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Old 11-14-2013, 01:24 PM   #61
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Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
It is possible to live on less than $1500 a month....
A web site for people who live this ultimate cheap life, but not to the level of the full-time residents of the infamous Slab City, has the following excerpt.
Let me prove to you right off the bat that you can live the free life......


Was out at the Slabs this weekend offroading the BMW with sport suspension. There are good areas and real creepy areas. Liked much of it (during the bright of day at least) but the lack of discretionary items like roads, public transportation, electricity, gas, water, and sewer made us kinda better pleased with our current lifestyle.

OTOH, Leonard Knight lived w/out any of those effete items out at the entrance to the Slabs since the early eighties and by all accounts was a heck of a guy and left his mark on the world. Salvation Mountain is a very moving experience - see it soon, as Leonard isn't doing the care any more and his art is distinctive but impermanent.



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Old 11-14-2013, 02:00 PM   #62
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Just curious, Alex--how do you accrue enough Amex points to buy clothes if your budget is so low? You don't seem to be buying much of anything.

I would have to buy a ton more stuff on my Visa than I do right now in order to get even $25 in reward points.
My thoughts exactly and I use Amex Blue Cash. I also would like to know how much spend on Amex per year Alex has in order to cloth him with the reward points, and he says it includes shoes.


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Originally Posted by Alex in Virginia View Post
Hello there NW-Bound, Tom52, Animorph and Alan...

My weekly 200-mile round trips to spend time with my wife are not included in my basic budget. Those costs get accounted for under discretionary spending (a separate and much more flexible budget) and are shared by my wife and I equally.
I know how my wife would react if I told her that my weekly trips to see her were "discretionary"
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Old 11-14-2013, 02:46 PM   #63
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OTOH, Leonard Knight lived w/out any of those effete items out at the entrance to the Slabs since the early eighties and by all accounts was a heck of a guy and left his mark on the world. Salvation Mountain is a very moving experience - see it soon, as Leonard isn't doing the care any more and his art is distinctive but impermanent.
He's a pretty neat guy. I spent some time out there with him in 2007. It was shortly after the film crew for "Into The Wild" had been out to film him. He was quite excited about it.
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Old 11-14-2013, 04:31 PM   #64
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Very neat. I never met him - not religious and felt like just going in and spectating would be disrespectful to him so we would just slowly drive by. This though I'd read that he didn't push his very simple message. He's been in a care facility in San Diego for maybe a couple years now and others are trying to keep up his mountain, but if you stand back and look you can see his work vs their work. The area had a big rain this summer and a section of the hill slipped - that has been repaired. The museum and it's alcoves are remarkable - going in and puffing the dust off the scripture passages and ID cards and pictures to uncover them was very moving. Maybe I was adding meaning, but a room full of abandoned ID cards and driver's licenses right at the entrance to the Slabs brought up feelings of "abandon hope all ye who enter here" in juxtaposition to feeling like folks were maybe going to a new life and marking it in Leonard's alcove.
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Old 11-14-2013, 05:41 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by Alex in Virginia View Post
Hello there NW-Bound, Tom52, Animorph and Alan...

Thank you all for participating in the discussion and definitely thank you for drilling down on my basic expense line item for gasoline (which I presented as covering 200 miles per month at 20mpg for a cost of $35.)

It turns out that I've overstated my monthly gasoline cost under the basic budget. Every errand I could possibly have to run, I can do -- and do -- traveling a 20-mile round-trip loop once a week. That's 80 miles for the month, not 200. (Even my vet, my bank, my dentist, my mechanic, my Jiffy Lube station and my library are all on that same loop.)

(No, I never have to run out for an "emergency" quart of milk or a printer ink cartridge or what have you. I maintain redundant backup/substitute supplies of literally everything and that is why I never run out of anything.)

Of course, it also helps that I don't have to drive to a job and that I have the time flexibility to bundle errands together.

So I have to admit that a little discretionary driving has snuck into my basic living gasoline expense line item. That surplus 120 miles a month goes for drives to my favorite hiking/biking/fishing state park (an 8-mile round trip), hanging out visits to the library as opposed to returning/getting books during an errand run (a 9-mile round trip), possible meals at 2 or 3 "high toned" restaurants in town (all about a 10-mile round trip and totally discretionary, I know) and so on.

So, let's adjust the gasoline line item down to $14 a month and throw the excess $21 a month into the error allowance line item, which we'll now consider to be $950 a year. The overall budget is still $18,000 but we've actually got a little more elbow room for things that may have slipped through the cracks (like those dang-blasted postage stamps!).

My weekly 200-mile round trips to spend time with my wife are not included in my basic budget. Those costs get accounted for under discretionary spending (a separate and much more flexible budget) and are shared by my wife and I equally.

I hope that clears things up just a little bit more.

Cheers...

Alex in Virginia
Sorry Alex, I didn't fully grasp the purpose of your original post. If I now understand correctly you are saying $18,000/year is your basic budget, but your actual yearly spending is this basic budget plus an unspecified discretionary budget?

Without too much detailed calculations I would say mine would be about $35,000 for the two of us but we have property taxes over $6400 plus our house is more than twice the size so our utilities would be proportionally larger. I could see that downsizing to a much smaller house in a lower cost area could save some money.
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Old 11-14-2013, 10:43 PM   #66
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My annual expenses have actually gone down the last few years but that was because in 2011 I switched from an overpriced individual HI policy to a bare-bones HI policy I had no plans to keep beyond 2013. (I knew I would get a cancelation notice but I already bought a new ACA plan like the old one but for half the price after the subsidy.) My annual expenses will rise slightly for 2014, to about $22k. I live in a paid-off studio apartment in a co-op
whose maintenance dropped slightly in 2013, partly offsetting increases in other non-HI expenses.
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Old 11-14-2013, 11:16 PM   #67
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I don't think $18,000 would be too hard to live on.

I spend about $24,000 a year. If I didn't work then I could drop that down quite a bit. Also, if I owned a house instead of renting an apt that would also lower the expenses.

Right now I eat out almost every meal. Rent a pricey apt and spend freely on movies, and video games. I could easily cut my expenses but there is no need to. I'm living on around 1/3 of my w-2 income. Investment principal is mid-six figures.

Plan is to maybe semi-retire in eight years or so (age 45).
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Old 11-15-2013, 11:32 AM   #68
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Due to higher Property taxes, utilities and driving more, my budget is:

Essentials: $27,000/year (housing, food, utilities, medical/dental, transportation)

Routine Spending: $14,000/year (clothes, gifts, vacations, recreation, entertainment)

Non-routine Spending: $14,000/year (replacement items, car, furniture, appliances, and buying new stuff)

Total lifestyle budget: $55,000/year
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Old 11-15-2013, 11:56 AM   #69
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I don't think $18,000 would be too hard to live on.
That's about where mine is at, and $5K of that is Health Ins premiums ( that should drop in 2014). I used 30K when doing firecalc runs or other tools but that is much more than I actually spend. Actual retirement income is more, the difference goes into the reserves pool to pay for the unexpected.
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ďItís Not a Real Budget Without a Replacement FundĒ
Old 11-15-2013, 12:07 PM   #70
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ďItís Not a Real Budget Without a Replacement FundĒ

Hello, Katsmeow, ERD50, LiveandLearn, Tom52 and MulliganÖ

Thank you for bringing to the forefront of the discussion arising from my original post the question of including a replacement fund in my basic living budget.

I had to think about it for a while, but now I have. So hereís my take on the question.

The Home Warranty Policy Alternative
It seems to me that a lot of folks on this Forum have elected to self-insure against the future possible (okay, probable) need to replace a refrigerator, a well pump, a roof or some other major appliance or home operating system. So naturally these folks find it necessary to incorporate accruing replacement fund contributions into their basic living budgets. I, on the other hand, have elected not to self-insure. I let my home warranty policy (hwp) cover me instead.

Home warranty policies have worked for me -- big time. Over the last 13 years and 4 houses, those policies have covered the replacement of a well pump, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes dryer, and an entire incoming water pipeline system. They have also covered major repairs to a propane furnace, a heat pump, another refrigerator, a central air conditioning unit, a dishwasher, and more.

I know a lot of people on this Forum think that itís cheaper to self-insure than to pay premiums on a home warranty policy. Thatís fine. But the fact remains that I do pay those premiums. And I would hope that we could agree to consider those premium payments of mine as a reasonable substitute for contributions to a replacement fund.

My Roof Has Its Own Replacement Protections
Itís certainly true that a roof replacement is one of the costliest hits to the pocket book that can come from home ownership. And itís also true that being unprepared for that expense would not be very prudent. But I donít expect to have to pay for a roof replacement. Or, at least, not very much of it.

If my roof gets blown away by a major weather event, or if a meteorite punches a hole through it, my homeownerís insurance policy is going to cover the roofís replacement. I donít need to build up a fund for that.

If my roof fails before its manufacturer-guaranteed shingle life expectancy, the 100% coverage and very robust written warranty policy that I have from that manufacturer makes it clear that it will pay for the roofís repair or replacement. And I donít need to build a fund for that.

What about after that shingle life expectancy is reached? Thatís 20 years from now. I can guarantee you that I will be out of that house before that time comes. So I donít need a fund for that.

My Take on Car Replacement Is Not Yours
Iíll replace my 1996 Dodge Dakota when it dies. If it dies. I know itís been properly maintained. I know itís safe to drive. I know itís been driven gently (by me!). And I like it.

Iím perfectly willing to repair or replace any system that fails on my truck if and when that happens. Even up to and including replacing the engine. And it doesnít matter to me if the cost of such a repair exceeds the used-vehicle value of my truck. I donít look at my Dodge Dakota as a disposable balance sheet asset; I look at it as my tried-and-true personal transport solution.

But what if the cost of a repair is going to exceed the accrued balance in my auto maintenance fund? No problem. Iíll just ďtake an advanceĒ from my discretionary spending fund and pay it back later from already budgeted monthly auto maintenance fund contributions.

And Thereís Always My Surplus Cash Fund, You Know
I keep an $18,000 balance in my discretionary spending fund. But thatís not what Iím talking about here. Iím talking about the other $30,000 to $35,000 that I keep in bank accounts because (a) I donít need to build up my investments book value or passive income yield any more, and (b) I canít think of anything to spend the cash on.

Maybe some day I will overcome my ďscroogerismĒ and use some of that excess cash to buy or do something wild. But in the meantime, Iím convinced that having that cash makes it utterly unnecessary for me to incorporate a replacement fund contribution line item to my $18,000 annual basic living budget.

And, anyway, what major item would I need to repair or replace out-of-pocket that I havenít covered in the discussion above?

Cheers!

Alex in Virginia
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Old 11-15-2013, 09:35 PM   #71
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How does the home warranty work and what does it cover?

JDARNELL

Hi there, JDarnell...

A home warranty is sort of an insurance policy covering repair or replacement of major home systems. Mine covers all appliances, electrical systems, plumbing systems, heating systems, etc. I also added an optional rider to have my well system covered.

If one of those appliances or systems fails to work, I phone the warranty company and report it. The company then gives me a claim number and the phone number of a pertinent repair company for me to contact to come look at the problem. When the repair person comes, they diagnose the problem and either fix it or they phone the warranty company on the spot to either get approval for a major repair or to report that the appliance or system will need to be replaced. In the case of repair, the warranty company will give the go-ahead (unless the specific situation is excluded in the policy) and the repair person will proceed. In the case of replacement, the warranty company will locate a comparable/equivalent unit and then phone to arrange for delivery of the replacement.

Home warranty policies, like insurance policies, have deductibles. I've seen home warranty policy deductibles ranging from $50 to $100. There is no limit to the number of times one can call the warranty company to have something fixed, but one has to pay the deductible (directly to the repair person) for each initiated claim.

I hope that helps,

Alex in Virginia

P.S. -- The warranty company also guarantees the repair and if there's a problem will keep approving additional repair visits (without additional deductibles) until the problem is fixed properly.
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Old 11-15-2013, 10:30 PM   #72
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Originally Posted by JDARNELL View Post
How does the home warranty work and what does it cover?

JDARNELL
I think I recall Alex posted in another thread about the home warranty....something I had been considering and procrastinating about. We got one last Feb for $54/mo. It has a $60 deductible per call and a $10k annual limit. We've used it 3 times so far and the service has been very good. I remain skeptical about how they would handle a major repair, but so far so good. I don't believe it covers replacement when items are considered non-repairable (will have to check on that). It includes four annual inspections (Plumbing/Heating/Cooling/Electrical) at no add'l charge. The inspections alone are worth worth the annual fee in our area.

Edit: checked the policy and it says if an item must be replaced, there is a fee a $75
replacement fee (plus $60 deductible)
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Old 11-16-2013, 03:50 AM   #73
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Alex

Addressing several points.

Home Warranty

It sounds like you have been lucky with your home warranty. I have had a home warranty in the past. Around here, when you buy a house usually the seller provides a home warranty. I've sometimes renewed the home warranty as well. I've used a few different companies.

Typically a home warranty contract will have a list of what is covered and what is not covered. There is often a lengthy excluded list.

There is often a limit of what they will pay. There may be a limit for what they will pay for a particular problem - I think the limit on our last home warranty was $2500 for a problem. And there is typically an aggregate limit for how much will be paid in a year. There may be other lower limits for specific items.

Now, we never exceeded the limit on any problem. I do note that for HVAC replacement, in particular, would likely not be fully covered due to hitting the limit.

As far as how good they have been, we have had mixed results.

In several cases, the home warranty company used good repair people. In fact, they used the repair company I would have used if I didn't have the warranty. In those cases, the repairs usually went fine. However, between the premium for the home warranty (they are not cheap) and what I paid for the service fee I'm not sure I came out much better than I would have without the home warranty. It was probably a draw.

The last 2 home warranties I had did not go as well. In one instance, I had what I thought was a plumbing problem (toilet overflowed). The plumber sent out was totally incompetent. Took the toilet apart and finally said the problem was too hard for him and left without bolting the toilet back to the floor again. (Turned out to be a septic problem. THis came close to going over the limit).

Then the next home warranty was for our current house. There was a problem with the microwave (above the cooktop). It took multiple times for a repair person to come to get it fixed. Each time, the repair person (who was from Sears) wasn't allowed to actually do the repair without having to go back to the home warranty company. In some instances, they were required to try particular fixes that they told me they knew wouldn't work but they were required by the home warranty company to do them.

And, that is part of the problem with a home warranty. You don't have control over the repair effort. You don't control who does the repair or what they do. If they replace an item, you don't choose the replacement. There have certainly been times we had a great repair done by a competent person. But other times it was not so great. The thing is that it is luck of the draw and trying to tell them that the repair person is incompetent is largely a waste of time.

When a home warranty repair goes well, it goes very smoothly. But, lots of time it doesn't go well. It is very much luck of the draw and you aren't the customer of the repair person. The home warranty company is the customer and they have to go by what they want.

When our most recent home warranty came up for renewal we didn't renew. The cost had gotten to be enough that it was unlikely that we would ever have enough repairs to pay for it. And, given the cap on what they will pay we weren't confident about having a large repair paid for.

Non-Home warranty claims

Home warranty claims don't cover everything. Home warranties have a lot of excluded items and lots of items were the amount of the repair would exceed the max the company will pay for. Furthermore, home warranties usually cover certain systems and appliances in the house, but don't cover maintenance or certain things related to the house. Obviously, every home warranty may vary so people should look at their warranty or the specific wording of a warranty they are considering.

But in the home warranties I've had they would not cover things like: Repainting the house, replacing the carpet, garage door, roof leak, damage to trees, home maintenance (and failure to maintain may cause the company to deny coverage on a claim if they think the failure to maintain caused the problem).

The home warranties I've had covered specified systems and appliances that had problems due to normal wear and tear. They did not cover normal maintenance, would not cover any problems due to failure to maintain properly, did not cover any of the many other problems that could happen to a house other than to those covered systems and appliances and did not cover things that would be caused by the type of perils that would be covered by a homeowner's policy. If my house itself (not the systems and appliances that are in it) had a problem, my home warranty wouldn't cover it.

Roof Replacement

Basically you argue that any roof replacement that would need to occur in the next 20 or so years would either by covered by homeowners insurance or by the roof company warranty. I agree that those things could cover a roof replacement. I would point out that most people probably buy used houses so a roof may not have 20 years left on it when they buy the house.

As for having a roof replacement covered by homeowner's insurance that certainly does happen. Of course, you will need to pay your deductible. But, if the roof damage is caused by something covered by your policy that is very viable.

Roof company warranties can be complex. Sometimes people don't have as much coverage as they think they do.

1. Does the warranty cover the contractor's workmanship as well as defects in the roofing material? Manufacturer's warranties may not cover contractor workmanship and lots of roof problems are workmanship problems.

2. Contractor workmanship warranties may not be as long as roof defect warranties.

3. The warranty might not cover all subsequent owners of the house.

4. The warranty might not cover all components of the roof or might not cover them equally. Just because the shingles have a 30 year warranty does not mean that everything else on the roof has that same warranty.

5. The warranty may be prorated. That is, with a 30 year warranty, if the shingles need replacing 15 years in the warranty might pay for only half the shingles because it is considered the roof only has 15 more years of useful life.

6. The company that gave the warranty has to still be in business when a claim is made. The contractor may have given a great workmanship warranty but if he is out of business 10 years later it doesn't help you. And, even big manufacturers can go out of business.

A lot of people are surprised to find out that their roof warranty doesn't cover contractor workmanship or that it didn't transfer to them when they bought the house or that the warranty is prorated. In some cases, the manufacturer may have better warranties available (for a price) and if you happen to have one of those warranties and you are covered by the warranty then that is good. But, a lot of people don't have nearly as good a roof warranty as they think they have.

It is always a good idea on things like warranties and insurance policies to read them very carefully to see what is and what is not covered. This can be hard to do at time, so you may want to consult with an attorney in your own state to get advice as to what a warranty means or what a policy covers and as to what is required in your state (it does vary from state to state).

Suffice it to say that while I think warranties are good to have, I wouldn't depend upon a home warranty or roof warranty to cover all of my home maintenance and repair needs.
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Old 11-16-2013, 07:28 AM   #74
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And a vehicle with 128,000 miles on it still has a lot more room to run, if it has been and is kept up properly.
Let me fix that for you:

And a vehicle with 128,000 miles on it might have a lot more room to run, if it has been and is kept up properly.

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Old 11-16-2013, 07:33 AM   #75
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I live in a paid for condo, for which in my opinion the dues are too low to adequately maintain the building long term.
I've thought about this too (the relationship between repair costs and our HOA fees) and I think part of it is economy of scale.

Hiring a company to do inspections and regular upkeep of 100 units where 3 all share a roof is probably a lot cheaper per unit, same with having a regular repair guy on call who works for the management group instead of hiring someone by the job.
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Old 11-16-2013, 07:39 AM   #76
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I think I recall Alex posted in another thread about the home warranty....something I had been considering and procrastinating about.
We got a home warranty when we bought our first house, and a single incident put it in the "never again" category for us.

Air conditioner went out in the summer (we live in Phoenix, think 110 degrees) and we ended up trapped at the mercy of the slow response time of the home warranty company's AC contractors. If it had been on our dime we could have a repair guy either same day or if unlucky on timing maybe the next day. With home warranty people we had to bake for several days, heck even the initial call to the home warranty people it took until the next morning for their AC people to call us to schedule an appointment for a couple days later.
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Old 11-16-2013, 09:08 AM   #77
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Kat and Tiu, I agree with both of you. I won't try to speak for Alex and his situation, because he obviously knows what's best for himself, but I agree with you, those warranties don't mean squat after a period of time. Or at least way less than what you would think unless you read the fine print. That's why I loved the honesty from the company that delivered my metal roof. He said the paint company has a 40 year warranty for its paint product in case of fading. Then he turned around and said the warranty isn't worth the piece of paper it is written on, though he said he has been no problems that he has been aware of with premature fading.
This is just me, but I will not have a home warranty. I'm not putting my trust into anyone helping me that involves insurance. They aren't making money by fixing my problems, so I would assume they aren't going to act in my self interest. I have had a crappy year in replacing things, but I went 10 years without replacing anything, so it all evens out over time.
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Old 11-16-2013, 09:31 AM   #78
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Interesting. Reworking my budget to move many things over to the "discretionary" side I have found I have much more discretionary income than I thought
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Old 11-16-2013, 12:40 PM   #79
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I certainly do have a different take on vehicle replacement... if a repair on a 1996 vehicle is called "replace the engine" then to me it isn't a repair, it means the car has died and needs to be replaced.

I guess one could say a car will never need to be replaced, just keep replacing parts even if eventually almost nothing is original kinda like those 80s hair metal bands that tour indian casinos.
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Old 11-16-2013, 01:06 PM   #80
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Interesting. Reworking my budget to move many things over to the "discretionary" side I have found I have much more discretionary income than I thought
It's a state of mind, but it helps. I do not care to know how the richer people live. It's too easy to imagine that.

I enjoy reading blogs of people who live with much less than I do, not out of Schadenfreude because I am not that mean, but to see that one can live on a lot less than I do.

So, I have convinced myself not to worry too much about potential economic downturns that might curtail my living standards. Whatever happens, I can manage, given that I would be starting from a much higher basis than these people have.
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