Saturday, May 16, 2009

Disposable Income

One of the things that the media seems to talk a lot about in these days of economic challenge is what we are to do with our disposable income. I have to tell you that I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines disposable as "designed to be used once and then thrown away"

Now I don't know about you, but based on that definition, the pure and simple truth of the matter is that I consider none of my income to be disposable. This is not to say that I don't have some bad habits (I mean lifestyle choices) which require capital infusions from time to time. I recently had a "kid in a candy store moment" during a recent trip to North Carolina with a stop at the J R store humidor and performed a corresponding investment in my cigar inventory. My travel sometimes allow me to stumble over a particularly good bottle of wine or liquor at a reasonable price that subsequently manages to find its way into my luggage. I even indulge myself from time to time in a meal better than one which requires me to decide what size french fries I would like with it. The income used for these choices is not something that I would call disposable however, but more like "choosing a style of life which I would like to become accustomed to if I could more easily afford it"

You see, like most people out there, I live on a "fixed income". Oh not the kind that people who are retired from their labors talk about, but the kind that requires that I put in long and exhaustive hours to get a paycheck (for the same amount) every two weeks. I have supplemented this recently with the columns that I write for the Toledo Free Press, but this is after all a "free" newspaper, and as such they cannot afford to reward me with large sums of money for the meager prose that I produce for them. Also like most people I have a number of fixed costs. This includes money for the place that I live in, the utilities for it, an automobile (which thankfully is paid off), gas and maintenance of that auto, luxuries such as Internet service for the different things that I do (like this blog), and something more than ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS for entertainment on television, and of course groceries that provide the nourishment that my body requires to survive. 

What the media then portrays as my disposable income I suppose then, is the money that I spend for the nourishment of my spirit. There is in fact a difference between simply living and being alive. I have to believe that there is more to life than simply existing or the sheer pointlessness of such an existence would drive me mad (hmmm, maybe I can use that as my excuse). I believe that words have to mean things, and in this case I have to say that as defined in today's common parlance, the term disposable income is a 'null input'. Today's media says enough already that has little or no meaning or relevance in the world as we know it. I wish therefore that this same media, who would like us to believe that they are so much wiser than the rest of us, would simply dispose of this term. 


Roland Hansen said...

So Tim, tell me what you think of expendable income and creating a plan for getting out of debt.

Publius said...

I get you're saying, but I have a few thoughts.

I agree that life would be less enjoyable when you take away the "luxuries" or those non-essential items like DSL or Cable internet, Dish, and stogies. But the problem is that too many people live like they can afford these things because they don't consider them luxuries, rather necessities.

I deal with people everyday who are in troubled financial situations and almost all of them have cable costing more than $75 a month, exorbitant cell phone plans, gym memberships, or any number of other luxuries. And when I suggest to them that they might want to eliminate or cut back on these luxuries, I am looked at like some sort of dictatorial overseer. But I have to remind the people that they are coming to see me because they are about to be forcibly removed from their homes because they haven't paid their bills.

Disposable income, as you pointed out, should be that money that is left over after your essentials have been paid, contributions made to savings, and can still be easily paid for...with cash.

Law of Reason

Hooda Thunkit said...


There ya go again getting all logical on us...

I believe disposable income to be our unwilling "donations" which are, under the threat of incarceration or other by means of force, extracted form us by our government and disposed of (by them) on buying more votes and votes as a means of keeping themselves in power/control.

If you'll recall the abbreviated income tax form:

1. How much money did you make last year?

2. How much if it do you still have left?

3. Send it in...

I think that you'll get the correct impression of disposable income as defined by the maroons in Washington.

So, you see, your definition is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Tim Higgins said...


The questions that you ask would require another posting in and of itself. Perhaps someday soon I hope to try. I will say however, that I have paid my debt down very close to zero while maintaining my charitable tithing.

With runaway inflation seemingly around the corner, I have to wonder whether I have done myself a favor or not.

Tim Higgins said...


You are of course correct, and I make my comments on the subject without saying that I pay each and every one of my bills every month, and that my outstanding debt is small compared to my gross earnings.

The necessities of life change for each of us as we accept personal responsibility, and the links that Roland has put up provide a great deal of good information on the subject as well.

Tim Higgins said...


I have to disagree with you. I think that the only money that I have ever "disposed of" in my life is that which has been extorted from me by the Feds, the state, and the local government.

I concede however, that your abbreviated tax form is likely staring us all in the face (more is the pity). Look up, they circle like buzzards over the carcass.