Financial Wounds 3/3/23

News with Richard Bleil

A friend of mine has a saying (no doubt originally from another source), “It’s expensive to be poor.”  Thanks to my dad’s inheritance, I’m hardly poor, but the funds are being rapidly depleted, and largely owing to days like today.  Well, that, and a foolish habit of spending money on stupid things. 

Still, today was a whopper.  I find myself licking my financial wounds, and feeling depression seeping into my daily life once again because of the stress of days like this.  We have another bout of bad weather creeping in, and although it’s not predicted to be particularly brutal here, the real problem isn’t the predicted snowfall.  Instead, it’s the instability of the weather during these winter storms.  Maybe we’ll get nothing, maybe we’ll get an inch of snow as predicted.  Or maybe we’ll be buried.  So, I thought that I’d best take care of some errands, and I braced myself because I knew it was going to be expensive, but wow.  It hurt. 

First, I had to get tags on one of my vehicles.  I’ve lived in states where you get your tags based on your birth month, and in states where the month you renewed your tags based on the first letter of your last name.  Both are better than this state.  Here, you renew your tags based on when you bought the vehicle, which means that I have to go to the county treasurer twice a year to renew my tags.

Today I had an incredible idea for custom license plates which I bring up as an aside before continuing with the topic.  There are a couple of definitions of entropy, the thermodynamic concept that most people know as a natural tendency towards disorder.  Mathematically, in classical thermodynamics, entropy is dS=dq/T, while in statistical thermodynamics, the formula is S=k ln w.  I’m not sure what symbols you can get in custom plates, but since I have two vehicles, I’m thinking of plates that read dq/T for one of them (assuming “/” is a valid symbol on license plates), and k ln w for the other.  More people will understand the first than the second, but few people will understand either.  It’s like a hidden secret joke.  And both of them suggest that I’m an entropy generator, which I like to think I am.

So I had to pay for tags for one of my vehicles, but while I was there, I also decided to pay my county taxes on my house.  The tags weren’t bad, but the taxes were in the thousands.  It seems as if every year the valuation of my house increases, so I always owe more than the last.  And this year’s bill was a doozy.  But, on the plus side, I paid for the full year, so I don’t have to worry about it until next year.  Still, it hurt.

And, while I was paying bills, my car insurance was also due.  A couple of weeks ago I paid for my house insurance, a couple of thousand more.  This time it cost a sliver less than a thousand.  All told, it was an enormous chunk of money.  In the land of the free, the cost of surviving is very high. 

Insurance is an interesting concept.  It’s a form of required gambling.  The insurance companies all gamble that you’ll pay more in premiums and deductibles and co-pays and so forth than what you’ll need them to pay out (assuming they’re honest and are willing to actually do so without trying to find excuses to avoid it).  You pay gambling that it’ll be cheaper to buy the insurance than any problems that might come along.  And, with car insurance, it’s also required by law.  I’m not saying that it’s bad, since most people don’t have enough money to pay if they cause you damage to your vehicle, property or to cover injuries.  The concept of insurance is not individuals, as it seems I’m suggesting here, but groups.  Sometimes, as is happening with my friends, bills can be excessively high and well beyond the ability of most of us to pay.  When I pay my insurance, the money goes to covering those who need the money for their own needs, so it’s more of a social gamble.  Still, it’s very expensive.

The county taxes go towards society as well.  My taxes aren’t just going to line the pockets of crooked politicians (although some of it certainly does).  It also covers regular services and infrastructure, such as drinking water, waste water, garbage and so forth.  Sometimes it’s higher than usual, though, because of improvements.  Last year they repaved the roads in my neighborhood, something that was desperately needed.  The cost of these types of improvements are tacked onto the usual taxes. 

In the end, I can now relax, at least for six months until my car insurance is again due (I always pay in full).  But, damn.


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