A year ago to the day I sat down amidst the rubble of the new economy and penned a little piece on getting rich. If you followed my advice, and are now swimming in unconverted rubles and aluminum futures, kudos to you. In hindsight, I'll admit it probably wasn't as easy as I had laid out, what with the market panic in ball-bearings and having to placate the Yakuza at every turn.
Plus the astronomical unemployment.
So in an attempt to make sure everyone can ride the gravy train to candyland, I'm going to rehash my one-point-plan for acquiring fabulous wealth and power with a modicum of effort and absolutely no experience necessary. Seriously, this is the kind of advice I should be obfuscating deep within a 1600-page book and DVD combo for four easy flex-payments of $29.99, but I'm handing it over to you, the beautiful people, for the low, low price of nothing, simply because now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to venture capitalize on the moment. Ready? Here it is:
Stop buying shit.
Thank you! Drive safe!
Economic bubbles, much like the one that recently popped, are formed because -- and I'm SUPER dumbing this down, but stay with me -- we as a society, whenever we get a little money in our hands, tend to throw it at whatever Madison Avenue tells us will make us happy. I call this "trickle-up economics." How else do you explain personal watercraft insurance, lottery tickets, and beer with the lime already in it?
The fact of the matter is that, overnight, we changed the definition of quality of life from this to this:
I'll admit to you that that's more perception than reality. It wasn't everyone who slapped a McMansion and a 60-inch Sony on a Bank of Ireland Visa. But it only takes one idiot naming their kid Hitler to make all of us collectively shake our fists.
Furthermore, we didn't all do it for the wrong reasons. I'm a capitalist, and I'll be the first to tell you that there's nothing wrong with upgrading one's lifestyle. It's necessary, in fact, to keep the wheels of progress moving.
My point is, upgrading doesn't necessarily mean bigger, faster, and more. In fact, look how quickly I can change the equation:
The fact is, we've got a convergence here of two things.
1) The doldrums that exist in the bottom of a downturn -- and this better be the bottom, or else you'll be reading my December 2010 Intrepid Media economic treatise off of a hastily scribbled and photocopied sheet of wide-ruled notebook paper.
2) The kickoff of the holiday season, one in which we can trump the now-traditional Black Friday shopping mall madness with some good old-fashioned Scrooge-style self-analysis and reevaluation.
Think I'm spraying the hippie garbage? Here's some randomly found evidence of this approaching perfect storm of hard times and Christmas reflection. And I swear this is untouched from the front page of CNBC on 12/1/09:
Jesus wants you to lower your bills.
But relax, this isn't about turning the clock back to 1900, or even 1990, and rocking that high-horse. I don't want you to suddenly announce to all your friends and relatives that you'd like them to make donations to various charities in lieu of buying you gifts. I did that one year and I wound up getting a gift anyway.
A T-shirt that said "GIANT DOUCHE."
From my Mom.
We're all a little materialistic on the inside. It's human nature and it's good for us, especially when that material includes things like health insurance or Intrepid Media Premium subscriptions. My point is spend more time focusing on the content, and not so much the delivery.
I'm not saying you don't need a Kindle:
And this doesn't just apply to electronics or even material possessions. You can use this way of thinking in every aspect of your day to day. After all, like Biggie said, "With every upgrade in lifestyle comes a boatload of being judged by the CEO of a major corporation."
Remember, 2010 will bring a recovery -- it might be big and exciting, but I doubt it, in fact, I kind of hope against it. Because it doesn't take much to be truly happy, and it doesn't take much more to start blowing that bubble again.
And that would make shirtless, white-trash Frank Zappa very sad.
Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
12.2.09 @ 9:40a
Fantastic. This is why I've been buying cheap turntables, receivers, and speakers on craigslist - and loading them up with high-quality vinyl gems - instead of listening to Taylor Swift on some bullshit Best Buy stereo system. Great read, perfect images. Bravo!
12.2.09 @ 4:37p
"But ... but ... if we stop buying stuff we don't need, won't the economy crash?" he asked, picking his nose thoughtfully.
Seriously, it's not only about re-prioritizing what objects are actually going to add to your happiness in the long term, but determining that not having the cool gadget will not detract from your happiness. That's an area that some people have a hard time with. They're cool with the iPod that holds 10,000 songs until they find out there's one that holds 50,000, then they want that one; never mind that they haven't come close to listening to all the tunes on the first one.
joe redden tigan
12.14.09 @ 1:50p
Absolutely. You know what I keep envisioning taking a big hit? The McMansion. I know that's a little outside the scope of your column here, Joe, but I think the concept is the same. The McMansion is going to suffer most in the new economy. Talk about your waste and excess. 3,500 sq. ft. for a family of four. Those that own them are probably quaking in their boots right now. I just don't see the new generation of buyers trusting their value anymore. In many ways. Imagine buying the Hummer of houses today.
1.20.10 @ 8:17a
CNBC also wants to know who white trash frank zappa is.