It was the lure of The $10 Phone Bill featured on the November 16, 2009 cover of Forbes that enticed me to open the magazine. The article spanned a total of 11 pages. Interspersed within were advertisements and photographs. All sorts of wasted space. My limited attention span couldn’t suffer all the extra information. For now, I’ll just keep paying the $100 iPhone bill.
Since I’d already started browsing, I figured a few more page flips couldn’t hurt. I’m glad I kept looking because I ended up finding a story worth reading: Miser’s Revenge. It was two pages. I can work with that.
TheyCallMeCheap but, I ain’t got nothing on MaryJo Cohen, CEO (and 30% owner) of National Presto Industries. This woman is hardcore thrifty.
- She flies coach, stays in three star hotels, and borrows books from the library. (Well, I do all those things too, but my net worth isn’t approaching $200 million and my salary isn’t $415,000 a year – yet.)
- Desks located within the company’s headquarters were purchased no later than 1961.
- The company is still running on Microsoft Office 1997. Here I’m thinking it might be time to upgrade to 2007 for my home computer.
- And get this, MaryJo still connects her personal computer to the internet using dial-up. DIAL-UP!
What I find most refreshing about MaryJo’s company is that it doesn’t have any debt. Cash and government bonds account for 39% of assets. While their competitors were filing for bankruptcy, National Presto Industries was positioned to weather the economic storm, snatch up bargain investments and expand their business.
We can apply these principles to our own lives.
Since I started my professional career in August 2004, I’ve been of the opinion that an increase in pay doesn’t warrant an increase in lifestyle. Many people make the mistake of locking themselves into contracts that limit their ability to gain wealth.
With every little incremental increase in income they upgrade. Suddenly their one bedroom apartment is inadequate. They need a second bedroom for an office. Or they need a new car to impress prospective clients. From flashier cell phones to financed furniture, it all has to be better.
Last night I was pretty frustrated with the lack of counter space in my tiny kitchen. For a second I thought I should move to an apartment with a bigger kitchen so I could cook in comfort. Ignore the fact that the increase in rent would all but eliminate any savings that’d result from cooking at home. What makes me uncomfortable is that every month I’d be stuck paying a few extra hundred bucks on rent. I wouldn’t be able to readily choose what to do with that money. It’d go towards rent.
I like the way I have my finances set up now. Living lean gives me so much freedom. In any given month, depending on how I feel, I can spend more money on things like travel, entertainment, or clothing. The next month, if I’m not pleased with the balance in my bank account or what I spent my money on, I change my behavior. I don’t have to sell anything or move.
Although I’m not managing nearly as much cash as MaryJo’s National Presto Industries, I feel like I have a greater likelihood of getting there if I keep a close eye on my fixed expenses.