Beware the Four Horsemen of Personal Finance

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It's time for another sermon, but this one isn't fire and brimstone – it's cash and carry.

This post comes from guest contributor, Len Penzo of

The Rev. Len from the First United Church of Our Lady of Blessed Household Finances is back in his pulpit and I know you all know what that means…

Yep. It’s time for another homily for my small but faithful congregation!

This week, I’d like to talk to you about the righteousness of sticking to your budget and the biggest obstacles to that pious goal.

Many of you in my congregation still find yourselves living from paycheck to paycheck, and you may be surprised to learn that the source of your money strife might be directly traced to the Four Horsemen of Personal Finance.

These riders of financial doom are closely related to the four horsemen found in the Book of Revelation who unleash pestilence, war, famine, and death.

Ironically, although most people avoid the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse like the, um, plague, many people happily invite the Four Horsemen of Personal Finance into their lives with open arms.

But be wary, my brothers and sisters! For the Four Horsemen of Personal Finance can unleash Armageddon on the household budget, thereby impairing one’s ability to save any appreciable amount of money for the future. And we all know that without a healthy nest egg, your future flexibility and lifestyle choices will be greatly diminished.

Can I have a “Hallelujah!”?

Beware the Four Horsemen of Personal Finance and the misery they can bring to your budget…

1. The White Horse: cigarettes

Why the White Horse? Well, cigarettes are white, aren’t they?

Nothing good ever comes from these things. They are ridiculously expensive, and the impact on your budget is directly proportional to your level of addiction. Not only that, they are bad for your health – they don’t call them cancer sticks for nothing, people.

2. The Red Horse: lottery tickets

Why the Red Horse? That’s the ink color your accountant will most likely be using if you have an addiction to playing the lottery.

Talk about a sucker’s bet. The odds of winning any significant amount of money playing the lottery are astronomical. You have much better odds of being struck by lightning than winning the jackpot.

Even so, I know people who play the lottery every single day. The reality is they’d be much better off investing that money instead. Over a 10-year period, somebody who put $25 per week into a savings account with a modest 4.5-percent interest rate compounded monthly would have $16,417. Meanwhile, a person who spends $25 per week on lottery tickets has to win $13,000 over that same period just to break even. That, my friends, is why they call lotteries a tax on the stupid.

The Black Horse: alcohol

Why the Black Horse? Jack Daniels didn’t choose a black label because it was fashionable.

Those of you going out for cocktails once or twice per week know how expensive mixed drinks are. And if you’re buying beer or wine, those aren’t much cheaper. If you’re lucky, you’re like me and get a good buzz after a couple of drinks. If you’re a more, um, hearty drinker, well, I hope you have a couple of Benjamins in your wallet to get you through the weekend. For a lot of people, soft drinks aren’t as socially liberating, but at least they’re three to five times less expensive – and refills are often free.

The Pale Horse: dining out

Why the Pale Horse? Next time you eat a plate of bad clams, look in the mirror.

I’ve already shown in another post how, on a per-meal basis, dining out is horrendously expensive when compared to eating home-cooked meals. In fact, my previous research showed that it is five times more expensive! So why would anybody on a tight budget choose to eat at restaurants more than once or twice a month?

And with that, brothers and sisters, my homily is over. Now go out, slay those Four Horsemen of Personal Finance, and always remember to keep thy budget holy.


Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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