Fixed Costs

I’m wearing a fleece-lined hoodie. Karen, 10 yards away, facing her computer, has on a sweatshirt, scarf, and oversized woolen socks. (Ok, they are Big Bird socks.) In the spirit of full disclosure, I have my Lone Ranger blankie around my shoulders as well.

Hey, I have no problem trying to keep the oil bill down; it’s the country. It’s cold and damp out here.

The cable TV bill, which includes internet, is $187. When I tell people from other parts of the country — the real world — they are astounded. What I don’t tell them is, I cut way down. I don’t even have MLB or the Football Channel. I don’t have HBO — the last time I saw “Game of Thrones,” Jon Snow’s father had a head.

My electric bill is $327 per month, balanced billing. For two people. Why so much? The washer, dryer, hot water, oil burner, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, etc. are all electric. They say you can save money by unplugging things you’re not using, but let’s get real here. In my den alone, the computer, printer, speakers, fax, cable box, modem, VCR, stereo, turntable, and clock, all glow in the dark. I also have the nightlight from the Burger King “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but that’s necessary to ward off Orcs.

We seem to forget how much these things cost when we are working, because at least we have a check coming in. If you think Social Security will be enough during your Golden Years (colostomy bags), you better think again.

In the next room, the coffee machine (with clock), stove (with clock), toaster oven (with clock), microwave (with clock), blender, TV (with clock), cable box (with clock), and refrigerator are all plugged in. (When my idiot nieces visit, one always asks, “What time is it?” Can anyone be that freakin’ stupid?)

These folks, are your fixed costs. When calculating how much money you will need to live on after you retire, it is necessary to correctly assess your monthly “nut.”

Go ahead, make a monthly budget. I’ll wait, since I’m at work getting paid. Now let’s compare. I’m gonna guess you got the heat, utilities, etc. Let’s assume the house is paid for; if not, add mortgage payment or rent. But even if you own your house, you have to pay property taxes, and if you are used to making mortgage payments, you may have forgotten the taxes are rolled into the mortgage payments.

And then there is yard maintenance, repairs, water, and garbage pickup. When the town dump was open, I’d drive over every Saturday morning and deposit my junk there. Then the town made everyone, even locals, buy a dump sticker. Then the town changed the name of the place to a recycling center. Then they made us break it down into recyclables, cardboard and the like. Frankly, they started asking too many questions. “What ELSE did you throw away in the bathroom wastepaper basket? Soon, there was a dress code. Pretty soon you’ll have to bribe the maître d’ to get a good reservation on the line.

I decided to get home pickup at that point. It’s another 50 bucks a month plus a gas surcharge, but I could stuff Faye Dunaway into the big green container and no one would be the wiser.

What’s amazing is all of your fixed costs remain in place when you retire. In fact, they are still there when you die in most cases. They are death taxes. If you stop paying your taxes after you are dead, the Man will swoop in and take the place, leaving nothing for your loved ones to fight over. That means that little niece of mine will have to buy a wristwatch.

You need a car, and you need to eat. If there is one segment of my budget that I screw up, it is dining. I’ll look at the numbers and say, “Hmm, $127 for food this month, no problem.” Ya think? Maybe if you enjoy a nice hot platter of sautéed water and puree of salt you can make ends meet. Remember in college how we’d buy a jar of peanut butter and make it last a week. It’s not like our parents didn’t send us money, but we spent it on beer.

Nowadays, by the time I’m done with wine and the ossobuco, I’m down for $40 and that’s just brunch. We are not savages, folks.

The point is, you won’t be eating much ossobuco when you get old. The cardboard will come in handy, believe me.

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