Once again, I appreciate the great comments on Part II of this series that I posted earlier this week. There and in the comments of Part I, some of you zeroed in on two parts of this discussion that I’ve been especially interested in talking about.
The first is the earning power of someone today verses in 1994. It’s been said in the comments by a couple people that, when adjusted for inflation, average wages for workers are less now than they were in the 1990s. An hour of googling turned up nothing on the official U.S. government Bureau of Labor website. The only dedicated info I found on the subject was the below statistical graphic on Statista.com showing median income in the U.S. from 1990 through 2016:
If it’s accurate, then median household income is higher than 1994, but roughly the same as it was in 1999 and 2000.
Whether this is accurate info and median household income is equal or greater compared to the mid-‘90s, doesn’t ultimately matter. Nor does it ultimately matter if today’s wages are lower than the mid-‘90s.
What ultimately matters when any one of us wants to buy something is whether we have the money to pay for it. And for many of us, when we get to the end of the month (or year) and look at what money we have leftover after covering our expenses, there isn’t enough to buy a new snowmobile. Believe me, I understand. But here’s where it gets interesting.
If I had to account for why most of us don’t have money leftover to buy a new snowmobile these days, I’d blame this (below):
That’s a bit misdirected actually. I can’t really blame the smartphone. I blame myself for spending money on it and the related, collateral stuff that serves as our electronic entertainment, including high-speed internet and cable television.
My household offers the perfect example. Each month I spend the following to enjoy all the virtual experiences and communications that I and my family (wife, two teenage kids) consume:
$310/mo. to Verizon for our four-phone plan
$11/mo. to Netflix
$40/mo. to my local internet service provider
That’s $361 that I spend every month so that I can surf craigslist, my wife can peruse Facebag, my kids can Snapchat and all of us can watch reruns of The Office (and Stranger Things for my daughter). Of course it also offers us conveniences like Google Maps, an always handy camera/video recorder, our music collections, a shared calendar to keep our lives in order and instant access to the most outstanding website in the world, ArcticInsider.
My family experiences varying degrees of joy flowing from these digital pleasure fountains, and there would be some serious protest if one of us terminated it all. But if I REALLY want to know where my brand-new snowmobile is lurking, it’s here.
To confirm, I went to Arctic Cat’s monthly estimate calculator. There I typed in the dollar amount of a new 2018 ZR 6000, along with the ZERO-down, ZERO-interest deal that’s available now. I opted for a 48-month term rather than the available 60-month option. Here’s what it spit out:
At $243 bucks a month, I’d still have $118 leftover if I ditched all those gigabytes of entertainment. I could keep the high-speed Internet and continuing producing and reading this awesome website, and my wife could continue viewing that perfect life on display at Facebag. The kids would still have to learn to chat with friends in-person, without snapping, which would probably be a good thing.
Just for the heck of it, I hit up the calculator again with the $7999 price that’s available on 2017 ZR 6000 models at some dealers in my region. With the ZERO, ZERO inputs my monthly payment for the next four years dropped a lot:
At $167/mo. for the snowmobile, I’d have an extra $194 leftover compared to the $361 I’m currently spending. With that I could keep the high speed Internet and buy some prepaid cell phones for all four of us and call it good. Or…
…I could purchase TWO 2017 ZR 6000s for the family!
And after four years we’ll own two kickass sleds. At that point we could default back to our virtual lives if we feel inclined.
This actually poses a real conundrum for yours truly. Because when I really REALLY think about it, I know that I get far more enjoyment, fellowship and satisfaction out of a half-dozen riding trips each winter than I do out of all this electronic crap that consumes my family’s time.
This is indeed a subject worth considering for my family and me. If we decide that we can’t go without the phone, perhaps our other monthly expenditures reveal an extra couple hundred bucks that can be diverted to other purposes?
We eat out WAY more frequently than my family did when I was growing up; the monthly grocery haul includes a lot of extra or unnecessary stuff; and our basement and garage seem pretty full with a lot of barely used stuff that we bought at Target. Stuff that, in hindsight, we never needed in the first place and that doesn’t offer meaningful experiences.
The more I think about it and look through our monthly credit car statements, the more I realize that we could find a way to own a new snowmobile without much sacrifice. Likewise, the more I consider the incredible memories I have snowmobiling with friends and family, the more evident it is that real-life experiences are a hundred times greater than virtual ones.
Somehow I was able to survive 1994 without a smart phone, internet and on-demand movies 24/7. Why couldn’t I do it again?
All of this serves to illustrate that, in my family at least, the lack of funds to buy a new snowmobile probably isn’t because the price of a new sled, but rather the choices we’ve made on the other things we spend our money.
I’ll wrap up this series next week.
Thanks for reading. I’ve really enjoyed taking a deeper dive into the subject.