My Embarrassing Confession: I’m a Deadbeat

Photo (cc) by fotografar

America provides the engine that powers the world’s economy. And consumers — you, me and our fellow Americans — are responsible for two-thirds of that economy. So in a way, it’s our duty as responsible world citizens to go out and buy stuff; to be the best consumers we can be.

Which makes the following hard to admit: I’m a terrible consumer. And my lack of enthusiastic consumption could be hurting my neighbors, my fellow citizens and ultimately, the entire world.

Exactly how am I horrible spender? Let’s count the ways.

1. I’ve never bought a new car

As of Oct. 1, American car manufacturers had sold nearly 6 million new cars so far this year. Last year, the big three automakers made a combined profit of more than $13 billion.

How much did I contribute to the industry that employs so many Americans? Not a darn thing. I’m 58 years old, have always earned a decent living, and have never owned a new car. So if it were left up to people like me, there wouldn’t be a U.S. auto industry.

It gets worse. Not only did I remain on the sidelines as America’s automotive industry rebounded from the recent recession, I profited from it. Check out my online portfolio and you’ll note I bought 500 shares of Ford in 2011 at $10.49. It’s now about $7 a share higher, so I’ve made close to 70 percent on my investment.

2. I don’t watch commercials

This is an especially embarrassing admission, because I’ve made my living in television news for more than 20 years. No advertising, no TV news.

I don’t watch commercials for two reasons. The first is because their unwelcome interruption is like fingernails on a blackboard. The second is because they work.

Watch enough commercials and next thing you know you’ll be acting as if you actually believe a new car will make you cool, you shouldn’t leave home without a credit card, and using the right toothpaste will get you into bed with fashion models.

Instead of exposing myself to annoying brainwashing, I either record shows and skip commercials, or channel surf to avoid them.

3. I buy generics

Speaking of commercials, if you don’t think they work, open your medicine cabinet and see if it contains a name-brand pain reliever. If it does, something convinced you to pay for a label when you could have had the identical product in generic form for 30 percent to 50 percent less.

If you do what the commercials advise and pay more for a name, you’re injecting more money into the American economy. I just can’t convince myself to do it.

4. I don’t pay interest on credit cards, or practically anything else

According to CNNMoney, JPMorgan Chase made about $19 billion in profit last year. That’s about $365 million every week. Wells Fargo made about $16 billion. Both banks employ hundreds of thousands of Americans, both make it easy to consume by offering easy credit, and both make billions by collecting interest.

I also own the stocks of these companies. Since purchasing them in 2009, I’m up about 85 percent in JPMorgan and nearly 150 percent in Wells Fargo.

But am I helping these banking behemoths make hundreds of millions weekly by being a borrower? No. While I use credit cards, it’s been 30 years since I carried a balance on one.

Not only that, for more than 20 years, I’ve been advising my readers and viewers to use nonprofit credit unions instead of banks.

5. I buy stuff used

Buying used may help save the planet and your retirement fund, but it won’t save the job of someone who manufactures, markets, transports or retails new stuff.

I try to buy whatever I can pre-owned, from cars to clothes. My house was built in 1965, my boat in 1985 and my car in 2009. Sure, I’d be many thousands poorer if I bought this stuff new, but buying used means not pulling my weight as a good consumer should.

6. I don’t eat fast food

Compared with the big banks, McDonald’s makes chump change. They only brought $5 billion to their bottom line last year. But if it were up to me, they’d be out of business and their 762,000 employees out of work.

Despite the many commercials assuring me all kinds of fast food is both a great value and a great meal, I don’t believe either is remotely true.

7. I pay no attention to labels

Many American companies want to charge more for a product because a famous person’s name is attached to it. Many others, from Harley-Davidson to Apple, make billions by creating cachet around their brands.

If there’s anything more ridiculous than seeking status in a name, I can’t imagine what it is. I don’t care which phone my friends are carrying in the pocket of their designer jeans. I buy on price and features, not brand.

The biggest stock winner I’ve ever owned is Apple. A $1,700 investment in my IRA made about 11 years ago is now worth more than $100,000. I did buy a refurbished Apple computer a few years back. I’ve also owned an iPhone, but I recently replaced it with a phone that’s both better and less expensive.

8. I rarely go to the movies or professional sports

The American sports and entertainment industries are the envy of the world. There’s no other country where a guy making $15 an hour will happily surrender big bucks so an actor or athlete can make millions.

Yet if it were up to me, these people — along with the millionaires and billionaires behind the scenes — wouldn’t be nearly as rich.

While I’ve gone to movie theaters and pro stadiums, it’s rare. I’ve found that amateur athletes and actors can be just as entertaining, and waiting a few months to rent a movie isn’t just a less expensive way to watch, it’s far more comfortable than a theater.

The bottom line is your bottom line

Unfortunately, while spending as much as possible is the shortest path to a healthy world economy, it’s also the shortest path to the poorhouse. So while I honestly want the American economy to be the engine, and envy, of the planet, I’m not willing to sacrifice my future to make it happen.

What about you? What do you do that makes you a lousy consumer, but savvy saver? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
This Pastime Can Keep Your Brain Sharp as You Age
This Pastime Can Keep Your Brain Sharp as You Age

It’s never too late to benefit from taking up this type of activity.

5 Ways Retirees Can Lower Their Income Taxes
5 Ways Retirees Can Lower Their Income Taxes

Here’s how to keep Uncle Sam’s mitts away from your nest egg.

26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car
26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car

These tools and conveniences help protect drivers from hassles and calamities on the road.

Avoiding These 5 Foods Could Save Your Vision as You Age
Avoiding These 5 Foods Could Save Your Vision as You Age

Millions of Americans may be able to prevent an incurable cause of blindness by making a basic change.

8 Surefire Ways to Get Rid of Debt ASAP
8 Surefire Ways to Get Rid of Debt ASAP

Here’s how to pay off debt fast and pain-free.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

Prices Are Soaring on These 7 Items
Prices Are Soaring on These 7 Items

Some surprise price jumps are making life more difficult for consumers.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

7 Home Improvements That Cost a Lot More in 2021
7 Home Improvements That Cost a Lot More in 2021

These projects will take a bigger bite out of your budget than in the recent past.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.