It's All Free Now

Dave Ramsey, the personal finance guru and scold, lives here in Middle Tennessee, and is thus better-known here than anywhere else. He is known for his "common sense" approach to personal finance, which sounds funny, since he makes millions off of knowledge that many, mistakenly I suppose, refer to as "common."

He thumps the bible quite a bit during his lectures, but thankfully about 80% of the thumping is to point out a quote that is very germane to personal finance. Here'e the one I like: In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. 

Of course he quotes this passage metaphorically; Ramsey is much more concerned with what's in your 401k than what's in your fridge. But I take his meaning to heart, and much more literally than he intends: I always keep a 1/2 gallon of Olive Press oil in my pantry to keep me on his good side, regardless of how I piss away the rest of my paycheck.

The wise and fun man, a more thorough verse would point out, has stores of choice wine socked away as well. I am not referring to bottles that require decades of patience before they reveal their true glory (thought the wise man certainly has some of these, too). Keeping these bottles is "cellaring," an oft-intimidating practice that conjures extreme wealth and moist, frigid caves. I'm talking about the much more practical habit of simply keeping more wine in the house than you are going to drink right now- let's call it "keeping." It's smart, it's liberating, and it is something that adults should do. No more running out at the very last minute to buy what you are going to use the minute you walk through the door- wine is not a home pregnancy test.

The following is an internet-friendly list that will convince you that keeping everyday wine ($10-$30, say) in the house is an indispensable practice:

1: It saves you money:

When we are pressed for time, our options decrease. If you only have twenty minutes to grab a bottle of wine, then you are limited to the places that you can get to and from in that sliver of time- less choice, less power, increased chance of paying more. When you buy with no time constraints, the world (or at least the whole city and its wine stores) are your oyster. 

It also saves you money because most stores- and every store that you should patronize- offer case discounts, commonly ranging from ten to fifteen percent. Usually these discounts apply to mixed cases, meaning you don't have to buy twelve bottles of the same wine to take advantage. 

2: You are ready

If you have wine and you get an unexpected day off, have an old friend or neighbor stop by to visit, are watching a movie late at night, are writing letters late at night, are going to a party, are reading a book, are lying in a hammock, are making dinner, or are sad- you are ready. If one of those things happens and you don't have wine, you are lame. And if you bring a date back to a wineless house? I won't say what it is, but you don't deserve it.

3: You have more of what you like

Jockey recently discontinued the underwear I have been wearing for eight years. Had I bought three dozen pair a year ago, my life would not be the chaotic mess it is right now. If there's a wine you like, get a case. That way, if your shop stops carrying it or the vintage changes, you are all set for a while. It sounds like a lot of money- but we're talking $14 (price her bottle)  X 12 (bottles) = $168 - 12% (case discount) = $147.84 + 9.25% (tax) = $161.52. Not too bad for a few months (weeks? days?) worth of wine, plus peace of mind.

4: The wine is yours

This is a little more abstract, because I don't know how long a wine has to be in your possession before it is "yours." There is something much more satisfying about opening a bottle that has been aging- or at least sitting- in your own house, as opposed to grabbing one at the store and cracking it that night. Compare it to winning the World Series with players who entered your farm system as nineteen year-olds instead of with gazillionaire free-agent ringers.

5: You need a buffer

If you do happen to have some more expensive, age-worthy bottles in the house, having a case of a more modest wine at the ready decreases your chances of drunkenly opening your (or your roomie's) 2000 Vieux Télégraphe at 3 am. Don't ask me where I got that example.

6: You make better choices

When you shop for wine that you don't need right away, you free yourself from the tyranny of dinner, and from the tastes and aversions of your company. You can listen to the proprietor, take home what she recommends, and select from those wines when the time comes. It is, as they say, proactive, rather than reactive.

When I have nothing else, at least I have this.

When I have nothing else, at least I have this.

7: Your finances and your thirst don't have to align

You may not have enough cash to fix your serpentine belt or buy new wingtips, but you can always have a decent glass of wine to take the edge off of this indifferent world. Sound trivial? It's not; separating the buying from the enjoying enhances the enjoying by stripping it of stressful associations. Socking away wine is like constantly leaving a rumpled twenty in the pocket of your corduroy jacket- it's a way to pleasantly surprise yourself, time and again.

My friend and former roommate (and now winemaker) Luke inadvertently captured the glory of wine-keeping with a pithy comment back in 2008. We were sifting through our humble 24-bottle fridge for something to drink, and I commented on how I wish we had left the price stickers on the bottles; that way we would know how much each bottle had cost.

Luke's dismissive response is now my wine-storage credo: It's all free now.


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