Sunday, 17 September 2017

Cost of Housing

Small house in Bhutan


We've just started a new internet promotion, courtesy of our still living-at-home university  student daughter who qualifies for a special rate.   It's a win, win situation. Part of the deal includes HGTV, otherwise known as Home and Garden TV.   On this channel there are many, many House Hunter programs filmed all over the world, ranging from tiny off grid  houses on a remote island to luxury mansions in exotic locations.  

It's all a bit staged and I have read that the couple or family on the program has already purchased a home  and two more are added to the mix to make a show featuring three different properties.   I am certain realtors cooperate as the publicity would no doubt help sell the other properties.    You get to see what's available and a quick look at the different areas.   The results can be interesting.  Some couples seem to have granite countertops as their main priority.

 Recently, a family was looking for a home in Lusaka, Zambia.   I happen to have been there so that made it especially interesting.    I stayed  with the relative of a relative in a gated home complete with a rifle toting local employee patrolling the grounds even though it was in the embassy part of town.   When I thought of going for a walk, I was advised 'better not.'    Accompanying our hostess on a routine shopping trip meant tipping a parking lot attendant to ensure her vehicle wouldn't be stolen.   I've seen this in Mexico as well.   Safety is important to most.

The couple looked at a basic, somewhat grungy home in Lusaka which was priced at $1200 USD.   Going way out of Lusaka to a neighbouring town a home with unreliable electricity and water (but a back-up well) was more appealing to them at $500 a month rent.    Yet on the tropical island of Roatan, a destination for cruise ships and expats in the Caribbean, off the coat of Honduras, a much better home was available for $700 and included waterfront. 


This Roatan vacation rental is $1000 a month

I've seen families in Bhutan who could rent a basic (almost primitive) house for $50 a month and American style  homes in Papua, New Guinea for $5000 USD monthly.    Western Europe is uniformly expensive but it is possible to rent an apartment in Tirana, Albania for $500 a month.

You might have a mental image of some of these places.   I certainly did as far as Papua, New  Guinea  and Manaus, Brazil were concerned.  Let's just say my image did not at all fit the reality.    Prepare to have your assumptions challenged.   Spend a few months on the ground to find out if you can put up with or preferably enjoy the differences, both the culture and accommodation.    Or maybe you just shrug your shoulders and exclaim, 'It'll be an adventure!'.

It's sure to make you think about what you're paying at home.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Replace the Shopping Urge with the Creating Urge




Many of us have had the shopping urge well ingrained in us.    Trained by media forces and habit from almost infancy, shopping becomes the thing to do, whether on vacation or on Saturdays or as a thing to do with friends or family.   You set off on your day trip, cruise excursion or outing with friends not needing to buy anything in particular.   Will you find something you like and want to buy?   Almost without doubt something will catch your fancy.   It wasn't something on your list of need to buy.  You do keep such a list, right?   Oh, how easy it is to talk yourself, or let yourself be talked, into taking out your wallet.   There's a little euphoric hit as you hand your credit card over to the cashier and watch the item being wrapped in tissue paper and put in a fancy bag.  How long does the thrill last?   Have a look at these shopping triggers at the Money Crashers blog.

Is it possible to substitute something else for the shoppers' high?   What about a creators' high?   Can you train yourself to get a kick out of being creative and producing something either beautiful or useful or maybe both.    A family member collects shells on the beach and with some acrylic paint and shellac spray finish produces beautiful artistic pieces.   Pinterest and Youtube is rife with ideas.   There's a special satisfaction in artistic creativity.   Don't fall into the trap of investing a lot of money, though.    There are always ways and means to keep the cost minimal.   Someone else has likely given up the pursuit you want to try.

What about achieving proficiency on a musical instrument?   Once you own the instrument, there are plenty of online guides to improve your skill if you don't want to/can't afford to invest in lessons.   There are many pianos available just for the cost of removing them from someone's home.   If you want something smaller, harmonicas can be had for less than $20.

Try to conjure up a new recipe.   There are sites that let you enter a couple of ingredients you have on hand and will then come up with various recipes for you to consider.  For example, try here.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Budgeting/Dreaming/Spending


 




What kind of spending seems worthwhile to you?   This was the question posited in this article by Adam Jusko in the blog Proud Money.    He decided to contact a range of people to find out what was worthwhile  to them after deciding that live performances by favourite artists made the cut for him.

Health is an important expenditure, especially for those who don't have the government safety net to make them feel secure, at least about emergencies and critical care.   Some find contributing to charity especially meaningful.   Travel gets several mentions as a purchase not regretted as does spending to improve oneself, either for employment or personal growth.





Similar to the exercise I describe in my book, this is useful to determine whether you are getting value for the money you trade your life energy for a la Your Money or Your Life.    No one seemed to mention a roof over their head or a car to get around in.   I suspect that those questioned considered those items a given and were considering their disposable income.   Unfortunately, for many, after they pay the bills for items they have previously committed to there isn't that much left for the meaningful stuff.  


Something to think about.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Small and Local Stores

                                                             



I like the idea of patronizing small and local stores.  It feels like the right thing to do.   After all, if no one shopped locally, my hometown would just be a collection of houses.   Local businesses support some local activities and events and make me feel like I am part of a community.  Unfortunately, it can be difficult if it means buying a lesser product for a higher price that you have to pick up yourself.  

I moved to my new hometown a year ago with the intention of shopping locally.   However, at less than five thousand inhabitants, some items are not in sufficient demand to be stocked locally.   There are not enough people buying yarn, for example, to warrant a yarn store.   There is a local hardware store but it is small and seems to have fallen into the general store trap of attempting to stock a wide variety of products like pet food and children's toys which lessen the amount of space for true hardware items.   Then there's the most consistent problem:   everything costs more, sometimes considerably more.

My hometown isn't set off in the middle of nowhere, thereby limiting choices unless one wants to travel a hundred kilometres.   No, there is a bigger town 20 km. to the south, complete with some big box stores and a little over thirty-three kilometres (about twenty miles) north there is a city of one hundred thousand inhabitants.   But I like my little town with its scenic vistas and peace and quiet.  

I'm looking for a more unusual purchase at this time, a children's ukulele.   Not a toy; I want to encourage a hopefully budding musician.  But I had a $50 budget in mind.    I go first to one of the major suppliers of instruments in my province and easily find a suitable one in a choice of colours, made with a rosewood fingerboard and basswood sides and back.  There is a store in the city 33 km away which will be a 45 minutes drive each way.  Annoyingly, in order to see the full price, I had to open an account with my e-mail and address.   I don't like this all too common practice; it feels like I am being tricked and setting myself up for an endless stream of promotional material.   Particularly in this case when the added shipping costs of $16 put the item well over my budget.    I closed the screen and didn't make the purchase.  Sure enough when I check my e-mail the first of no doubt many contacts  was awaiting me.

I check with Amazon and hone in on one product, available in various colours, that is under my $50 budget, at $37, and with free shipping.    Plenty of five star reviews.   Perhaps too many to be believable.   No details of where the product is shipped from or who the manufacturer is.   Oops, one reviewer provides the information that they are shipping from China. Another  writes that the ukulele is all plastic even though the product description states it is made of Basswood.   I check the few three star and lower  reviews and they seem more valid and provide more information.   The only manual is in Chinese -- that wouldn't be helpful.

Decision time.   I've been burned a few times with deliveries from China not arriving within the specified time frame or taking several months.    Even more importantly, I've read and seen videos about labour practices and product safety practises in China.   Basically, I avoid buying from that part of the world, if at all possible and definitely not food items.



  




I liked the Youtube video from the local company.   I also have somewhere not too far away to go if there's a problem.  Their product is a little more expensive but definitely better quality.  I'm going with the one at the top of the page but will wait a couple of weeks until I am making a trip to the 'big city' and save the shipping costs.

Shopping can be so complicated but price is definitely not everything!  And I do feel good about shopping (kind of) locally.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

USELESS ITEMS

Do you ladies have one of these:



I do and it fits in my category of 'useless items'.    But, but, every woman needs an evening purse for those special occasions--the theatre, the opera the . . . the . . .

Somehow my evening purse has had very few outings.   For one thing it doesn't hold much, including my wallet.   That means I have to remove my drivers license and credit card from my wallet and place them loose in the evening purse prior to my outing.   Keys, a handkerchief and lipstick round out the contents.

Very few events call for gala wear.   No one seems to dress up to that level at the professional theatre productions I enjoy attending.   Wearing a basic dress and scarf or sedate jewellery already places one  among the better dressed.   Formal evenings on cruise lines might be an occasion for a purse such as this, but since your cabin is close at hand, you're not driving anywhere and everything is charged to your account, a purse seems superfluous.  I never had room for it in my carry-on suitcase.

I could relate to this post by Frugalwoods and laughed at her description of the artfully arranged collection of cushions that she and her husband endured on their bed prior to their recent move.  I, too, have thought that our master bedroom lacked a certain flair when compared to magazine and catalog offerings, because a half dozen or more coordinating pillows did not grace the top.   I've stayed in places with this chic arrangement and encountered the same problems with figuring out what to do with the cushions when the time came to actually use the bed.   The floor or any nearby chairs became handy receptacles.     I think I ultimately decided that similar to Diderot's robe I would be forced to chic up the rest of our home from its comfortable and minimalist appearance.


  

Sunday, 13 August 2017

BUYING IN BULK





There are some all purpose products that do for so many purposes.   Amazing objects really and those are worth your investment.  Likewise, there are some products that serve many purposes.   You can find articles on-line detailing one hundred uses for vinegar.    It's an inexpensive product so have at it!  Mason jars also come to mind.   Go on Pinterest for one hundred ways to use them if you come up short of ideas.    Besides canning and storing food, vases and fancy summer drinks, you will find ideas you haven't thought of.    

Bulk Barn lets you bring your own mason jars to purchase from the plethora of items they stock.   The idea is to save time by not having to first load up plastic bags and then transfer them via a funnel to the jar once you get home.   Another advantage is that you purchase the amount you want and no more or less.   I find that inevitably I end up with a half cup of the product unable to fit in the jar and I have to leave a sad little plastic bag of something floating around in the cupboard until it spills out and makes a mess on the shelf.   Think of hot chocolate mix.

The staff weighs the jar in advance and writes the amount on the lid so that you don't pay for the weight of the jar when you check out.   The only problem I encounter is that you need to use the product up entirely before you return to refill your jar and  items are used at a different rate.   I use large jars originally bought from IKEA for flour, pasta and sugar.   Transporting many of these can be a little awkward.   I still like the idea but I don't berate myself if I end up using plastic bags provided by the store since I do recycle them.  

Buying in bulk means you only need to buy what you need and you can try a small amount out rather than commit to something that you or your family doesn't like at all.   If you are purchasing for a special diet, like gluten free, there are many options.

But a word of warning, 100 grams (the pricing method used)  is not very much and some things, like chocolate chips, seem to measure heavy.   It was also my experience that anything that is crispy such as chips or cheezies (these are my husband's weakness) will become soft  and not crispy from exposure to the air in the store.  

   


Sunday, 6 August 2017

Don't look on it as Deprivation

                                                                       


Look on it as a challenge.   Think about what you need (or at least think you need) and then consider how you can use your skills and talents to get it cheaper.   Don't put yourself down, you do have abilities that can save money and give your ego a boost.   

There are the short term, single use items.   Don't spend much on these.   You need some fancy clothes to wear on a cruise vacation or to a fancy do.  These are once a year items.   Now, if for some reason you have been nominated for a prestigious award--Best Actress, Nobel Peace Prize--by all means go all out.  Splurge.   The world is watching.

In other situations, the ones you are more likely to be involved in, don't spend more than absolutely necessary.    This is where sewing skills could be useful.   You can whip up a dazzling sequin covered top for less than $20 and the sequins will cover up any wobbly seams.   No sewing skills?

See if you can borrow or try a consignment or thrift store.  Use your treasure hunting techniques and skills.  Glamorous apparel is inevitably in good condition from infrequent use.   Some cruisers gain weight from cruise to cruise and have to upsize.

Sometimes you have to be patient and wait for a solution to present itself.  I have been contemplating purchasing a small camping trailer for some time.   As any dog owner can tell you, vacations can present problems when you have a pet(s).   Airlines make it difficult and expensive to bring a dog on a flight, not to mention a few that have gone astray while in their care.   Hotels and motels will sometimes label themselves as pet friendly and then use it as an excuse to add a $40 a day, per pet uncharge.   I can understand that there will need to be a thorough cleaning including carpet shampooing at the end of the stay but an additional $560 for a week's stay with two small dogs is pushing it.   

Wisely, I considered renting a camper for a trial run.   Always a good idea with major purchases.   For example, not that I was ever considering it, but driving in a relative's Mustang convertible a few times put me off that purchase permanently.   Too difficult to get in and out of, too much wind your face and too much of a temptation for the driver to speed and subsequently get noticed by roadside patrols.     But camper rentals specifically state, No Pets.  I suppose they can't say No Children although small children can drop ice cream cones on the carpet and mess it up that way.   Pulling even a small fibreglass camper requires a larger vehicle with a tow package so the entire project is still in the fantasy stage.   

For now, a still living at home daughter provides pet care.   We've yet to find a future solution but then they all seem to miss us so much when we're gone so we'll have to cope with the guilt factor first!

I remember that  in The Tightwad Gazette, Amy Dacyczyn  advised against getting premade pudding cups even if they were free (due to some extreme couponing venture).    Your children (or you) will develop a taste for them and they won't always be free.   Getting into that situation can lead to feelings of deprivation.


   

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sew What?


 




Sewing is in danger of becoming a lost art.   Perhaps that is too dramatic a statement but home sewing is definitely on the decline.   Fabric stores are a barometer of this and they are few and far between.  Then there's the price of fabrics and notions -- quite expensive.   I suspect it is something to do with the cheap clothes that come from China and similar exporting nations where labour is low cost in the extreme and safety standards lax.     I don't think fabric is imported in the same way that clothing is and there is also the lack of volume to keep the price down.   You can buy a $3 tee shirt but you can't buy the pattern, fabric and thread to make it at even three times the cost.   No wonder women (it is still mainly women who sew) have put down needle and thread and consigned the sewing machine to the attic or basement.

Sewing used to be a full year course in high school although in those days it was only available to girls.   Boys took courses that would have been useful for both sexes like electricity and drafting.   Nevertheless, I recall taking not just the basic course but several optional elective courses in the higher grades.   I learned a lot despite being at the age where school can seem to get in the way of your social life.   But there was the bonus of hopefully sewing a gorgeous dress to attract the boy across the aisle you had your eye on.   I should mention that at this time, difficult to believe now, girls were not allowed to wear pants or shorts to school.  Strictly dresses or skirts.

Later on, I liked the uniqueness of sewing.   No one else ever had quite the same item of clothing and there was the ability for the skilled to custom fit and get around height or measurement aberrations from the standard lines.    Sewing for children can be rewarding as small amounts of fabric is needed and your children never complain about the results.

Today, you would be hard pressed to sew your own dress for less than $50, taking into account pattern, notions and fabric.   You might save by re-using a basic pattern  and trying to get everything on sale but there is always the risk that the whole thing becomes unwearable.   A sewer (or sewist as I have heard it called) is not being honest if they don't confess to their share of wadders -- you know, those items that you wad together in frustration and stuff to the back of your closest with a plan to somehow salvage something out of what turned out to be a hopeless mess.


Here's an example from a store called Uniqlo (prices in USD).   I have never shopped at this store so this is not an endorsement.   I found it through another interesting fashion type blog The Vivienne Files. Uniqlo features this cotton/linen summer dress for about $20.






Do you sew?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

PRICING

   




I am what I have read is called a pescatarian.   Sounds vaguely religious, doesn't it?   But no, this word means that I am a vegetarian but also eat fish and seafood.   Some people wouldn't call this vegetarian at all but as I am wont to say, to each her own.    I can see the ocean through my living room window on the west coast of Canada but I have a feeling that the price of fish or seafood  here is the same in the Canadian Prairies or American mid-west.   In other words, expensive.

When food products are priced by the hundred grams, consider it a warning:   It is expensive.   A hundred grams is not very much;   in non-metric measure it is 3.5 ounces.  (Remember, a pound is 16 ounces.).    Southwestern British Columbia is one of the top salmon fishing regions of the world.  Read more here.    Local supermarkets have been running ads about their great salmon prices, bragging about $2.49 per 100 grams for whole salmon with head and tail cut off.     But somehow this translates to a 30 cm (or 12 inch) piece of salmon costing $36.   Yikes.  This would be more than a sirloin tip roast beef would cost and the animals that provide that have to be raised, fed, vetted and otherwise dealt with.   I venture to speculate that the fisherman (or woman) who caught the salmon  received nowhere near that price.

   



A relative explained how he overcame this problem.   Driving to the Steveston neighbourhood, which is part of the Greater Vancouver region in Richmond specifically, he headed straight for the docks at a time when the commercial fishing season was open.    There, shrewd negotiator that he is, he arranged with a fisherman coming in to buy 15 large salmon for $10 each.   Now the fish are not cleaned in any way so he had a job ahead of him but I was told that you get used to it and the task is not difficult.   He ended up with enough salmon in his freezer for a long time less the half of one my copious praise engendered me.

In the case of salmon, as with many other things, try to bypass the middleman.   Get a group together, go on a fishing expedition or head to the docks.    I like to watch the live bear cam this time of year, from a remote location in Alaska.   The bears sit at the bottom of a small waterfall as the salmon attempt to leap over it.   Easy pickings for the bears.   Five minutes of watching features dozens of salmon leaping.   I had to stop shouting, "There's another $36," after family members complained.

I go on a cruise once a year where seafood and salmon galore is included in the price.   I practise delayed gratification when I get the urge for it.   It works -- usually.    After all, buying one salmon a month at $36 will cost you $432 a year.   Almost enough for:


Y6C: 6-DAY YUKON




SHIP: ms Nieuw Amsterdam
DEPARTS: Vancouver, B.C., CA
ARRIVES: Whitehorse, Yukon

From
CA$497
per person Interior

Sunday, 16 July 2017

DO WITHOUT

This is the final instalment of the four part series revisiting the World War II motto of:

                     

 




Do Without has a grim sound, evoking visions of deprivation, hardship, denial and general misery.  You're hungry, your clothes are threadbare, and entertainment consists of watching the dandelions grow.    Relax, that is not what is meant by doing without, at least not here.   Instead of doing without think of choosing differently.   That sounds better, doesn't it?    Choose not to clutter your home with unattractive clutter.    Choose to buy quality items that you will keep for a long time gladly.   Choose to focus on the priorities you have decided bring meaning to your life.

What you are really doing without is that desperate feeling of being of debt, of being at the mercy of payday loans, of realizing that things you paid top dollar for would only garner ten percent of that value when you try to sell them on eBay or Craigslist.   


Part of the Stop Budgeting, Start Dreaming manifesto means you allow a certain amount for small splurges.   Allow a certain amount each month that you spend once every 30 days or save up for a grand extravaganza.   Be reasonable when you set the amount.   Two dollars a month will barely buy you an ice cream.   Can you squeeze $20 to $30 out of your earnings?   You may feel fine doing without daily bought coffees and  weekly movie tickets if you let yourself indulge once a month.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

MAKE IT DO


                                     


Making something work for a function other than what it was designed for, in other words making do, requires ingenuity and creativity.   Who doesn't want to have these attributes?  You consider the function of the product you think you need to buy and then investigate/consider/ponder how you can achieve that with what you already own. Some products like vinegar and mason jars lend themselves to multiple uses.  Just Google Pinterest for vinegar uses or mason jars to be amazed . . . and distracted.  You may find that you stop whatever useful and necessary task you are performing, like cooking dinner, to try to etch the mason jar glass in a decorative manner.   Who knew you could do that?

Making do also means finding ways to work with what you have.   A toaster oven may not be ideal for toasting your bread in the morning but it also does many other things whereas a toaster only toasts bread.   Especially do what you can to avoid buying items for one time use.   Cast about your friends and relations for extra dishes, pots and pans for that once a year family extravaganza that you offered to host in a moment of weakness.   Everyone is so glad you're doing it that the will be pleased to  lend some cutlery to you and assuage their guilt.

Women used to share maternity clothes and some still do.  Surprising in a way,  considering that in the days of large families you would get substantial use of  these garments.   If you prefer not to share clothing, what about items like extra long ladders for cleaning gutters outside, hedge trimmers used maybe once a month in season, power washers used when you paint the deck every five years and maybe once a year to clean the driveway.   Does every family on your block or every member of your extended family need their own supply?   I suppose there could be disagreements if one person manages to  spill a can of paint over the power washer rendering it inoperable.   There is a risk this could become a family legend repeated at reunions down the decades to the chagrin of the descendants.    


      

The Daily Connoisseur recommends a ten item wardrobe (with some extras) of high quality, carefully chosen clothing.   It's easier to make it do if everything you own Sparks Joy  a la Marie Kondo.

Focus on multi-purpose, multi-use items when possible.    You won't mind paying for good quality when you know something will be used in many ways for many years. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

WEAR IT OUT


               

When was the last time you wore something out?   I wore out a pair of slippers recently but I must confess that part of the reason was that I couldn't find a similar substitute.   I should add the phrase, ' at a price I wanted to pay'.   The original ones had been a Christmas gift from a few years earlier and they now sported holes in the footbed and the sole was coming apart.   I could replace them with no feelings of guilt and feel satisfied they had served me well.   Even if I hadn't paid for them originally, I had received my money's worth.   

I once chided my daughter for spending more on a strapless evening gown that would be fortunate to be worn twice than the winter coat that would be worn almost daily for eight months and hopefully for at least five years.    Evening gowns are so glamorous, so fun to shop for and can transport the wearer to fantasies that cannot be matched by a sturdy woolen coat.    Well, you're only young once and if a dress can make you feel like Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe and, better still, make you somewhat resemble the movie icon even I would have to say 'Go for it!" At least once in your youth . . . just don't make it a habit.    But skip the two dogs;  they would cost more in the long run.  (Say I with two dogs!)






But, back to my slippers, I bought a new pair on-line that resembled my old favourites but, alas, were not of the same fit, support or quality.  Where my gifted slippers had cost $40, the unsatisfactory replacements had only set me back $12.   There was a time when $12 bought a good pair of slippers but things change.  What I should have done was waited for my favoured brand to go on sale--everything goes on sale sometime, right?    After my experience I would leap at paying $25.   This time, I bookmark the name and brand of slipper and search weekly.   I suspect there are apps that do that for you with less effort.   

The moral of the WEAR IT OUT mantra is that you will only truly get use and wear something out with the satisfaction that you have had your money's worth, if it was good quality to start with.   There is no pleasure in a T shirt that turns shapeless and sports small holes after two washes.  When you find a company, a product that encapsulates those elusive qualities of good construction and excellent materials, you will likely be happy with your purchase . . . for a long time.   By avoiding materials with micro beads or microfibres you'll also be helping the environment.

With both fashion and furniture, classic lines and colours will likely please you longer than one season wonders.   Although I've noticed that gaucho pants, which suit few women, make regular re-appearances.




Sunday, 25 June 2017

USE IT UP

 


There was a mantra in World War II:

       Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.   These were desperate times for many and there were shortages of basic goods during the depression, during the war and for many years after.   If you read articles, books or records of the time you can't help but be impressed with people's ingenuity and resourcefulness.   Does it take a crisis to bring this out in people?






Let's look at the first part of the phrase:   Use it up.   When I read that 40% of food goes uneaten here (this is an American article) it seems appalling to me.   Where does that 40% go?   Many places it seems.  There are losses in the farming process, in harvesting, packing and distributing.   We all know about losses in retail which at least provides something for those inclined to dumpster dive.  Then there are losses in restaurants and losses at home.   A lot of food is wasted but perhaps since it now goes into the organic waste container under the sink and is picked up with the garbage pick up by many cities, we feel better about it.   Do they turn it into fertilizer, we wonder?

At least with clothing we can donate what we no longer want to charities.  They are overflowing with our discards but some are difficult to make a profit from.  How much would you pay for a used T shirt that cost $3 new?    Those that remain unsold are shipped in bulk to countries in Africa where they undermine the local clothing manufacturers.

Do you use up your appliances?   Warranties have shrunk to minuscule levels over the years and a 3 month warranty is about all you will get without purchasing extra coverage.   The average lifespan of a large appliance seems to have been shrinking and replacement after five or six years doesn't seem unusual.   People will repair the appliance once except that repair costs can mean that it won't be done a second time.    The unwanted hulk is transported to the dump where it will rest indefinitely.

I have an old chair that my parents brought over from the Old Country when they immigrated sixty years ago.   People used to ship over their belongs it seems.   I've have it re-upholstered twice and the craftsperson remarked on the quality of the curved wood back.   I don't think I could ever use it up and I don't really want to.



Next time:   Wear it out!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Thrift Stores


   


How do you feel about thrift stores?   In my childhood, as an immigrant family, I remember trips to the Salvation Army.   There may have been other thrift stores at this time but I don't recall visiting any.   Years ago people had less, wasted less and definitely shopped less.   The Salvation Army store was in a poor part of town and not a place I enjoyed spending time.  There was a certain stigma it seemed.  Huge tables with heaps of tangled clothes and cigarette butts on the floor.   (These were the days when you could smoke anywhere)

Things have improved.   There are different types of thrift stores and some are better than others.    Different worthwhile causes are supported;   the one I went to today is part of the local hospital auxiliary.   So proceeds of sales go to a worthy cause.   That feels good.

I don't really need to shop at a thrift store.   Years of employment, careful spending and saving and investment have left me in that enviable position.     Our local thrift store gets lots of donations and lots of traffic.   Going there is almost an adventure and much more interesting than going to the mall, a chore I avoid.  You never know what you are going to find at a thrift store.   It can be a trip down memory lane.   Amazing what people hold on to and then finally donate.   I sometimes wonder if it is an estate matter.   The person has passed away and their family has to clear out a large home filled with memories.   Only they are not their memories.  Today, I looked through sewing patterns that I recognized from thirty years ago.   I sifted through a collection of the Golden Books series for children and found Heidi which was one I read and re-read in my childhood.   I had to get that for 25 cents.

Sometimes there are things I don't really want to spend much on.  I probably could skip them altogether.     Here's an example:   Booties for my dog.   Would they protect his feet?   Would he refuse to wear them?   I don't want to spend $20 to find out but for $1.50 I'll give them a try.   If you have a weakness (don't we all!) a thrift store is a place to get a cheap fix.   Think scarves, purses.  Maybe you would like to try a new hobby or a new sport.     
      




Then there's the treasure hunt aspect.  The most interesting things can end up in thrift stores.  I have to confess I don't buy clothes there although I have donated them.    I tend to prefer to follow the thoughts behind the 10 item wardrobe designed by the Daily Connoisseur or even The 33 item wardrobe wherein you commit to wearing only 33 items for 3 months.   Getting what makes you look great and is good quality, not to mention coordinating, can be extremely difficult in a thrift shop.

Have you shopped in thrift stores?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Needs and Wants

   








You may have done the exercise of considering potential expenditures as falling into the category of either a need or a want.   You probably think of a need as a legitimate use of your funds as in you need to eat to survive or you need to drive to your job as you'll be fired if you stop showing up.  At first glance this appears to be supremely useful but it can have the effect of truncating the analysis.

You might make a list:

Need to pay                                    Want to buy
                                          
Housing                                          a dog
Food                                               new shoes
Car                                                 dinner at new restaurant
Telephone                                      Travel
Credit card interest                        music lessons


You'll notice that the items on the left, the Need category are the ones you might see on a typical pre-printed budget that you fill out.   They tend to be big ticket items or the larger line items in your budget.   But since you need them, and need to spend the money they cost, you focus instead on limiting or eliminating the wants.    Now some of those wants may be frivolous, unnecessary and short-lived pleasures.  But some of them may add life long meaning to your life and memories that you will remember on your death bed.  I appreciate that my immigrant parents paid for piano lessons for years enabling me to have a talent and pleasure I enjoy today.   Many people consider their pet to be a member of their family that they would not do without.

Maybe a tiny house is too extreme for you

If you cut your housing expenses by two thirds you will be able to still have something you need, ie. a roof over your head and at least several of your wants.   Impossible you say.  Not really, you just need to think outside the box.   Families today live in houses three times the size of a couple of generations ago.   1200 square feet comprising 3 bedrooms and one bathroom used to work just fine but today 3600 + is more common with 5 bathrooms and 4 bathrooms the norm.   Somehow it became a rule that each child should have their own bedroom.   I think that idea has its root in advertising and marketing.   When in doubt about the origins of something that has become accepted, follow the money!   Who is benefitting from enormous over-the-top weddings?   Separate rooms for 60 shoe wardrobes?

Is it you?



Sunday, 4 June 2017

Cold Turkey? Or . . .


   



I am not referring to smoking cessation.   I don't have any experience with that myself but I understand it is very difficult and usually takes many attempts to be successful.   The question is whether it is easier or at least more advantageous to wake up one morning and never smoke another cigarette or to try to gradually wean yourself off the habit by smoking one less a day or using some kind of filtration system that gradually reduces the amount of nicotine.   You can wear a nicotine patch or chew special gum to try to assist yourself.   But as Yoda said,  "Do or do not; there is no try."

What about if you want to make a serious change to your relationship with money.   Spending Fasts are a version of cold turkey.   You commit to only paying for essentials and define bills very strictly.   Maybe you only eat what is in your freezer or on your pantry shelves.   You pay your rent or mortgage and utilities.   It would be expecting too much for you to sit in the cold and dark or huddling around a solitary candle.   It doesn't help you to damage to credit rating by not meeting financial commitments you made, even if done rashly.    For some/many people omitting shopping, paid entertainment and socializing is difficult.  But lots of people have declared their intention to the world and left blog posts online for you to peruse at your leisure.  Presumably only the successful ones wrote a post about it the others cowered in shame and hoped no one noticed.

But realistically, making serious changes to your spending habits as well as your approach to your finances  can be done gradually, in stages, and there is an argument to be made that it will work better in the long run if done that way.   Unless you are facing bankruptcy, you can be a little gentle with yourself.  But only a little!

It is best if you have a goal to focus on when the going gets tough.   You want to live longer, be healthier, set a good role model for your children.    This applies to both the cigarettes and your finances.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Do Charities Manage their Donations Well?

 



We  moved to a new home almost a year ago.  It had been previously occupied by an elderly woman, now deceased about a year and a half.   She must have been generous because a steady stream of charities are still writing to her asking for donations, including local and federal political parties.   They are all mainstream charities whose names I am familiar with and perhaps the lady felt this would ensure her donations were well spent.   I notice that the charities spend a lot on postage yet must have no way of knowing if the donor has moved away or died.   Many solicitations seem to include date books, calendars or other goodies perhaps attempting to create a feeling of required reciprocity.

I've wondered about charities that I've supported myself over the years. When I research charities in general I  usually haven't been pleased with the information that's come my way.   Large, well known charities are often top heavy with administrators and Chief Executive Officers and similar positions are generously renumerated.   Large offices in high rent areas appear to be necessary.    A Moneysense article provides some details about the efficiency of large charities in Canada. Charity Navigator calls itself a guide to intelligent giving but some organizations have disputed their figures, for example, here.
  


One way to uncover more information is to volunteer at organizations that provide services you value.   Unfortunately,  as is often the case where you are employed, you may be disappointed to find that waste is endemic.   I have heard that from those employed in both medical and educational institutions.    People may be well-intentioned but they make poor choices.   This article in the National Post details how only 45% of funds raised for cancer go to fight cancer.  Having a good heart doesn't necessarily make a person financially savvy.  Small charities may yield to spending money developing logos, attending conferences or paying too much for office space.    In developing countries corruption can be rampant.   The justification may be given that some people are unfairly rich and resources (also known as other peoples' money) need to be redistributed.

When I was involved with a school parent group I found out that in middle class/well to do areas parents were allowed to fund raise for computer labs while in poorer areas where fund raising was minimal the school district would provide the computer labs.   Seems like another form of taxation.

What is the solution?