Anybody who has tried to lose weight knows that it involves saying the word, “No,” a lot. It’s not easy, and sometimes you say “no,” to some really cool things (cheesecake!), but ultimately, if you’re going to succeed, you say no.
So it is with finances, and most average, regular people know that they’re saying “No,” a lot these days to purchases that they wish they could make, because they simply don’t have enough money. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing some of these “no” decisions we make, and this week I’d like to start with the one we all like to talk about, but so rarely do:
“No,” in the voting booth, to both politicians and taxes.
If you don’t know this already, you pay a lot in taxes — federal, state, municipal, county — and some of them look like taxes (think FICA, federal withholding, property taxes), and some of them don’t (think, mandatory health insurance). Most of them, you have no choice in, because they’re mandated, because they’re the law, and because as good citizens that last phrase is supposed to be enough to quieten us, but when you do have a choice, you might want to think about making it.
Start by researching your income and where it goes — specifically when it goes to places that don’t buy food, clothing, or shelter for you or your family. State property taxes, because they are frequently tucked into people’s monthly mortgage payments, are hidden from many people’s view, but over a year, they add up. Are you getting what you’re paying for?
“Oh, but we need schools!” people aver. “Our children must be educated.”
As a person who successfully homeschooled four children to articulate and well-read adulthood
on far less than $6,500 or so per year, per student, I question how educated our young, and existing populace is. I also question why so much of the school personnel is made up of people who are not teachers — okay, so there’s the lady who makes the hot lunches, but what about the assistant to the assistant principle, or the parcel of administrative assistants who do . . . what? (By the way, when I was a kid, most of us brought our own lunches; do people do that anymore?)
A new police station? My little hometown got one of those. One time I accompanied a progeny there to report the theft of a debit card (the large national bank wouldn’t release the videos needed to catch the perpetrator, by the way, and the police, “just couldn’t do anything, ma’am”). We met with the officer in the lobby, in the midst of everyone waiting, because there just wasn’t any room in the empty, inner offices. There is now, in the shiny new station that will take voters years to pay off — in extra property tax payments hidden in their monthly mortgage — and people who are criminals because they forgot to buckle their seatbelts and express themselves forcibly to the officer issuing the citation, now have a nice place to go.
Last night I fielded a phone call, requesting funds, from the alumni association of my university alma mater, and my basic question was: Why do you need more money? I already pay taxes to you through the state, and your tuition isn’t cheap. “This is to fund exciting new programs that will benefit the studentry and the alumni of the institution, ma’am.”
Will tuition go down, especially considering that you’re offering more online classes taught by off-campus adjunct professors who are paid half of what your tenured faculty make to teach the same class?
No. Okay, so that’s my answer. “Use what you have, even if it doesn’t seem to be enough, more wisely. That’s what I have to do.”
While paying my car tabs (during which I was required to replace my perfectly sound license plate, because this is mandatory every 7 years), I was asked if I wanted to donate $5 to the state park fund. Rarely am I given a choice to pay a tax. When I am, the answer is “no.” The last time I was in a state park — all of which charge day-use fees now — the garbage was overflowing, the real bathrooms were closed, and the portables were . . . repulsive. What will additional funds do?
These are the few instances when we have a choice. Yes, saying “no,” will have repercussions, and standard public institutional response is to cut the stuff that actually means something to us: libraries, swimming pools, federal National Parks that theoretically belong to We the People, but if we keep saying Yes to everything, all the time, the only time we’ll say No is to ourselves and our families:
“No. We can’t afford that. I just made a tax payment.”
Whether or not we ever see fiscal responsibility, or concern for it, from our political, corporate,
or banking establishments, we can act individually to ensure that we’re doing the best we can for our own families.
While there are a lot of elements in our lives — and country — out of our control, this is no time to throw up our hands and say, “There’s nothing we can do.” There is always something you can do, and my book, Live Happily on Less, guides you in simple, easy to make changes that enable you to make the most you can with what you have.
“With this little book you hit the nail on the head! . . . I feel good that some others think the same and that you wrote a great book about it!” — a personal note from a reader of Live Happily on Less.
By the way, much of saving money involves common sense, and if you are a Christian and you are looking for common sense in your spirituality, I invite you to join me at my BeliefNet site, Commonsense Christianity. Recent articles of interest include Only . . . BELIEVE which addresses the fallacies of hocus pocus, name it claim it, dare it declare it religiosity, and Unchurched, or Church Free? if you are one of those people who stay home Sunday mornings, but continue to feel guilty about it.
This article was originally published in ThoughtfulWomen.org.