Canwest News Service - National Post
Published: Friday, March 06, 2009
If it’s ready-made, you probably overpaid
Joanne Sasvari, Canwest News Service - National Post
Talk about an inconvenient truth. A decade or so ago, when she was a consumer columnist in Vancouver, New York-based businesswoman Marlaina Gayle had a saying: "The most expensive thing you'll ever pay for is convenience."
If you haven't noticed the floodwaters of debt rising around your ankles, the person offering a cold splash of reality is Gail Vaz-Oxlade, host of the Slice network's Til Debt Do Us Part.
"My philosophy is: You can have it all, you just can't have it all at the same time," the personal finance expert says. "And what we have been doing in the past is having it all at the same time."
Money is a limited resource, Vaz-Oxlade notes. "You can run out of it. And if you have debt, you'll run out of it faster. If you have any consumer debt at all, your No. 1 priority has to be to pay off the debt."
Vaz-Oxlade has three basic rules: You cannot spend more than you make; you must save something; and you have to get the debt paid off - and by "paid off" she means within three years, no matter what it takes to do it.
It's also time to start doing things for ourselves. Not so long ago, we didn't go for $5 lattes at breakfast and takeout sushi at lunch - we brought a Thermos and packed a sandwich. And we didn't drop our clothes off at the dry cleaners when they got wrinkled, we whipped out the iron and pressed them ourselves.
There are good reasons we pay someone else to do what we used to do ourselves.
"Once upon a time there was a breadwinner in the family and the other person stayed home. There was a body on the ground managing life," Vaz-Oxlade says. "Then the dynamic changed because we wanted to buy more stuff, so we needed more money, so we sacrificed the guy on the ground managing life. Now we have to outsource everything that person used to do."
To change this attitude, families are taking up the old-school traditions of preserving produce, making bread, sausage and cheese, and planting herbs and vegetables - because it's fun, it's a great reason to get together and it pays off.
Marlaina Gayle, who co-owns and manages a photography business in New York, says, "I credit my '50s-housewife style of cooking three meals a day from scratch with maintaining our lifestyle in New York. It's damn expensive to eat out. We like to do other things besides eat, like travel."