd quit my day job. Cut back hours, for sure, but... I don't think a person can live the rest of their life on a million dollars. Even on a budget. So yeah, I'd have to be at least a multi-millionaire before I'd consider myself "rich." On the other hand, I consider everyone who has more money than me "rich," and I consider everyone who isn't homeless to have more money than me. ...Okay, I don't honestly think of all of them as rich, but there is a certain level of resentment. I don't want to say I envy them their money, and I certainly don't begrudge it. I am happy for anyone to have plenty of money, or more than enough. I want everyone to have a very good lifestyle. I just think it isn't fair that I can't have the lifestyle I want. And as I said earlier, I hate that everyone can't... and thinking about others being in worse situations than mine doesn't make me feel better about mine. I still hate my situation, and on top of that I feel sympathy on behalf of others, and hatred for the world on their behalf, and guilt for feeling bad about my own situation when I know others have it worse. Yeah, I feel bad about feeling bad for myself, but it doesn't stop me from feeling bad for myself, and feeling angry at the world on my own behalf.

I am, as I have often said before, an idealist, and a born optimist, but life has beaten me into a pessimist of, if not the highest, at least one of the higher orders. You can plainly see I am very pessimistic about money. Even if I do envy some people, it's not the truly rich people. Sure, I wouldn't mind having millions or even billions of dollars. It'd be nice to be able to relax and never worry about money. I'm sure plenty of people with that kind of money continue to worry about money, and that's just retarded. Or at least unconscionably greedy. I don't feel the need for some incredible lifestyle. I want my own modest home, my own modest car, some new electronics... a good computer, high speed internet, digital cable or satellite with every channel, XM radio, HDTV, a freakin' mp3 player (update 09: I have one, only 1gig, and I'd like a better one), a digital camera, a cell phone (update 09: have one, want a better one), etc. I'd like to be able to satisfy my lust for CDs and DVDs and at least get a few more video games (and systems). Simple things, relatively speaking, which many middle class people have, people who still have to worry about money. Yeah, okay, maybe a few things that alot of people can't afford. Certainly I'd also like a home theater, by which I mean an entertainment system that includes DVD and VCR hooked up to an overhead digital projection system aimed at a movie screen on the wall. That would be so frickin' sweet... (update 09: maybe I should start wanting a Blu-ray player.)

Ahem. But I digress. I don't need a mansion. I don't need fancy sports cars or a private plane. I'm perfectly happy buying clothes off the rack, and not at fancy clothes stores, either. I don't need to dine at the finest restaurants or join a country club. A little world travel would be nice... Um, I don't want anyone to work for me personally, like a maid or butler or something. I don't even want to hire a cleaning service. If I had my own home, I'd be content to clean it myself, cook my own food, do my own driving (not that I've ever been a big fan of driving, mind you)... I basically want a middle class kind of life. Middle middle class to upper middle class, I suppose, but still, I don't feel any great desire for actual upper class. I wouldn't mind it, but it's not something I need to be happy. Although it would be nice if, after meeting my own needs and wants, I could afford to give to charities and so forth. I certainly hate whenever there are disasters like 9-11 or Hurricane Katrina and so forth, and the most I can do is put a link on my board urging others to contribute to disaster relief funds, when I can't afford to give five dollars, myself. Of course, I also hate when I have five dollars and I end up spending it on something I don't need, like beer or a magazine or something, instead of donating it to a relief fund....

I am cheap

But here's something I really hate about myself. I'm a cheapskate. Yes, this comes from many years of having practically nothing, and knowing that even if I have a few dollars to spare, once I spend it it's gone, and there's no telling when I'll have a few dollars to spare again. Even if I have a regular income, it's frequently spoken for before I get paid. This is the same for many people, I understand that, but still it seems like even those people who live paycheck to paycheck don't worry nearly so much as I do about spending a few dollars. They frequently spend more than a few dollars on things which aren't strictly speaking necessary. And I don't begrudge them this, as I've said. I think people should be able to buy luxuries that help make life worth living. It won't be the same stuff for everyone, and some people want things that cost more than the things I want. And if they can afford it, I'm happy for them, and I still feel bad that they don't have as much as they should. Even if I can't afford some much cheaper thing that I want. But the thing is, I frequently think things are grossly overpriced. It doesn't matter if it's something that I feel honestly shouldn't cost more than I can afford, isn't worth more than I can afford, but may be a little bit more or many times more than I can afford; or if it's something I can totally afford, but I still think it's overpriced. Something could literally cost a dollar, and if I think it's woth 25 cents, it would bother me. Sometimes I might have like $20 I could do whatever I want with, no worries for the foreseeable future... and I would refuse to spend a dollar on a thing like this. Other times I might buy it, but complain about it, whether out loud, or more likely to myself (or online). Still other times, as I say, I might not spend money even if something is reasonably priced, just because I never know when I'm going to have $20 extra dollars again. Most weeks when I've had a job, I haven't had that kind of money to spare, and that's not just me being stingy, that's literally not having the money.

But I can be stingy. I know this. I see it in myself constantly. And I often say I could be a multi-billionaire, and I still wouldn't buy things that I think are overpriced. Even things that cost a few dollars. I said a dollar before, and that's only a slight exaggeration. In fact I'm sure it's often really true. But absolutely true is the idea of not wanting to spend, say, $5 for something that I think is worth a dollar. Or even spend $2 or 3 on it. Think about it proportionally, if something was worth $100, would you want to pay $200 for it? If it was worth $1000, would you want to spend $2000? I'm talking about twice as much here, so the same principle applies: if something is worth a dollar, why should we willingly pay twice what it's worth? Even if we can easily afford it. See, more than the actual cost of things, it's the principle that bothers me. I could see being rich and spending thousands of dollars on something, and at the same time griping about something that costs a dollar. Seriously. It's the principle!

Of course, different people will estimate the values of things differently. What I think is only worth a dollar, someone else might think is easily worth 2 or 3. What I think is worth $5 or 10, someone else might honestly think is worth $50 or 100. And this, believe it or not, is not exaggeration. There are things, a great many things, which people will pay dozens or even hundreds of dollars for, which I honestly can't imagine spending more than $5 or 10 on. This is perhaps partly because my estimation of... prices... has been inflated by never having money, and years of building up a deep resentment of this. But we all know that most stuff in life really is overpriced, alot of things the companies are making like 1000% markup on (and often the stores that sell the things are only making a few cents more than they paid the company for it, so really both the store and the consumer- but mostly the consumer- are getting screwed). Of course, there are also things that I really can understand why they're expensive, like imported stuff (especially anime DVDs). So I hate that I can't afford these things, but at least I don't resent it, because I know it's fair. Fair that they cost what they do, but still unfair that I can't afford them. But most things in life it really annoys me how much they cost, and it also annoys me that so many people seem willing to pay for these things, even when they themselves are getting ripped off. They just don't see it that way.

Anyway, yeah... I don't like being so cheap, and I don't like the thought that if I were rich I'd still be cheap (as I said, on principle). Both because I think so much is grossly overpriced, and because I've been psychologically conditioned to constantly worry about never having money, to the point that even if I never had to worry about it, I still wouldn't be able to help it. And at times I can get defensive about this, could get pissed off at the mere thought of anyone holding my cheapness against me. Which they won't necessarily even do, but that's a whole other thing I hate about myself, how easily I get pissed off just imagining things others might say or think or do, even if they probably wouldn't. Friggin' paranoia....


Well, I got onto the whole subject of money today because I was put in mind of it all by something... which isn't important. But since I'm finally doing an article about it, I should actually mention the subject of tipping, which is something I've been meaning to write about for a long time. Who the hell invented tipping? I just don't understand it. And who decided which jobs people should get tipped for? There are a great many jobs where no one would even think of tipping anyone, which don't seem in any significant way different to me than the jobs where everyone expects tips. There are also jobs where I honestly have no idea whether tipping is done or not. But even the jobs, like waiters, where tips are customary, I just don't get it....

Updated 2-11-08: Okay, wait. I'm going to interrupt what I'd previously written, because I have now worked for some time at a restaurant as a dish washer. And I know the serving staff make shit for wages. I know that if by some chance their tips for the week don't add up to minimum wage, the company will have to compensate for that... but I just think it's wrong. I certainly don't think they should make less than I do, but at the same time, I don't think they should be making that much more than I do. And if you break it down... well, what the company pays them isn't even worth factoring in. So if you just look at the tips, some days they might actually make less than I do, with my hourly wage. But there will also be days when they make at least three times what I make. And at the end of the week, I feel reasonably confident in saying that it averages out to significantly more than I make for the same week. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. Of course, it will vary from person to person and from week to week. Even still, they can complain about not making enough money, which only goes to show how bloody expensive life is. Then again, alot of them probably don't even have bills like rent and such, and they can afford lots of things I can't, including cars, which I, at age 32, have never had in my life, and still can't afford, which I rather resent. But I digress. The point I wanted to make in this interjected paragraph is that since I now know they need tips, I don't begrudge them that. But I still feel like in my ideal world, the company would pay them a decent wage, and tips never would have been invented in the first place. And while I acknowledge that their job can be hard... I don't think it's really much harder than mine, except for the fact that with my social anxiety, there isn't enough money in the world to pay me to be a server. (Update again, 2-10-09, one year after the earlier update of this paragraph, while I'm adding little parenthetical updates here and there throughout this page, tra-la: It is said that if you can't afford to leave a tip, then you can't afford to eat out. I'll complain more about that in the stuff I wrote sometime prior to a year ago, in the following paragraphs, but I just wanted to mention a thought I had tonight: How's about this, if you can't afford to pay your entire staff decent wages, then you can't afford to open a damn restaurant. Huh? Are you feelin' me on this one?) Anyway... now I'll return you to what I'd previously previously written....

...Hell, I can't even afford to eat at a place like McDonald's or Burger King all that often, let alone the kind of places where you're expected to leave a tip. I'm not even talking fancy places, I'm saying if a meal costs upwards of $20, that to me is a rare treat. (Even with a 40% discount at the place I work, I can't often afford to buy one of their burgers, the regular prices of which are $8 to $10. Update 09: the discount is now only 25%) In any event, I think it's wrong that some people might say if I can't afford to leave a tip, then I just shouldn't eat out. Like I said, it's a rare treat, and I don't see why I shouldn't indulge in a such a treat, on such rare occasions, if I can actually afford to pay for the meal itself, albeit barely, and grudgingly, afford... and then I can't afford to pay the tip. Why should that make me a cheapskate? You have seen that I openly admit to being cheap, I don't like it about myself, but I feel no reservation about copping to it. So bear that well in mind when I say I do not feel remotely cheap about the fact that I dislike the whole concept of tips. And I take great umbrage if anyone suggests it does make me cheap. Even if the people aren't making more than me per hour, they're still (or should be) getting paid to do a job. And I am helping to pay them by paying for my meal. And... I dunno, it just seems like there are so many things in life that I feel it's unfair that most people can't afford, and it's unfair that there are many things in life that most people can afford, but which I can't. So to say that on the rare occasions that I can barely afford something that most people can afford fairly often, I still can't have it unless I can afford to pay more than it actually costs... I resent that. You know, as I may have said, I feel like there are three levels of financial status in this world. One, the homeless; two, me; and three, rich people. I know that's not true, but honestly, sometimes I feel like anything I can't afford is for rich people, and everyone except me can afford it. So? Y'know? Sigh, anyway.....

Anyway, I personally wouldn't want a job where I earned tips. Occasionally I have received a tip for something like helping load a car with groceries. Which we're not supposed to accept, but you can't always turn these people down, they can be insistent. And if it's just a dollar or two, I suppose I don't see the harm. But to get tips on top of regular pay, on a regular basis, I don't like that idea. See, I'm not just cheap on principle, I'm also proud on principle. I don't like to receive, any more than I like to give. That plays into any number of my other psychological quirks, as well, such as not liking to say thanks or be thanked, for example. But another thing I've always had a problem with is the idea of paid vacations. I always felt that if I wasn't working, it didn't make sense to get paid, and I thought even if I had a job that gave paid vacations, I wouldn't take one, on principle. But then, I did have such a job, where I could get one paid week off each year. And also they would pay everyone for an extra day they didn't work on holidays. That's in addition to holiday pay if they did happen to work that day. The trick I used to allow myself to accept these things is reminding myself that I wasn't earning as much as I should anyway, and if you averaged payment for time not worked into the overall payment for the year, pretending it was actually like getting paid a bit more per hour for the time you did work... it would really be spread so thinly that you still wouldn't be making what you think you should. I like that mental trick, allowing me to accept holiday bonuses and paid vacations without guilt. I suppose the same could be said of tips, if I received them, but I'd still be more uncomfortable with the idea. And doubtless it would add up in such a job to alot more than an occasional paid vacation. But as long as I still ended up not having as much money as I think I deserve, I guess I could live with feeling weird about it.

And despite all I've said here, I will sometimes leave tips for others just because it's expected. If I can afford it. I think it's not so much the principle of leaving a tip that bugs me, so much as the principle of being expected to leave a tip. The idea that I'm cheap if I don't. Honestly, I just want everyone to see that it's some bizarre, arbitrary social custom that someone made up some time in the distant past, that in this day and age really has no meaning, it's just a custom. And when I think about it, there's nothing wrong with the custom. It's nice. It's still odd that there are people just as deserving of tips, and no one thinks of offering them anything. But even so, it's nice to give a little something to someone who's working hard. And waiting is, I admit, a hard job, much of the time. I don't really begrudge them their tips. I just don't like the idea of it being considered necessary or anything. If it's an obligation, it negates the sentiment of the gesture. Not that everyone's as interested in the sentiment as they are in the money, but still. It's only a nice thing to do for someone if you feel you have a choice. And it's definitely not nice to make someone feel bad about not doing something that shouldn't be an obligation in the first place. And believe me, most servers will complain about tips they consider inadequate (though obviously they don't say this to the customers), even though the customers were under no obligation to leave them anything at all. That kinda bugs me, too.

Oh yes, and in closing, I also wanted to say that I really liked the scene in "Reservoir Dogs" when Mr. Pink was ranting about tipping. I think alot of the things I've said here he said, too. But I was thinking these things for years before I ever saw that movie, so I ain't stealing from him or nuthin'. Just so you know.

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