Stop Stacking Luxuries

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Having worked in the retail world a while now, I’ve been run through every sales talk about add-ons and upselling there is. I’ve seen the numbers too. I can’t divulge mine, but consider that your popcorn and drinks “represent some 40 percent of theaters’ profits”, and adding a $9.26 beer to your $15 meal just bumped it up 62%. For those reasons alone, I’m super cautious about stacking my luxuries. I’ll show you what I mean.

I never buy popcorn. I went out for a nacho night with friends recently, split the bill and didn’t order any drinks, and my bill was somehow less than $4. At home, I even try not to snack during a Netflix movie. When buying clothes, I don’t accessorize. When I cook, I garnish as cheaply as I can — (none of my friends appreciate saffron anyway). And you know what? I ended up appreciating each individual luxury more. Here’s why.

When I bought popcorn, I’d annihilate most of it during the previews and endure a 2-hour movie trying to tongue the hard bits out of my teeth. The soda would destroy my fitness goals, and make me have to pee right before the climax of “Don’t Breathe”. The fact I paid for that inconvenience was especially questionable. Why would I pay for something that made me enjoy a luxury — the movie — less? This even happens when I crack a beer during Netflix. At my worst, I wouldn’t even remember how the movie ended a day after. Would I even enjoy the beer? Not really. I was distracted by the movie. With every luxury you stack, each individual luxury is diminished.

There are exceptions, of course. Some people argue wine complements great food, and I don’t disagree. I’ve just always had trouble tasting the finer notes of a 1999 Barolo while my mouth was full with a $25 Keg steak. A great accessory can complete an outfit. It can also cost $9,750 when your Indochino suit was only $579. When you try to cap off a basic luxury with something that makes it ‘more special’, that’s a green light to a salesperson that reads, “This person is here to be stupid with their money.” Your core goods are always cheaper, and upgrading them first is the only thing that makes sense. Even then, you can usually live without an upgrade. I’d rather watch four months of Netflix than spring for popcorn-and-a-movie for two. Heck, I won’t even make popcorn at home. Can you imagine crunching your way through “A Quiet Place”?

Do you stack your luxuries? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments.

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How to Reduce Your Taxes

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2015 was the first time I insured my photo equipment. It was also the year I tallied up how much camera gear I own and what it was worth: $35,807.20! It’s worth considerably less now due to depreciation, but that wasn’t what surprised me. What blew my mind was how much I paid in GST and PST. At 5% GST and 7% PST in British Columbia, I paid an additional $4,296.86 in sales tax! Holy hell!

Taxes are great for a lot of things, and I’m glad to live in Canada where healthcare is free, roads are paved, and anyone can have a high school education. That being said, while I was building my photo business, $4,296.86 left my bank account, providing no direct benefit to me, and that could’ve been easily preventable! I could’ve borrowed equipment, bought used gear, or gotten by on cheaper gear. If sales tax weren’t a thing here, that $4,000+ could’ve bought me another Canon 1D X used!

Sales tax is particularly insidious because once you get used to it, you don’t even think about it anymore. Even BC’s 10% liquor tax is simply accepted on top of the already crazy 5% GST. See that 24-pack of Budweiser advertised for $32.99? It’s actually $37.94 plus $2.40 for the bottle deposit: $40.34! HOW IS SOMETHING WITH AN INVISIBLE 18% MARKUP DEEMED ACCEPTABLE BY ANYONE? You know how 18% automatic gratuities are annoying at restaurants when you have a large party? Every time you buy ANYTHING and have to pay sales tax, you’re forced to “tip” your government. I’m not saying that’s bad; I’m saying it’s something you should at least think about. Aren’t you already paying enough in income tax? You should be doing everything in your power to not pay more!

This March, I spent $696.48 on Alcohol (which is an improvement). $605.63 of that was stuff I was actually able to drink, and $90.85 was sales tax. I could buy a lot of beer for $90.85. Heck, I could BREW a lot of beer. What I hate to admit about this is Alcohol is an entirely unnecessary expense. In buying $605.63 of unnecessary beer, I threw away $90.85 for the luxury! It’s just gone, providing me no benefit! HOW IS THIS OKAY? And what about the four tickets to San Francisco I just bought for me and my friends? The base fare was $595.36 USD, the federal tax was $44.64 USD, and then there’s a bunch of shit like “passenger facility tax” when I don’t even know what that is! Total damage: $752.80 USD, or $1,034.28 CAD. Only $817.97 CAD went towards the flight. The rest is bullshit I have to pay because I had the gall to actually buy something with my money. WHAT ELSE AM I SUPPOSED TO USE MONEY FOR?

From now on, tax is not “invisible” to you. When I bought my $6,000 camera and received a bill for $6,720, I should’ve been outraged. Sales tax is a ripoff. Look for ways to avoid sales tax legally. Buy things used. Borrow things, since you don’t own anything anyway. Avoid luxury items. The more expensive something is, the more money goes up in smoke for no good reason. Live frugally, and save your money. You literally get robbed with every in-store transaction.