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40 Comments

  1. I love that you take pop culture references and modify them for personal finance. And I totally agree with the quote, no matter how much of a square Dean Wormer is 🙂

    Doing the math is so important….it’s crazy to me that 5% of 35k is $1750. That’s still a lot to spend on toys/fun stuff every year. Or perhaps I’m just cheap!

    • Mr. Groovy

      I’m with you, Kate. I was a little surprised at that number too. Five percent certainly gives the average person enough play money for fancy stuff. But remember, it’s just a guideline. Most people, as long as they try, should be able to stay well below that threshold. Thanks for stopping by, Kate. It’s always great hearing from a fellow “cheapskate.”

  2. Great, entertaining analogy!

    I really like these charts too. My graduate degree is definitely one of the big reasons that we still have so much debt, but we’re doing pretty well to make up for that by continuing to live in our three-bedroom house, when we will have five kids.

    Never heard of the Congo Dandies before, but WOW! I’m actually really proud of the way that we’ve changed when it comes to those luxury purchases . . . they are pretty non-existent these days. Mr. Smith and I laugh about the way that people must perceive us, as strange or weird, because we don’t spend money on “normal things.” We wear it as a badge of intelligence 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      “We wear it as a badge of intelligence.”

      LOL! Mrs. Groovy and I wear our weirdness as a badge of intelligence too. I don’t know where or when it happened, but something inside us clicked and we came to realize that on most big-ticket items modesty was luxurious enough. Our future home, when we downsize to 1,200-1,400 sq ft, will be better than 90% of the homes on the planet. Our 13-year-old Camry gets us back and forth from shopping as well as any BMW on sale today. Since I won’t be competing against Lebron James anytime soon, my Walmart sneakers are perfectly adequate. It’s amazing how easier life gets when you stop buying stuff to impress others. Thanks for stopping by, Harmony. You made my day.

  3. My new catch phrase “Don’t be a Congo Dandy” unreal! Financial Dean Wormer is dead on, not sure bluto would agree, but hey we all had our moments in college or for 15 years after.

    It’s straightforward, common sense, the trick is avoid the trap and don’t let debt, materialism, and unpreparedness creep up on you.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! I love it, Brian. Yeah, I’m sure Bluto’s finances in adulthood were as atrocious as his study habits in college. But he did go on to become a U.S. senator. As you said, Brian, it really is straightforward common sense. Keep a lid on your ego; think about the future; and forever be wary about debt and materialism. Do those three things and you should be fine. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  4. With our crew of 7 and our lovely 1650sf house, I think we fall within your guidelines. Although one day we might spread our wings a bit with 300sf per person. You know, so we have enough space for when the Groovies come visit!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Just imagine how luxurious those extra 300 sq ft are going to feel! Strategic minimalism is truly the stuff of happiness. Thanks for stopping by, Ms. M. And thanks for showing America that living modestly and living well are not mutually exclusive.

  5. Hee hee hee. I’d care to hear more about that college debauchery, Mr. Groovy. 😉 Toga, Toga, Toga!

    I always felt so bad for Dean Wormer (I only recently saw Animal House myself). Some days I feel like I’m the fat, drunk, and stupid one. But as long as you do your best to stretch yourself and make good decisions, it’s okay to have a bit of impostor syndrome.

    • Mr. Groovy

      LOL! Yeah, I had my share of toga parties. But the really debaucherous stuff occurred my sophomore year when we embraced the movie Deer Hunter for some bizarre reason. We actually had parties where everyone–including the ladies–were dressed in fatigues and covered in mud. We would then play “beer hunter” with a cap gun. Anytime the cap gun went off against your head, you had to chug a beer. Thank God we didn’t have the ubiquitous cellphone cameras back then.

  6. Are those Congo Dandies for real? It’s so hard to believe they’d do that, until I take a good look around me and see people at the food bank with designer bags and manicured nails. Anyway, I think you’ve made a great case for Dean Wormer the financial expert, complete with detailed charts! I would just add that being prepared now with emergency funds and appropriate insurance is just as important as being prepared for retirement.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. An emergency fund coupled with appropriate insurance are indeed musts. And it’s scary what you’ve observed at the food bank. I guess there’s a little Congo Dandy in all of us. But it’s really depressing when you see the least among us exhibiting that lunacy. Sigh. Thanks for stopping by, Gary. It’s always great hearing your perspective on things.

  7. Where, oh where, did you discover those Congo Dandies? Sad but also hilarious. And such a great metaphor for the way so many live their lives across the world. Who needs food when you’ve got a snappy yellow (gulp) suit.

    Since retirement I haven’t ‘invested’ in any new clothes and shorts, t-shirts, and thongs (aussie flip-flops) are my uniform of choice. And long may that be so.

    PS. who the hell pays $350 for a pair of sports shoes anyway???

    • Mr. Groovy

      “Who needs food when you’ve got a snappy yellow (gulp) suit.”

      LOL! That says it all, my friend. And I’m totally with you on the $350 sport shoes. I actually saw Air Jordan’s as high as $750. It’s insanity. Anyway, I much prefer your sartorial tastes. Give me shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of flip-flops over a snappy yellow suit any day. Thanks for stopping by, Martin.

  8. Love the Congo Dandy budget. Most of us love a little excess somewhere in our life, whether it be cell phones, hair stylists, good bourbon or nights on the town. Saying “Hey, limit those upgrades to a reasonable percentage!” is a good way of making sure you don’t go overboard.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Exactly! A little Congo Dandy never hurt anyone. Like you said, Emily, as long as you don’t go overboard, a little excess is fine.

    • Mr. Groovy

      My advice to you, Matt, is to “start drinking heavily.” I always knew you were a righteous dude. But now that I know you’re an Animal House fan, my esteem for you has grown substantially. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. It’s always great hearing from someone with such refined tastes.

  9. Wow – I can’t wait to watch that documentary. I remember watching City of God (2002) and thinking how unfortunate the slums of Brazil were. The premise is 2 best friends growing up together but one makes his way out and the other joins the gangs becoming a drug dealer. 2 lives/2 paths. Though the path to FI isn’t quite as drastic, once you are on it you see how differently you think compared to others. Things lose importance, life/time/freedom gain meaning.

    Fat, Drunk, and Stupid…I would also like to add gluttonous. It is one of my favorite words to describe our society as a whole. I can’t pretend I was never that way, wasting time/money/calories (!) as if they were a never ending resource. Thank goodness I got wise… Thanks, Dean Wormer!

    One last thing…having that movie come out a year before college had to be insane! Which character did you relate to most…I know you have one! 😉

    • Mr. Groovy

      For a while, I fancied myself as another Eric Stratton. But I just didn’t have it in me to take “liberties with [my] female party guests.” I had too much of a conscience. So I guess I was more like Pinto, a good-natured sot with a penchant for doing right. Thanks for stopping by, Miss M. Your two-path analogy was point on.

  10. I wouldn’t have agreed 25 years ago, but today I say “Dean Wormer is right!” Investopedia, however, is wrong. Many mortgage companies are happy to lend up to a 45% DTI. It’s a cryin’ shame, but it’s the truth. I did it many times myself while in the mortgage biz (although that was pre-recession) and we just got ourselves approved for a mortgage with a 46% DTI a mere 4.5 years ago. I fear they will never learn, those banks. Luckily, we have, and like you are changing our path. Another stellar post, Mr. G.

    • Mr. Groovy

      My bad. The Investopedia article actually says that 43% is the highest DTI that some lenders will tolerate. But since most lenders have a DTI cutoff of 36%, I went with that percentage for our discussion. Thank you for pointing out that error. And I’m totally with you about Dean Wormer. Thirty-seven years ago I thought he was a rat fink. Now I’m having second thoughts.

  11. Great advice. You definitely need to be able to splurge on those things that make you happy. And now that I am out of debt, I feel less anxiety about that. I have no desire to be a monk. Unless I get to live on a cliff in Ireland, staring at rainbows and illuminated manuscripts all day. In which case, I’m in.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Great point, Linda. Life is definitely better without debt. You sleep better at night and you don’t feel guilty over the occasional splurge. And I’m with you about living on a cliff in Ireland. I would just need one more thing to make me happy: an unlimited supply of Guinness.

  12. The Congo Dandies are incredibly fascinating. I can’t imagine living in abject poverty and spending a year’s worth of salary on a suit, when I could buy a plot of land that would potentially allow my children to get ahead. Not trying to be too judgmental but this blows my mind and seems crazy to me.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I hear ya about the Congo Dandies. They are crazy and it’s hard not to be judgmental. But in their defense, I will say this. The advertisers who push the cult of materialism are new to the underdeveloped world. We lived with the cult of materialism for several generations and are only now realizing that more stuff doesn’t equal more happiness. Thanks for stopping by, MSM. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

  13. 5% sounds so small, but when I think of spending that percentage of my income on extravagances, it seems huge! Thanks for the idea. I guess that means we’re more frugal than I thought!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! I was thinking the exact same thing as I was formulating the guideline. Then when I saw what 5% of 35K was, I started having some reservations. $1,750 a year for frivolous or extravagant stuff is kind of steep. I’m going to start running a experiment and see how much of a premium we spend on stuff. My guess is that we’ll come in under 5%. We’ll see. The plot thickens. Thanks for stopping by, Julie. Always a pleasure hearing from you.

  14. This is awesome! I’m surprised you didn’t work any motivational quotes from Niedermeyer in here. “You’re all worthless and weak!”

    I love the table of comparisons on what’s reasonable for most human beings vs our entitled view is what we deserve.

    The Congo dandy thing is so sad, but if we are truthful, most of us in the USA are spending as much or more wastefully – the poverty in the world just isn’t as visible for us so the contrast isn’t so stark.

    For those of us living in countries like ours, we should be grateful for where we were born and show that gratitude by being responsible with what we’ve been given.

    • Mr. Groovy

      “You’re all worthless and weak. Now add 5% to your 401k contributions.”

      LOL! In all honesty, Niedermeyer quotes weren’t foremost in my mind. I was thinking about working in, “Thank you, sir. May I have another.” But I didn’t want to get too carried away.

      Thank you for stopping by, Chris. You comments on the Congo Dandy disease were spot on. A lot of wisdom there, my friend.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Aw, Amy, you’re too kind. I don’t know why, but I was thinking of that classic Dean Wormer quote and the personal finance connection just hit me. So all that alcohol I consumed in college didn’t destroy the creative portion of my brain. How fortunate! Thanks for stopping by, Amy. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

  15. Holy cow, I’m in shock from those Congo Dandies. Insane.

    My big cutback this year has been my garden. I’m working in it, but put myself on a pretty tight budget. No going bonkers on lots of extra tools that I don’t really need right now. Make cement footpath stones instead of looking for stone. As much DIY as possible. And I’m checking out the local swap lists for stuff I need.

    Still early in the year, but I’ve been getting results!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed, Gila. The Congo Dandies prove unequivocally that human beings are highly irrational. And good luck on the garden this year. It’s not hard to let the budget for that endeavor get out of hand. As you so aptly pointed out, DIY is your friend.

  16. NatPhorU

    I think it’s a bit of a leap to get from a one-off quote from Dean Wormer totally unrelated to finance in any way at all to “don’t be a Congo Dandy”. I think it’s also a bit of a leap to view that video alone and take away some of the conclusions you arrived at. Perhaps you did additional research aside from a single Russia Today video that is not mentioned.

    This video is appears to be an inspirational one that shows that there is a tradition of men dressing up in this area. Because of poverty in the area, it is difficult. The older generation has made poor decisions about spending on these clothes. The younger generation is learning to carry on the tradition in innovative ways such as making their own clothes and only making expensive purchases they can afford. The main person being followed around is an entrepreneur who teaches a class on La Sape, which is what they refer to this tradition as. Another is a published author. Another is a civil servant who’s living conditions are beyond my own – nice flat screen TV, polished hard-wood furniture, A/C, the works.

    Some quotes from the video:

    “Normally, if I hadn’t bought this pair (of shoes), I would have bought a plot of land.”

    “Now young people know they don’t have to make sacrifices to buy expensive things. They understand La Sape isn’t the same as buying expensive clothes.”

    “La Sape isn’t synonymous with expensive clothes. It’s not!”

    I won’t disagree that these could largely be seen as frivolous expenses, and consumer debt several of them used is a terrible thing, only that this may not have been the most productive way to demonstrate your point. Take, for example, the opposite view point on personal finance. From a “Dandy” perspective, what kind of financial fool would buy a car or any sort, used or new, when you have two perfectly good feet, bikes are far cheaper, and public transportation borders on free? I see no fiscally reasonable answer to this question.

    The most common I hear is that someone chose to live in some remote place that isn’t walkable or bikeable and doesn’t have public transportation. So, in other words, this person purposefully chose the socially and fiscally irresponsible “Dandy” place to live; the one that would unnecessarily increase transportation costs, insurance costs, tax liability, commute times, impact on their environment, impact on personal health, etc… Best case, they chose this because they didn’t look at all of the dependency costs when they decided the house in the burbs was cheaper. More likely, they’re a victim of the American nightmare and while this person has started down the path of financial responsibility, has yet to overcome the idea of a house in the burbs with a white picket fence being the only place to raise children.

    Or, from a “Dandy’s” perspective, why would you waste even $10k on a community college education if earning potential is your primary motivator? If you want to make 2x-5x the national average, you can do that straight out of high school by getting into tech. A single certification that involves reading a free book from a library and paying as little as $100 to take a 60 question test can get you a job starting in the low $40,000 range pretty much anywhere, or in the low $60,000 range in any major city. With a couple of years of experience, you’ll crack $100k in any large city working in tech.

    I would argue that rather than Dean Wormer who had literally nothing to say about finance, perhaps you should choose the “Dandy” who is teaching young people to find ways to responsibly practice La Sape as your unlikely financial guru.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! I love it, NatPhorU. Have you ever considered starting a blog, my friend? You make some very valid points. And you’re absolutely right about college being a Congo Dandy expense (see my post today). We are far too frivolous with our education dollars. But I still think my Congo Dandy reference is valid. Yes, there are certainly responsible Sapes, but giving the dire circumstances of the Congo today, spending one’s time, effort, and money on clothes to impress others is the height of egotism and lunacy. Wouldn’t such energy be better used trying to make the Congo government less corrupt and the Congo living conditions less squalid? I truly appreciate your defense of the Congo Dandies. But I just haven’t found your arguments convincing enough to change my take. Thank you for stopping by, my friend. I hope I hear from you again.

  17. Arun

    Had never heard of Congo Dandies until now. They represent all people who are directly opposite to Stealthily wealthy! I think Financial Samurai would agree : )
    I think you have nailed it on bringing out the problem of consumerism

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. We all have an inner Congo Dandy that we must subdue. Stealth wealth is surely the way to go. As Sam would no doubt attest, a much more honorable path for one’s life. Thanks for stopping by, Arun. I really appreciate your thoughts.