This article by the New York Times explains why ‘consumption’ not ‘income’ is the best indicator of wealth. The article explains that the top fifth makes 15 times more income than the bottom fifth. But when compared using consumption as the criteria of wealth the upper rich only consume four times that of the bottom fifth. The article indicates that new technologies become cheap quicker than in times past. Global trade lowers input costs and maximizes efficiencies for each country involved. With recession looming the author warns that protectionist measures will actually drive up the cost of everyday goods and leave the poor even poorer.

A really cool graph

The article makes an interesting point and the chart they attached is even more interesting. Some of the most interesting observations from the chart are:

  • The rich spend much more on education than the poor do. The poor don’t even register on the chart for their educational spending.
  • The rich spend a considerable amount of their income on taxes and savings. The poor actually have negative savings.
  • New products are only taking 15 years to hit 80% market saturation instead of 50-70 years required in the past.
  • Multiple items per household is much more common. Multiple cars, televisions, computers would be unheard of 50 years ago.
  • The rich donate more of their income to charities than the poor or middle class. Each class donated poor 5.8%, middle class 6.3%, and the rich 10%.

The problem with this chart is that it doesn’t distinguish age groups. The “poor” in the study make up a large number of retired people. These people are drawing down on past savings and wouldn’t be investing in education, thus skewing the numbers. Even with that consideration many of the observations hold true. The middle class saves much less, spends more on vehicles, are less charitable, and invest less in education than do rich folks. I can’t help but think of the lessons in Rich Dad Poor Dad when I see a study like this.

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Cell phone tips

Saving money and time is a big part of frugal living. These free phone services will save both time and money. Regular 411 calls are now $1.00 to $2.00 a pop. And calling a friend to find a phone number can be a pain. Take some time and program these numbers into your phone. These services will help you with directory assistance, information retrieval (stock quotes, directions, game score, etc), help you find your phone, bid on auctions on ebay, write to-do lists, give yourself a reminder in the future, and much more.

1-800-GOOG-411 – Voice Activated 411 Service
If you never got into texting this is a fast way to get the answers you need. Not only will this service look up the name and phone number for free it will also automatically call the person. This is is increadibly easy to use. Watch a video on how it works here.
*Note: This works on every kind of phone, not just cell phones.

Text GOOGLE – Text Information Retrieval
GOOGLE SMS (Text: 466453) – This text service will give you a wide array of information. Directions, weather, stock quotes, show times, and everything in between. Because it is tied to Google’s database of knowledge there is almost nothing you can’t ask.

1-800-2CHACHA – Voice Activated 411 Service
This is much like GOOG411 but it only works on cell phones. The service is nice but it’s hard to beat Google’s service.

Text CHA CHA – Text Information Retrieval

Cha Cha (Text: 242 242) – This service is much like GOOGLE. If you’re feeling a little crazy and want something different give these guys a try.

Voice to Text Organizer Service
Jott – Write down reminders, appointments, or make a list using Jott. This free service converts the things you’re saying into text for later reference. Simply call Jott and it will do all the work for you. This is very handy for the A.D.D. people out there who think about things that need to be done while they’re running around.

Lost Cellphone – For those times you need to find your phone but don’t have another phone handy. Enter your phone number in and this free service will call your phone. Hopefully you can find it. This will also work for portable phones at your house. Any number will work.

Emergency Service
112 – Out of range, keypad locked, or traveling internationally won’t stop you from getting emergency medical assistance. Just dial 112 and you’ll be connected to the nearest emergency service provider.

Bid on eBay Auctions – Bid on ‘watched items’ in your eBay account from your cell phone. They offer additional auction updates and allow you to practice bidding. That way you won’t freeze up when the real deal comes your way.

Unlimited incoming minutes with T-Mobile – Sign up for and a T-Mobile 5 Fav plan. When you give out your number use the Grandcentral number. Make the incoming Grandcentral number one of your Favs with T Mobile and you get free incoming minutes.

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