Monday, January 30, 2006

Poor Poet's Budget

There are times when your watch stops and your world stops, too, because the need to buy a new battery could throw off your whole budget. This cruel world can nickel and dime you to near death. While you may have staved off the need to pinch actual pennies, there are times, however, when you might be lucky to rub two quarters together. Not to fear. It is time to transform your finances, however meagre, into a financial future crafted by your own poetry-writing hands.

No truer words were spoken when someone said you need to have money to make money. Nothing plus nothing leaves nothing. So start with a little something. If you can manage to scrounge $1,000 together (and it may not be easy), don't put it in a savings account or let it drift as a line item in your checkbook. Invest it in the stock market. Avoiding risk is for the wealthy. They need to protect the millions they spent so much time accumulating. The late poet, artist and friend Carlos Cortez once said, "No one fell out of a basement window." Meaning, if you don't have anything, you don't have anything to lose. But you do need a little something to win. More about this in a later blog about stock picking.

Meanwhile, as you build some investment-worthy cash flow, find ways to live richly without spending much money. Hover in art museums, libraries, parks, zoos, lakefronts, conservatories and churches in which others have spent millions to build and maintain. They are there for you to enjoy. Take walks, fish, swim, collect leaves, watch birds, enjoy your kids and pray for wisdom.

Keep your eye peeled for the special used car gem from the little old lady from Pasedena. I drive a 15-year-old European turbo beauty which I purchased three years ago from its original owner. She had put only around 50K miles on it and maintained it regularly. It was spotless when I bought it and it remains one of the best cars I've ever owned. But then again, I've never owned a new car.

After my husband and I lived for years paying landlords, we finally scraped together the 3 percent needed as a down payment on a house in a working class neighborhood. Family members on both sides were incredulous as to why we moved where we did. Not much later, we were both laid off from our respective jobs and the housing values in our new neighborhood began to dip downward. We, too, began to question why we had taken the plunge and stopped renting. But we didn't question for long. We both found new jobs and persevered. Fifteen years later, in addition to a few repairs and updates and a lot of love, our house is nearly paid for. A few doors down from us, a house just completed by an area builder is selling for six-and-a-half times what we paid for ours. This would have never happened had we still been renting. When it comes to real estate, buy whatever you can afford.

My husband is a poet as well. We are often seated at our own computer laptops, writing, of course. But a nice cheap date is to cook dinner at home, then cuddle side-by-side in front of one computer, surfing the web and sipping a glass of wine. We challenge each other by taking turns finding goofy websites, such as ◦

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