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Reporter Bill Lynch tries a different kind of diet and takes on a month of learning about money. Step one, end spending on things like coffee, haircuts, dinner out — and groceries.

My hair needed a trim and this filled me with dread.

These days, haircuts are more of a necessary evil. Years ago, I wore my hair long and would get it cut three or four times a year. It aggravated my mother enough that she’d offer to pay for it if I’d just get it done.

Now, it looks better clipped short. Left alone, the sides and back grow luxuriantly, but the top stays thin. If left unchecked, I’m pretty sure I’d start to look like Bozo the clown.

In the mirror, I could already see that beginning to happen.

Something had to be done and so I brought out my old clippers, looked hard at my reflection and carefully began to try to pair back the clown hair.

This wasn’t fun. I hated this.

I’d had the clippers for years, bought them after I got fed up with my thinning hair and decided that I’d just as soon take care of it as spend $20 or $30 every couple of weeks to keep it looking neat.

I wasn’t particularly good at cutting my own hair and abandoned trying to keep up with it after a few attempts.

My experience was that what they say about lawyers and doctors is mostly true about men who cut their own hair.

A man who is his own barber has a fool for a client — or I never liked how it turned out. I could never get away from the long, stray hairs that always seemed to pop up around my ears regardless of how careful I was with the trimming or how many times I passed the clippers over that part of my scalp.

Finally, the clippers went in the cabinet under the sink and I went back to trusting local barbers to keep me from looking like something a cat coughed up.

But here I was with clippers in hand. I needed a haircut but couldn’t pay anyone to do the job. Haircuts cost money and I’d pledged to not spend any money on any new goods or services for at least 30 days.

This was all part of my plan to explore the subject of money through February.

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do this. I hate talking about money, particularly my money — how much I make and what I spend it on.

When my editor, Maria, and I began discussing the idea of spending some time on the topic, my exact response was, “I’d sooner light myself on fire than talk about my finances with readers.”

It’s a delicate subject.

I don’t know anybody who likes to broadcast how much they actually make, who likes to acknowledge that their time has a very specific dollar value.

Your life is the same as real estate. There’s only so much of it to be had and whether you’re paid a dollar an hour for your time or $10,000 an hour, you’re prone to think that it’s really worth at least a little more.

The only people I’ve known who like talking about their money are people that would like you to give some of your money to them for a book, a seminar or a consultation.

Most people I know will only discuss their salary if they find out a co-worker makes more.

But we have no trouble talking about other people’s money. We can point out who makes too much, which is pretty much everybody.

Billionaire CEOs are just greedy pigs. They don’t deserve it. Why should someone who flips hamburgers have a living wage? If they wanted to have shelter and health insurance, they should do something society values — like feed the hungry.

People hate talking about what they’ve spent their money on, particularly the debt, unless it’s student loan debt.

Everybody hates that.

And who wants to delve into their casual, personal expenditures, the little or big creature comforts we give ourselves that make our days a little better.

Nobody minds talking about the actual stuff. We love telling stories about our last vacation, where we stayed, what we did and the cool, new hiking boots we bought for the trip. We like posting pictures of the very excellent meals we ate at the very nice restaurant that kicked off a magical night.

We like to show off our cars, our motorcycles and our diamond rings, but we do not like to talk about how much it all costs or how many payments we have to go until it is free and clear.

At least, for sure, I don’t.

But my editor Maria wanted to know why?

She said, “You talk about getting outside your comfort zone. You’ve done that. How is this different?”

I sighed and said, “I don’t want to be judged.”

She shrugged. I could do what want. I’d mentioned learning Spanish.

Maria let it drop, but I knew she had a point. The fact that I instantly rejected the topic meant it wasn’t just something I needed to learn more about, but it was something I should confront, so I decided I would.

I would try to learn more about money, how to manage it, how to control it, how to tame it, maybe.

I would reevaluate the things I routinely spend money on, figure out what I needed and what I didn’t, and maybe come up with something like an actual budget instead of just winging it every month, hoping for the best.

To begin with, I would commit to not spending any money over the next month — with some exceptions. I still had to cover the mortgage, the car, car insurance, utilities and all the things I’m bound to.

I would still have to put gas in my car to get to work and if my heat went out again or some other emergency arose, I’d have to pay to handle it (if I couldn’t find another way), but there would be no new purchases. No stuff would be bought.

Likewise, there would be no meals, coffees or beers out — not so much as a stick of gum.

I would buy no groceries. What I had on hand was what I’d have to make do with until the project was done — or I’d have to barter.

What would you do for a Klondike bar? I might get to find out.

But starving seemed unlikely. During the early part of the pandemic, back when some folks were warning of societal collapse, I might have panicked a little and filled a 25-gallon tote with non-perishable food and shoved it in storage — just in case.

Seven or eight months have passed since I really looked inside. Everything that went in the box was canned or boxed. Much of it was double-wrapped to keep it safe, but I have no idea what’s actually in storage — maybe a lot of pasta.

Meals might get eclectic or be very dull, but I wouldn’t go hungry.

I felt nervous about going forward with everything, but this was a start.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @lostHwys on Twitter. He’s also on Instagram at instagram.com/billiscap/ and read his blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/onemonth.

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