By CL Bledsoe & Michael Gushue
Imagine you’re a crab, living it up on the bay floor, eating garbage, crabbin’ around. You encounter some especially gross food (which you’re all about), ignore the fact that it’s inside a very trap-like structure, and go in after it. Hey, it was a trap. Soon, you’re lifted out of the water and dumped in a bucket with a bunch of other crabs. The sides of this bucket aren’t very high. If you all worked together, you could all get out, or at least most of you could. You could be back in the water in no time. But some crab just stepped on your claw, and now you have to kill him. It’s the crab honor code. You rear back to hit him, but you accidentally hit another crab, who now must kill you. He accidentally hits another crab and on and on until you all end up as dinner.
Now, instead of being a crab, imagine you were an adult human. Instead of a piece of hotdog in a trap, you’ve got a mortgage, car payments, various forms of debt. And also hotdogs, let’s be honest. Instead of a bucket, you’ve got a job. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same scenario, minus those cool claws.
To put it another way, being an adult sucks. Everyone knows this, but no one does anything about it. We, as a culture, give away our lives in 8-hour increments — ah, but that’s not including lunch, travel time, and the exhaustion that follows. Is it more like 10 hours? 12? All to make some asshole who isn’t us rich. They’re taking vacations in Bermuda while our teeth rot out because we can’t afford dental care, and we’re so conditioned to accept this that some of you reading this are thinking we’re a bunch of commies for even bringing this stuff up. Well, :P
Regardless, you’re caught in the “crab trap” now, and the only way out is to kill that guy who stepped on your claw. Or, hey, crazy idea: you can try to mitigate the trap itself. No, we don’t mean buy a bigger TV, although…NO. Be strong. We mean, lessen the hold “the trap” has on you. That means you have to spend less money so that you can pay off some of the massive debt you’re acquiring simply by being alive. At very least, you have to live within your means, which means don’t spend money you don’t have, and just hope you don’t have any medical issues or emergencies or car repair or they stop making Twizzlers so you have to order the last sixteen cases that will ever exist in the world.
There’s no way around it. You’ve got to make a budget. You’re going to need a stiff drink for this.
Necessary Items for Making a Budget
- 750 ml bottle of bourbon
- Bank statements
- Pay stubs
- Family size package of Oreos
- TV remote control
- Family size package of Cheez Doodles
- 750 ml bottle of gin
- Monthly loan statements
- 750 ml bottle of tequila
- Monthly utility bills
Determining Your Income
Now that you’ve steeled yourself with booze, Oreos, and Cheez Doodles, you have to figure out what you’re working with. Let’s say you have a “regular” job. There are two ways that you can get paid, depending on the kind of job you have. First, a regular paycheck. Typically, you get this paycheck every month or every two weeks. It’s direct deposited in your bank account, with all the taxes and other deductions taken out. Second way: You and your co-workers gather around Sid at the end of every day. Sid has pulled up in a (1) flatbed truck or (2) fancy car with black glass windows. He pulls out a big wad of bills held together with rubber bands, and peels off a couple of greasy Jacksons for each of you. If you’re lucky, he’ll give you a lift in the back of the truck to the nearest liquor store. If Sid is in the fancy car, though, no dice. Either way, we’ll call this your basic monthly income.
Alternative Sources of Income
Most people tend to think that their job is their only source of income. For example, workers in the food industry have a paycheck plus tips. Freelance workers have a fluctuating income. (This is, of course, politely not mentioning the massive amount of food and goods that every worker is entitled — nay, morally required — to steal from their exploiters — um, we mean employers.) But there are other sources of income you may not even realize you have.
Ever found any loose change in your couch? Might be worth looking there right now, doncha think? But don’t stop at your couch. Whenever you’re invited to anyone else’s house, check their couches for loose change. (This may require making friends.)
You may have heard the saying, “find a penny pick it up, all the day you’ll have increased your income by an insignificant amount.” But something you may not realize is that the same also applies to pigeons. At first — or even fourth — glance, pigeons may not seem to be a viable means of income, but there are several ways to make them highly profitable. For example:
- Train them to pick high-waisted pockets. Old men have two things in common. One, they carry a lot of loose cash in their pockets, and two, they pull their pants up very high. This is a technique meant to fool pickpockets, who tend to be much lower to the ground because they are slowly being drawn to hell, but pigeons lack souls, which is how they fly. Also, they eat garbage, so they’re pretty low maintenance.
- Pigeon feathers can be made into stinky pillows which you can then give to people you don’t want to actually stay in your house. You’ll need permission from the pigeons first, of course, but they’re pretty easy to deal with, as long as you have a lawyer well-versed in aviary law.
- Develop an eco-friendly weather app, call it something like Accubird Weather. There is literally no way to discern what the weather is like other than looking at a phone or asking a stranger on a bus. But you know who knows about weather? Birds. They live in it! Now, instead of murdering the fluffy puppy that is Mother Earth by using our phones to check the weather, we can simply go to a window and look out at the sky until we see one of the specially trained pigeons, wearing the current weather sash.
Alternatively, you can always sell your blood. Heck, you can sell a lot of your internal organs, although this is a case of what we economists call “diminishing returns.” Long time readers of How To Even are probably wondering if we’re about to suggest selling OTHER PEOPLE’S internal organs. First and foremost, we applaud your entrepreneurial spirit. Also, you’re talking about murder, probably. Or at least a disappointing Uber ride. We ourselves would never condone Grand Theft Kidney. Unless you’re talking about the 1%. Unfortunately, most members of the 1% have already had their organs replaced with shriveled husks of evil, which don’t actually have a lot of resale value in today’s market. Though, in a pinch, they make good nesting material for pet gerbils.
Okay. You’ve figured out your income, so, you need to figure out how much of it you’re burning through on designer Hot Pockets. (Answer: Enough.)
First, add up all your expenses in a given month. This is usually a two step process. Step One, list all your expenses. Step Two, kill yourself.
But let us suggest an alternative. Put down absolutely everything that has to be paid. That includes essentials such as rent, utilities and LaffyTaffy, as well as luxury items like underwear, soap, and deodorant. Add them all up and then compare that to the amount of money you bring home every month. More than likely, you’re going to find that your expenses exceed your take home. If this is not the case, can we borrow some money?
Now comes the hard part. What you have to do is find ways to reduce spending. Unfortunately, in this miserable existence, the only things that give you joy cost more money than you have, such as hookers or human-sized Chocodiles, though…could those be combined? Something to think about. Anyway, the key to a successful budget is to make frugality fun. We’ve got some examples of Best Practices when it comes to frugality.
Cook At Home And Take Your Lunch To Work
How much money do you spend every week eating out? A shit-ton, that’s how much. It’s hard to find the time to cook or prepare meals every day for work, what with all the time in the evenings spent huddled in the corner, begging for death, but we’ve got an easy solution for you. You can buy a giant bag of rice for just a few dollars. Boil that rice and put it into a bowl. (So, you might have to get a bowl somewhere. We suggest an empty margarine container. It’s not very practical to just put the rice into your hands and hold it until lunchtime; you might need your hands to do your job). Then, you can bring that bowl to work and eat it while pretending you’re in some cool foreign place where they eat a lot of rice, like Arkansas or Sweden. Wear sunglasses while you eat and pretend you’re on a beach. Littering your desk with used condoms, syringes, and various pieces of trash can help make this fantasy seem a little more real. Consider leaving a rotting fish on your desk for a few days to get that seaside smell. Maybe a recording of seagulls attacking and destroying a town.
If that seems like a lot of work, try this. For breakfast swallow a cup of uncooked rice. Go to work. At lunch drink 2 or 3 cups of warm water. Be sure to jump up and down for a few minutes to mix it all up. In about 20 minutes you’re going to feel full, real full, probably for the next 2 or 3 days. If you don’t explode.
Or, alternatively, you could save money by eating the rich.
Watch Movies At Home
Movies are expensive. When you go to the theater, you want to get all the snacks, and that can cost more than the movies themselves. But selling snacks is how movie theaters stay in business, and they’ve started really cracking down on people sneaking outside food in. You might get tazed or even purple-nurpled for trying to sneak in some Twizzlers.
A big drawback to watching movies at home, though, is that you have to pay for cable or an internet connection or buy the movies instead. A good way to get around this is to live next to someone who likes to watch a lot of movies. Invest in a pair of binoculars — a one-time investment — and watch their TV through the window. If they live directly beside you, drill a hole into the wall so you can listen and watch.
A fun alternative to this is to make up your own movie based on the title and cast. You really probably won’t be that far off, considering how lazy most movies are. Does it star George Clooney, set in the middle east? Then it’s a slow-paced political “schmendrick” about government corruption. Does it star Melissa McCarthy, set in some rural area or suburb? Oh, I love comedies about down-on-their luck single moms who win the lottery.
Pro tip: Enhance your made up movie experience by acting out the whole thing using sock puppets. DO NOT CRY.
Never Service Your Car
Check engine lights are like Use By dates on dairy products: they’re not rules so much as loose guidelines intended to frighten weak-minded people. Another way of saying this is that if your car is still rolling, it’s still working. Mechanics will often exaggerate the condition of a car; just because it’s on fire, doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. That’s why they call it an internal combustion engine, after all. Oil changes are a luxury item, and can be done every couple hundred thousand miles with little ill effect. And, frankly, you can’t afford to do anything about it anyway.
And if your car breaks down and you have to take the bus to your AA meetings, hey, you’re helping the environment! You’re kind of a hero.
Ignore Health Issues
Here’s something not a lot of people know: most heart attacks don’t happen out of the blue. They build over days, weeks sometimes, until they hit. If they do come on suddenly, chances are you’re going to die immediately, so there’s not much to do about that anyway except keep mouse traps in your pockets. If you’ve got some warning, well, why leave work early and lose a couple of hours pay? You’re probably going to need it, anyway, to pay for the medical costs which probably won’t be covered by your insurance.
What we’re saying is medical coverage and costs are unimaginably expensive. But, here’s the thing. When numbers get incomprehensibly large, they lose all reality. Like Joe Stalin said, one smart car is a dopey looking tragedy. A million smart cars is a dopey looking statistic. The best way to deal with an expense that will strip away your entire lifetime earnings (equivalent to about a three day stay in a hospital where you get a bed you can raise and lower) is to deny its reality.
Let’s take it step further. Medical knowledge has gone through four distinct stages. Stage one: complete ignorance. This stage was a few 100,000 years of “Hey, Billy cut his finger, and the Dark Ones have gotten inside him. Let’s abandon him on this glacier because he’s slowing us down with his whimpering.” Next stage, a couple 100,000 years of chanting at the injury or disease to scare it away. This was utterly ineffective, but it was better than stage three, which lasted a thousand years or so. Medical care at this stage consisted of developing procedures, medicines, and treatments designed to kill the patient. This was the era of “I say let’s bleed him, force arsenic down his throat, and then bury him up to his nose in worm-infested pig feces for 20 days. If that doesn’t cure the pox, I don’t know what will.” Finally, we’ve arrived at stage four, a time when modern medicine is both miraculous and unaffordable.
The answer is something we like to call “Health Roulette.” First, you rewind your expectations for health care back to Stage One. Then, convince yourself and everyone else that you’re practicing “Paleomedicine.” This makes it sounds like you have a health plan while you actually have nothing, do nothing, but — most importantly — spend nothing. It allows you to completely ignore your health while also maintaining an air of sneering hipster superiority. This may, of course, lead to an early death, perhaps even a grisly one. But maybe it won’t. As they say, life’s a gamble. Why not embrace that simple truth?
Say Screw It And Apply For A Bunch Of Credit Cards
When we first started going to college, there was a New Students Fair in the student building. All these businesses had tables for freshmen — or anyone, really — to sign up for things like bank accounts or insurance. Of course, those tables were slowly being edged out by the credit card companies, who’d descended on the New Students Fair like the vultures they are. The credit card companies were giving away free tee shirts. One friend of ours signed up for six credit cards. He was actually rejected for all of the credit cards. This was back when credit card companies rejected people sometimes. The good old days! The moral to the story is the guy got a bunch of shirts, and his credit was already crap, so the hit it took each time he applied for a card didn’t really matter so much. Win-win.
Life is about finding balance. You have to weigh the horrors stampeding towards you against the Funyuns you need so you can forget the approaching horror-herd long enough to get some sleep. You have to do this while also contributing a respectable amount to your retirement. (We’re kidding. None of us will ever be able to retire.) But, as terrifying as life can be, debtor’s prison would be worse (i.e., no Netflix). One day, we’ll make the Great Crabwalk Forward. Until then, financial solvency is the ephemeral carrot used to distract us from the constant stick of Capitalism.
Look, here’s the thing about crabs: their range on the pleasure-pain scale is pretty narrow. At the top is finding a fish head. That’s about as good as it gets. At the bottom is being in a bucket with bunch of other crabs. There’s not a lot in between. We humans, on the other hand, well, maybe we get invited to a free crab feast. That’s pretty great. Also, Funyuns.