I have guilt.
And the reason I have guilt is that I remember long ago the experiences that formed me and cut my teeth. And those experiences were putting myself through college, and not just college, but all living expenses, and doing so by working full time at the U of MN Police Department in their "campus cop" program WHILE ATTENDING SCHOOL FULL TIME and GRADUATING IN 3.5 YEARS.
I remember working over 120 hours in one Christmas week because not only would be get holiday pay (1.5 times) but if we'd get overtime on top of it, 2.25 times. This provided a perverse incentive at times to try to get 40 hours under your belt before midnight of Dec. 24th, and then try to work, if possible, all 48 hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to maximize your 2.25 time pay. Sleep deprivation was very common (and if you think I'm making this up, you may certainly feel free to contact any number of UMPD veterans from those days who will vouch for me).
I started at $6.90 and finished with an hourly wage of $9.10. Which means, at most I was making around $20 an hour. So even in my best year, I grossed $20,000 while in college.
Still, I managed ALL my tuition and ALL my living expenses.
Oh sure, you had to control the other side of the formula too; expenditures.
I remember renting a room for $179 a month. Shared a bathroom and a kitchen with a bunch of guys and nothing ever got cleaned. I remember bringing in a bottle of bleach to the bathroom, pouring it over the floor and the toilet and seeing it foam as it killed who knows what lethal biohazard. I remember only going to McDonald's four times in my days at college BECAUSE MCDONALD'S WAS TOO EXPENSIVE! And I remember not drinking until I was 21 because the concept of spending $5 a drink, not to mention the time wasted trying to chat up the Bambi Sociology majors at the bar, was an impossible waste of time.
Ergo, why I have very little pity for people who "claim" they're "poor" and "can't get out of it" but meanwhile manage to have children they can't support.
Regardless, today I obviously make more than $6.90 an hour. But it is because I make significantly more than $6.90 an hour that I often look back, in an ironic sense, fondly to my tortuous days at UMPD in that back then I damn well know I earned it. In other words, I feel like I'm getting soft. I'm getting weak.
Could I manage another 120 hour work week?
Could I patrol 50 miles on bike a night for 3 years straight?
Could I walk the 10 miles a night in 10 below zero temperatures as I did in my youth?
The primary point is I don't want to forget what I had to go through to get to where I am today. And it is because of that, that I recently started seeing the point in "fasting."
Fasting is largely a religious activity. Various religions have it for whatever purposes they may be, but I started thinking that it would be a damn good idea to see if I could live within my old (inflationary adjusted, of course) budget of $5 a day of discretionary spending for two weeks. ie- a "financial fasting."
While this was for my own personal purposes, when I got to thinking about it, in the context of the financial/housing debacle we have before us, I started seeing "financial fasting" as actually something the US and other western nations are in dire need of.
The world's largest economic crisis since the Great Depression has been brought about, quite simply, by people spending beyond their means. Fiscal discipline and austerity is never taught, and because the west has been so successful (well, until recently anyway) we've been able to get away with it. But if there was a financial fasting, an INTERNATIONAL HOLIDAY, where people spend an abysmally little amount just to see if they could do it, as well as remind them of how hard times can get, I think it would do a world of wonder for not only personal finances, but national finances as well.
Ergo, the Captain has decided to institute a new holiday, of which it is purely voluntary to participate in.
Starting October 31st, people will have to live on less than $5 a day discretionary spending for two weeks (discretionary meaning outside the mortgage, car payment and various utility bills).
It will be called "The Financial Fasting."
You will have to buy booze at the liquor store and drink at home.
You will have to borrow movies instead of going out to watch them in the $12 per ticket theaters.
You will have to cut back on heat and wear sweaters.
You will have to eat bagels at home instead of going out.
You will have to spend time with family and loved ones to be entertained and engage in that long lost art of "engaging conversation" to derive utility from this time.
It is a period of where we test ourselves and our ability to get by on the bare essentials and, dare I say it, find out what's really important in life beyond consumption and spending.
And then, two weeks later, on November 13th at the midnight switching over to the 14th, there will be a grand celebration where you can then spend the money you've saved over the two weeks on something glorious and glamorous. There will be excessive mirth. High end dinners. Gaiety. Men can buy that plasma screen TV they always wanted. Ladies can buy that new dress they always wanted. And of course (since I am the founder of this holiday and can therefore dictate the rules) the Captain mandates French Maid outfits for all the ladies (if you don't like the rules, then make your own holiday!)
Of course, the reason I set the fasting date on October 31st, is because I am damn well going to see the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace which comes out on the 14th, so truth be known, that's why it starts on October 31st.
Regardless, that doesn't change how serious I am about this holiday, nor the immense good it could potentially do. Therefore, if you find this a good idea, as no doubt some of you do, forward this onto your various friends and colleagues.
Remember, October 31st! You fast. 2 weeks. $75 bucks. No more.
The Captain will participate.
Based on the responses I have received from the various reading public I have decided to institute the following rules;
1. The $75 should be for each person, not per family. So if you have a spouse and a child, you will have...$225 (if I did the math right???)
2. Yes, you can fill up your gas tank before Oct. 31st. Or you can bike it.
3. The $75 applies to DISCRETIONARY expenditures. ie- Things that are already not set in stone. So if you have a car payment or students loans, etc. those are exempt. I'm talking stuff you DON'T have to pay. If you can live off of $5 a day, then you have traveled the "path o' the Captain."
4. A reminder or perhaps better stated, a bit of information I left out. Starvation is certainly par for the course. I was, WAS, 145 pounds when I was a senior in high school. It wasn't until I was a sophomore in college that I was at a party and there was a scale at the house the party was at where I weighed myself on it and found myself to be 118 pounds.
Sarcasm set aside, it is things like that, that make me remember what it was like to be poor and to ensure myself I don't forget it.