Manage Your Money, You Must: 10 Money Lessons We Learned from ‘Star Wars’
The Force will be with us — always.
And maybe a little longer than you’d like if you’ve been stuck inside these past months binge-watching endless Star Wars marathons.
Over numerous movies and assorted iterations, “Star Wars” has taught us about overcoming obstacles, about dealing with family drama, about friendship, about patience, about beating the odds — and even about money.
Because this is The Penny Hoarder, we’re especially interested in the part about money.
Even though the epic saga of Luke Skywalker & Co. played out a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the financial wisdom applies to the here and now.
Prepare to make the jump into hyperspace! Here’s what we’ve learned:
1. Always Pay Your Debts — Or Else
Bingo. This is always the first one everyone thinks of.
Han Solo owes money to the giant slug-like crime boss, Jabba the Hutt. When he doesn’t pay up, Jabba sends bounty hunter Boba Fett after him — basically a debt collector with blaster pistols and green Mandalorian armor.
Instead of declaring bankruptcy, Han ends up frozen in carbonite. Then Princess Leia, Luke, Lando and the iconic droids have to infiltrate Jabba’s lair to save him in a sequel.
Just like with Solo, the longer you don’t pay off your debts, the bigger the problem gets. The interest piles up.
Credit cards companies charge compound interest. If you don’t pay off your bill each month, the company charges interest that is added to the amount you owe. Then that new total is charged interest.
Your first step should be to figure out what you’re dealing with. Map out exactly what kind of debt you have. For example, which companies do you owe money to? Are any of your debts in collections? What are your minimum monthly payments on each credit card or loan? Can you ask for forbearance?
If you just can’t seem to chip away at the debt, stop your poor spending habits or raise your credit score, consider asking for help from a financial counselor.
2. Used Vehicles Offer the Best Value
The Millennium Falcon takes its share of verbal abuse.
“You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought,” Princess Leia says upon first seeing the starship. In “The Force Awakens,” Rey calls the ship “garbage.”
But the Millennium Falcon gets the job done. (Did we mention that it made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs?) Turns out you don’t always need a shiny new vehicle.
Used cars are often a better deal than new ones. Consumer Reports recommends buying a car that’s two or three years old, and we can help you prepare to buy a car while taking on the least amount of debt.
More good news: You could save on insurance for that hunk of junk amid the pandemic.
3. Negotiate the Best Deal You Can
Early in “A New Hope,” Luke and Uncle Owen bargain with some creepy little jawas over the price of some used droids.
When an R2 unit they’d just bought immediately breaks down, Uncle Owen aggressively questions the quality of what the jawas are selling: “Hey, what are you trying to push on us?”
The result: Luke’s family gets the best droid ever, R2-D2.
Negotiating isn’t just for markets and cars; any variable expense can be negotiated to a lower price — you just have to know the right strategies to use.
4. “Do or Do Not. There is No Try.”
Yoda’s admonition to Luke in “The Empire Strikes Back” is probably the biggest zen moment in any of these movies.
As always, Yoda is right on target. You’re either going to do it, or you’re not. Don’t just try.
If you’re going to make financial changes, commit to them and be consistent. Don’t just try once or twice and then forget about it. Sticking to it is the key to success.
We understand — it can be tough to avoid the temptation to spend “just a little” money to treat yourself, especially if you’re feeling stressed, overworked and exhausted. But those impulse buys can really eat into your savings.
5. Don’t Let the Little Details Blow Up On You
The Empire spared no expense on the Death Star, don’t you think?
But they overlooked that pesky little design flaw that allowed the Rebel Alliance to destroy the whole thing. Whoops!
Don’t neglect the details like that, because they’ll burn you. Don’t skimp on maintenance and repairs for big-ticket items like your home and car. If you blow that stuff off, you’ll just end up paying more in the end.
Check out these tips for budgeting for home improvements to help you avoid sinking into debt for that next repair. You can also maintain your wheels by figuring out how much to budget for car repairs.
6. Get Rid of Your Old Stuff
The “Star Wars” universe looks different from Star Trek and other sci-fi settings. “Star Wars” has that “lived-in” look — there’s junk everywhere. You know, just like your house.
And in the “Star Wars” movies, people make money selling that junk — just like you should.
In “The Force Awakens,” Rey is a scavenger on the planet Jakku, feeding herself by salvaging parts from ships. On Luke’s home planet of Tatooine, those jawas appear to be scavengers, too.
If you have items you’d be willing to part with and you don’t want to spend any money for stuff you need, consider these ways to barter.
In “The Phantom Menace” — hey, here’s our first and only mention of the prequels! — Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi meet young Anakin Skywalker in a junk shop where he fixes things.
Meanwhile, here on our planet, a number of apps make it easier than ever to sell your old stuff online.
To free up space and earn some extra cash, use apps to sell your stuff. Listing the right stuff in the right marketplaces means you’re more likely to sell it for the right price.
7. Beware of Scams. Know What Things Are Worth.
Toward the beginning of “The Force Awakens,” a hungry Rey nearly pawns the droid BB-8 in exchange for 60 portions of inflatable food. She’s sorely tempted, but she senses something is wrong and backs off.
That’s the surest way to spot a scam: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
8. Embrace the Gig Economy
When Luke and Obi-Wan need transportation to Alderaan, they basically catch an Uber. A space Uber. They pay for the Millennium Falcon to take them there.
Here on Earth, you might not be able to make as much money transporting humans right now, but you can still make like Han and Chewie in your Honda or Chevy by delivering groceries through Instacart and Uber.
There are other entry-level ways to make money – including seasonal jobs — thanks to the gig economy.
9. Sand People Always Walk in Single File to Hide Their Numbers
You see, from this we can learn that … no, no, wait. That’s not a good example at all. We learn no financial truths from that.
We’ve got nothing for you here.
10. Make Sure You Have a Long-Term Plan
The heroes and villains of the “Star Wars” universe are seriously into some long-term planning.
Emperor Palpatine’s master plan takes several movies to unfold. After he reveals himself to be Darth Sidious and strikes, Yoda and Obi-Wan lay low for a couple of decades, waiting for their chance to return the favor.
Of course, when we first meet Obi-Wan and Yoda, they’re chilling in a cave and a swamp, respectively. Apparently the Jedi Council didn’t have much of a 401(k) match.
The sooner you start saving, investing and paying down your debt, the better off you’ll be.
All told, that’s everything that “Star Wars” has taught us about money so far. Take it as you will.
Do, or do not.
There is no try.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. His “Star Wars”-loving co-workers helped out with this post.