Money battle for ‘better’
I’ve had my eye on a lovely, shiny ‘‘poisons’’ cabinet for the garage for months. My poisons, toxins and noxious substances are stored out of reach of the kids in a large plastic crate.
How much better the garage would look, if they were stored in a shiny cabinet.
Better. Everybody struggles with better because it is so hard to tell false better from real better.
Deep down, I know the shiny cabinet isn’t worth it.
The amount of ‘‘better’’ I will get for my $300 just isn’t enough.
People are hard-wired to want better.
We want to improve our lots in life, and our living spaces.
It’s a force that drives us to strive, and to shop, often recklessly.
It can prove toxic to personal finances. The false forms of better are all about us.
In its most extreme form, it is ludicrous.
I read recently about the launch of designer nappies so hipsters’ babies can look as hipster as their parents.
Often, it doesn’t seem so outright silly.
Better is putting waterproof speakers in the shower. It’s upgrading the car every three years.
It’s mag-wheels. It’s a new car stereo. It’s refusing to drink the free coffee in the office kitchen and instead treating yourself to cafe coffee each day.
It’s another pair of shoes. It’s the paleo diet. It’s the unnecessary extra present at Christmas. It’s the magazine-ready home. It’s a $45 haircut. It’s a barber shave. It’s the 22nd Beanie Boo your daughter owns.
Undeniably, better-looking nappies make for mildly more eye-friendly babies.
There is a modest betterment from being able to hear Sia sing Chandelier in the shower than trying to hit the top notes yourself.
But there is another form of better.
Actually, it is a better form of better. It’s called savings.
Having money is better than not having any.
Having a debt-free home is better than having a mortgaged one.
Having the choice to work less, retire early or tell your boss you won’t do something unethical, is better than the alternative.
The false forms of better can easily crowd out the better forms of better.
Now to tips for distinguishing false better from real better.
I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers. I’m prone to putting off buying something until it is well overdue.
I once went a year before replacing a broken fridge, though in my defence it was before the kids were born. I get called mean sometimes (horror).
In my humble opinion, real better has these characteristics.
It brings a deep, calming happiness rather than a shopping-thrill kind of rush.
It doesn’t rob you of future comfort, stability and choice.
It’s about keeping up with your plan, not your neighbours.
And each year ends with you wealthier and closer to independence than you started it. Last week’s $925,000 payout to David Bain ending up having an Alice in Wonderland level of absurdity to it. If Bain supposedly failed to meet the required threshold of innocence, the government certainly failed to meet the threshold of competence in its handling of the case.
Despite 13 years of wrongful imprisonment, Bain was deemed to deserve zero compensation from the state. Reportedly, this was because he couldn’t prove himself ‘innocent beyond reasonable doubt’. To many observers, this seemed a heavy burden to place on someone who has been exonerated by the courts.
Fortunately, this wasn’t the end of the story. Ultimately, Bain has received nearly a million dollars in compensation because of the state’s delay in deciding that he was ineligible for compensation.
As logic, it was a bit like the old Groucho Marx gag about not wanting to be a member of a club that wanted him as a member.
Amid the welter of comment last week, Act Party leader David Seymour seemed dead right in saying that New Zealand needs to revisit how it deals with these kind of last resort cases.
‘‘There needs to be something better,’’ Seymour suggested, ‘‘than one or two individuals in Cabinet exercising what appears to be their own personal preferences, shopping for one judicial review after another.’’
Well put. Much of the blame for the costly delay has to be laid at the feet of former Justice Minister Judith Collins, who refused to accept the findings of the initial ‘independent’ review that she had commissioned, shopped around for a more politically palatable outcome, and then handed the whole mess over to Amy Adams, her hapless successor as Justice Minister.
Arguably, a belated finding of