Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

The least important bill

Plonkee, spinning off a Simple Dollar post, contemplates her most and least important billsand asks, “If you order your bills from most important to least important, could you get rid of the one on the bottom of the list?”

Interesting exercise! After thinking about it, here’s what I’ve come up with. Some items tie for various places, because they’re of equal importance (or lack thereof). Some are automatically engorged from my paycheck, so I have no immediate choice in the matter.

From least to most important:

11.

newspapers, magazines
clothing
misc. junk

I can do without these, at least for a while. I have enough clothing to last for a year or more; none of us needs junk; and while I would miss my magazines and the newspaper, they’re strictly luxury items.
10.
yard man
Though I couldn’t begin to do all the yardwork around this house by myself, the world would not end if it were let go for several months. The yard is xeriscaped, so it won’t soon be waist-high in weeds. And besides, so many houses in my neighborhood are showing signs of blight, a neglected yard would not be noticed.
9.
whole life insurance policy
This policy is 30 years old. If I default on the payments now, the insurance part will go away, but I still can collect about $23,500 in cash value.
8.
long-term care insurance
This policy bets that I will need nursing care before I die. While that probably is so, if I quit paying the policy remains in force to a limited extent, and so it would still defray nursing-home costs to some extent. Given a choice between a long-term bet and groceries, I’ll take groceries.
7.

dental insurance
house repairs
homeowner’s insurance

My teeth are pretty good and require only routine care. At least temporarily, I’d be willing to do without the dental insurance. However, the cost is only about eight bucks a month, and so things would have to be very extreme for me to forego it.
House repairs are more urgent than yard care. Matters that have to do with safety or livability would need attention. But things like paint or a cracked window could be neglected without much harm.
Carrying homeowner’s insurance is tantamount to buying air. You make a bet that something bad will happen and that when it does you can’t afford to pay repairs out of pocket. While that may come to pass, people who don’t live in the path of natural disasters rarely experience catastrophic property loss. I probably could forego the home insurance for a time.
6.
gasoline
In a city where all amenities, including grocery stores, are miles apart, a car is an important tool. However, my age gets me a senior citizen pass on the buses to the tune of 50 cents a ride, and so in theory I could, if forced to it, commute to work, shopping, and doctors on our weak excuse for public transit. This would be extremely difficult and time-consuming, and I’d give up other things first.
5.
groceries
You’ve gotta eat. But you don’t gotta eat quite as high off the hog as I do. Food is my one consistent self-indulgence. With no risk to my health, I could cut my bill in half by eating cheaper food; foregoing wine, beer, and good coffee; and cooking frugally.
4.

car registration
property tax

Now we’re in the realm of costs that can’t be ignored. If I don’t pay my car registration, the state will rescind my registration and my car insurance will be canceled. It’s against the law in Arizona to drive without insurance or without registration. If I got in an accident before the police caught me, levied huge fines, and confiscated my car, I would be hugely liable.
Nonpayment of county property tax results in confiscation of the property and eviction from your home.
3.

electric
gas
water
phone

In our climate, you can’t get by during the summer without power. A person my age would die of heat exhaustion in 115-degree heat. Water also is crucial to survival here.

2.

second mortgage
The Renovation Loan is actually a 30-year fixed-rate second mortgage on my house. Although payments are small, if I default, my house could be confiscated. This needs to be paid.

1.

health insurance
In America, you can’t get health care without insurance. Well…you can, but a) it’s not easy; b) you won’t get it when you need it; and c) it won’t be adequate. You don’t want to gamble with this one.
So, could I get rid of my least important bill? No problem! I could probably dispense with my three least important bills (items 9 through 11) without much distress. About the time you arrive at level 7, things start to get ambiguous. The top five items are indispensable. What, then, would be my minimum level of expense if I stayed in my house and maintained my job?
If I dispense with my car and ride the bus everywhere, the monthly nonfood bills would be as follows:

$175/month: property tax
$225: electric
$ 24: natural gas
$120: water
$ 87: phone
$170: second mortgage
$ 26: health insurance
$ 30: bus rides, approx.
$857
Phoenix being a city whose designers noted everything that Los Angeles got wrong and then deliberately did that, living here with no car is not very practical. Keeping my nine-year-old car would make the rock-bottom monthly tab, before groceries, look like this:

$ 241/month: car insurance, property tax
$ 225: electric
$ 24: natural gas
$ 120: water
$ 87: phone
$ 170: second mortgage
$ 26: health insurance
$ 200:gasoline
$1093
But this assumes I would keep my job and that my employer maintains its extremely cheap EPO health plan. Obviously, I would not be in straits that required me to cut routine expenses unless I were unemployed. In that case, my health insurance would rise to about $500 a month, for a truncated monthly outlay of $1,593, almost twice my current routine monthly costs. Or a mere $1,357, without the car’s fuel bill.
Whoa! In other words, unemployment—the only circumstance that would require me to prioritize my expenses with an eye to lopping off the least crucial ones—could force me to cut the most important item on my list. Now there’s a thought!

Author: funny

This post may be a paid guest contribution.

11 Comments

  1. I love your comments about Phoenix. I’ve never been there, but I do remember the time a friend and I tried to get around in Oklahoma City without a car. I’ll describe it as interesting.

    It looks like you definitely don’t want unemployment to be in your near future. I know that it the US it’s a political thing, but I am so grateful for socialised healthcare. Really and truly you can’t buy that sort of peace of mind.

  2. Ah…culture shock is Oklahoma City on foot.

    The US is going to have to institute some sort of national health care system if it is to remain in the ranks of “developed countries.” Right now, the scene at any big-city emergency room is straight from the Third World, and things are getting worse, not better.

    Any such plan will cost taxpayers plenty. Right now, Medicare costs about 10 times what I’m paying for employer-provided insurance, to obtain the same coverage. I am NOT in an HMO — can go to any doctor I please without referral from a gatekeeper — my doctor bills are fully covered except for a $10 or $15 copay, and my prescription meds are covered with a small copay. To get the same coverage once I’m eligible for Medicare (and it now appears that I will be forced to enroll in Medicare, whether I’m still working or not), I have to supplement the “free” Medicare Part A (which appears to be the equivalent of major medical only) with Medicare Part B (which covers your doctor’s visits), Medicare Part D (which covers drug costs but with a gigantic lacuna) AND supplemental private insurance to cover the many matters that Medicare fails to cover. Plus I will have to maintain my long-term care insurance throughout my dotage.

    Disregarding the long-term care insurance, just the four segments of coverage required to provide adequate access under Medicare add up to something between $250 and $300 a month. I’m presently paying about $26 for the same coverage. This means that when I retire and my income drops 40%, my health insurance costs will jump tenfold.

    So…that’s the cost of national health insurance for a minority of the population. Imagine what it will cost to insure EVERYONE, when many suffer the manifold illnesses of poverty, neglect, and drug abuse, and many have had no healthcare or dental care for years (if ever), because they’re uninsured and have no access to doctors.

  3. If you have a mortgage on your house I’m surprised that doing without homeowner’s insurance is a choice. Doesn’t one require the other? I was also intrigued with that Simple Dollar post and have been making my own list. Right now I’m practicing not watching television preparatory to reducing the number of channels I get to the bare minimum and wondering what else I can do away with!

  4. It’s a second mortgage. There is no first mortgage. And the amount is tiny…in fact, if I wanted to raid my retirement savings I could pay it off today. But I don’t. If I continue to put all freelance income and all windfalls into the loan, plus pay an extra $200 a month, it should be paid off in two years or less.

    LOL! Not watching television gets easier the more you practice it. A couple weeks away from it causes you to wonder, when you turn on a formerly favorite program, what on earth you ever thought was entertaining there.

    I don’t pay for TV. It’s a philosophical thing: the airwaves belong to the public; we should not be required to pay for something that we as taxpayers already own. Get yourself an antenna and an HDTV box…you’ll find enough to pass the time without having to pay a cable company for the privilege.

  5. I should have added: there’s no insurance requirement on a second mortgage.

    😀 And Copyeditor’s Desk is Funny’s other online incarnation.

  6. Thanks for the TV advice but unfortunately, where I live, there are no TV signals flying around the airwaves. It’s either cable or satellite or nothing. Sad but true! Reducing to the minimum channels will save me $60 a month though, so that will help!

  7. Drat!!!

    Well…well, okay…how’s about cancel the cable and stick to rented movies? Or better yet, to movies from the library?

    What an annoyance. My son is part of a group of people who download, in tiny increments, TV shows which then are magically melded together. I don’t understand it and he won’t do it on my computer, ’cause he says it’s ill-eagle. But…that notwithstanding, a surprising number of shows are now available online. I guess if I couldn’t get TV off the air, I’d surely be looking at movies from the library and comparing the cost of renting films with the cost of cable.

    Truth to tell, I sher am stubborn about having to pay to watch TV. Cranky old bat that i yam.

  8. That is not a bad idea. Maybe I’ll work towards it. First reducing my channels and then doing away with them altogether. Thanks!

  9. I think it’s funny how I stumbled upon this article after having to choose between rent and car note and waking up Tuesday morning to a knock that they were here to pick the car up.

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