At “Free Money Finance”, a blogger offers up regular shots of “tips on how to save money”, but also has collected a “top 10” list of the advice that was absolutely reviled by readers. Like any list, it’s subjective, but I feel the need to take a few of these apart myself:

10. Be healthy — Let’s face it, people don’t like being told they are fat and lazy. I think that’s at the core of the disdain for a healthy lifestyle – Here at HC, we regularly go rounds on why it is people live unhealthy lifestyles. In truth, the supposed “ultra healthy” types (bodybuilders, gym rats, etc) kind of weird me out too. If anything, those people are a portion of the problem with getting people to exercise – I found it a lot harder to go to certain “upscale” exercise chains that are regularly full of gym rats, than I did during my time with a YMCA membership where (for the most part and with only a few outlying exceptions) the people exercising looked a lot more normal.

9. Move to a foreign country (or even visit for health care) – as they admit, this one is probably best for retired folks, since otherwise finding a job is a prerequisite (oh, and did we mention the language barrier’s going to make that extra difficult as well?). That being said, the suggestions of “cheaper” areas to live reminded me of why nobody in their right mind should live there (especially Mexico, which is due for a violent revolution any time now even if you don’t consider the current constant war between police and drug-running gangs to be one already).

7. Buying used — Let’s list the things people hate about buying used: 1) it’s not new; 2) someone else has used it; 3) did I mention it’s not new? – 4) you don’t always know what you’re getting, 5) it’s out of warranty. Yes, I know things go out of warranty on their own anyways, and many warranties are of the “not worth the paper they’re printed on” variety. Yes, I speak as someone who usually extols the virtues of either buying used, or knowing how to repair your own gear. That, however, is just it: I know how to evaluate something if I’m buying used. I know how to get the most out of it and do the repairs myself. For people without that knowledge/skillset, buying used may not be the brightest of concepts, since they may wind up with useless junk sitting around and just going off to buy more used junk. The blogger goes on to list that “most of us have generally accepted that a good-condition used car is less expensive than a new car” – and again, horror stories of people who bought used-car lemons abound.

2. Not buying a pet – even the blogger admits this may be bad advice. Yes, pets can add up as an expense. On the other hand, they’re cheap entertainment, they’re good for raising kids and teaching them responsibility (not to mention strengthening immune systems), they’re good for keeping your blood pressure under control, and they keep your feet warm on cold nights.

1. Moving to a lower cost-of-living city — This one really puzzles me. Not only is it that people don’t like this idea, but they REALLY don’t like it. As in “you’re the stupidest financial blogger ever” sort of don’t like it. But what do I care? I still have my day job. 😉 – I’ll say it: “you’re the stupidest financial blogger ever.” People move for a variety of reasons, but unless you have 6 different job offers in 6 different cities, there are pretty much three general criteria people follow when picking a location: #1, proximity to job. #2, proximity to family (whether you pick “real close”, “kinda close”, or “other side of planet” is your call, but everyone wants it somewhere on that spectrum for their comfort zone), #3 Everything Else. This one is reviled because, quite plainly, it comes across as sanctimonious nonsense. If you’re independently wealthy? Go nuts. If your “job” is something that can be done anywhere you can get your hands on an internet connection? Maybe. If you’re like most (employed) people, however, you’re tied to your job, and the idea of “I’m gonna move out of my house/apartment, load everything into a moving van, and haul ass to somewhere unknown and hope I can find a job there to live cheaper even though the reason that things are ‘cheaper’ there is that all the jobs in the area pay peanuts” is… well… read it again. THAT is what this “advice” amounts to, and why people peg it for the terrible advice it is.

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7 Responses to Skinflinting

  1. PeterW says:

    Nothing to add here, except that I’m always amused by your mild punning or wordplay in your titles.

  2. trumwill says:

    The author’s tone is very obnoxious. When he/she says white, it almost makes you want to say black.

    That being said, I don’t think that #1 is nearly as off-base as you do. Though the author completely misses that it needs to be balanced with economic opportunity, fFar too few people take an area’s cost-of-living into account when choosing where to live or where to remain.

    Half Sigma graduated from Arizona State University and inexplicably moves from the Phoenix area back to New York City and writes half of a blog on the subject of how unaffordable this country has become to live in. My friend Clint picks up and moves from Delosa to Shaston, a much more expensive city not far from where I am.

    Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly tired of people that live in the most expensive parts in the country complain about cost-of-living. This is particularly true for people that moved to these cities. I certainly have more sympathy for those that were raised in these places and don’t want to leave their family behind.

    The author is definitely wrong to suggest that cost-of-living is the only thing one should consider. Rural Deseret is as cheap as all get-out, but it’s hard as heck to find a job that pays decently so who cares how cheap it is. But there are places in the south and southwest and interior west (including Colosse) that I think people should put some serious thought into relocating to if they can can manage it because the balance is much, much more favorable.

    Moving is hard. And for some people it’s just never going to be feasible (another reason it’s a bad idea to take the smug attitude that the author takes). If you’re single and you have a friend in the area’s couch you can sleep on while you’re looking for work, it might be worth your while to give it a shot. Looking into or accepting transfers to these places could be a good idea as could interviewing for jobs there the next time you’re looking.

    This isn’t for everybody. There are all sorts of reasons not to move. I wouldn’t have left Colosse if I hadn’t had to. But I do think that it’s an option that a lot more people should consider when they’re unemployed or looking for new work anyway. Both in terms of relocating away from the costs and into places like Colosse or Boise and in terms of not moving to Portland or New York City simply cause it’s kewl to live there.

  3. Peter says:

    It’s important to know the interplay between an area’s cost of living and wage levels when considering a move. Trouble is, that’s not always easy to discover. Another issue is that not everyone weighs all factors equally. For example, private school tuition levels can be very important for families considering areas with poor public school systems, but are largely irrelevant for people without school-age children and in areas where the public schools are good. You also have the issue that averages are, well, averages – for instance, the very high salaries of unionized public sector employees boost the averages in many parts of the New York metro area, which can create unrealistic expectations as to what most people can hope to make.

    As for Siggy, quite some time ago he more or less hinted that he moved to Arizona not so much because he really wanted to attend ASU, but for reasons that had to do with a relationship with a woman. He moved back to New York at least in part because the relationship ended. At least that’s my impression, it’s hard to be sure because he’s so tight-lipped about his personal life.

  4. trumwill says:



    What I’ve found, though, is that these things seem to benefit less expensive places. Moving to New York City not only means spending more on housing, food, and so on, but it can also mean spending money on things that you wouldn’t have to in Tempe: private schools, garage fees, and so on.

    According to city-data, people that live in the Zaulem Sound area make more money than do people that live where I worked in Estacado (and where I lived, though to a lesser extent). Yet… I made almost exactly up here what I did down there (factoring in health insurance).

    As for Siggy, if what you say is true… he still should have stayed put in Arizona. From a financial perspective anyway. If living in NYC makes him enough happier that it’s worth the premium, though, then power to him. However, given his level of resentment and the overall level of happiness he exudes, Arizona would have to have made him downright suicidal.

  5. web says:

    Moving for a relationship almost always entails getting the hell away if the relationship turns sour, especially if you’re in a small enough “everyone knows everyone” kind of area.

    Comparing salary expectation to cost of living is, I agree, worthwhile. That being said, there are so many factors going into where someone lives that I still don’t think the “move someplace cheaper” bit is really valid advice, much as I think some of the other advice (“use public transportation”, “get a bike”, etc) given by either financial-types or by environmentalist ranters, tends to discount the fact that (a) public transportation in the US tends to suck and (b) for many people, the neighborhoods nearby enough their work that they could walk/bike/etc tend to be run-down, infested craphole neighborhoods.

  6. ? says:

    I suppose one measure of affordability would be the ratio of median home prices to median salary level of the city in question. Of course, this assumes that the median houses are of comparable quality, but beyond that, “affordability” can come at the expense of real quality-of-life factors. Sure, you could move from San Diego to, say, Valdosta, but who would want to that didn’t have to?

  7. thebastidge says:

    I have to disagree on #1 as well. It makes great sense for most people who are not tightly coupled to an urban job and lifestyle. and by urban I mean high rise office building and condo in trendy neighbourhood kind of urban.

    Take for example you stereotypical ghetto dweller. Given A: massive crime and safety considerations, B: lack of economic opportunity, C: Public assistance of some type, i.e welfare, food stamps, Social Security, in other words a fairly fixed income…

    Then it makes perfect sense to take whatever you can’t sell for cash or replace easily, rent a U-haul, and drive to any small town. Hell, get a greyhound bus ticket, for that matter. Rent the cheapest apartment you can find, and send a change of address form to all the government agencies you’ve been living off of. Figure out the employment aspect of it later, if you even care.

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