Tag Archives: economy

What things will become…

21 Mar

This blog has been turned completely upside down…but it has not turned into something it isn’t…which for a while I thought it had.

My intentions at the beginning of all of this were the following:

• How to get as much as possible for as little as possible.
• How to have a certain level of (consumer) “quality” of life for less.
• Getting by without all the expensive luxuries but feeling like you have everything.
…and a little ranting and raving about the consumer system in general.

I’ve never been one for buying lots of stuff and have still noticed a dramatic change. Somehow in the last 6 months it has become:

• Inviting my lifestyle (and all my stuff) to reflect my values and beliefs truly.
• Taking action that adds value to your life and the lives of others.
• Living fully without all the stuff that society or capitalism says you must have to be happy.
…and still a bit of ranting and raving about everything that is wrong not quite right and what I/we might be able to do about it.

I will admit that I’m relieved. I thought I’d lost it for a second but really I was just finding myself.

-Half-price

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Identity Crisis

16 Mar

My father was in town for business about four weeks ago. We talked about everything from politics to religion, philosophy to web applications (like father like daughter)…and of course money and work. I came to a point in the career portion of the conversation where I basically expressed that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for a company whose values were not congruent with my own; that I didn’t want to waste my time, look back in 30 years and regret it.

Now I don’t really believe in regret. Everything I’ve done including my major, MAJOR mistakes make me who I am in this exact moment and that person is a pretty cool, good hearted person with a lot to offer…and my feeling is that his sentiment is the same. So it surprised me to hear him say that he spent the last 30 years working as a programmer, mostly for large corporations, who made it their job to screw the little guy. I’ve always known what my father did but I never thought about how those programs effected the masses. For many years his company’s main client was a major corporation and somehow, even though everyone in my family is a customer of this Goliath and know how ridiculous and lame they are I never made the connection. Ignorance is bliss and I suppose my parents did a good job at sheltering me from some things.

Anyway it seems like a simple thing but in the moment, hearing his exact words and the look on his face…kind of broke my heart. It’s like superman saying that every time he saves one person, there are 2 more people that died. Well maybe not exactly like that but my dad is my hero. Most brilliant guy I know. To hear him say that hurt a lot and has made my last 4 weeks enlightening…and painful.

So. What’s it mean to me? Of course by the end of the conversation he simply said, “Find what you will do for free, then find someone who will pay you for it”. That’s always been his work advice but this time it hit me differently. So I did a little self-reflection and sent in a few applications for 3d design jobs by the end of the week. I, of course, do not have an architectural design degree but I do make a mean custom green home in SketchUp. Actually, I would say I’m better at that than most things I’ve done…and they actually pay people to use that program specifically. My portfolio was enough for an interview however I emailed yesterday and the position has since been filled. I started with architectural design firms, then to green home design, to solar energy and after that its been a brain scrambling spiral into…all of these issues that I didn’t realize I cared so much about.

Super-consumer culture
Fossil fuel peeks/renewable energy
Super-cheap super-sized food/food monopolies/buying local
Homelessness/mortgage crisis/bigger-living-is-better-living obsession

…There are a lot of things I care about and a couple non-profits I wanted to start eventually but those seemed way in the future and required a lot of resources to get done. And knowing me I probably made it more complicated than it needed to be. However these four issues not only are so immediately crucial but also they are things I can do my part to change right now. Habits I can incorporate today.

*sigh* Let me get off my soap box for a second and be real. This is NOT what this blog was supposed to be about. It was SUPPOSED to be about how to live a decent quality of life without killing our pocketbooks. And it has caused me to do so much reflection, on myself, my values and lifestyle which I see now are two totally different things and on the world around me. What is the cost of cheap goods? Where are those goods made and who made them? And I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even know if this blog is valid anymore. The “Price” of this blog seems to refer less to the ticket price of something and more to the long term affects of those same products on the economy, the environment, and international relations (based on the fact that we are practically owned by China and half of the Middle East depending on your point of view).

A lot of people donate money to youth programs in the inner-city when the smog from our cars, city landfills and rabid product supply chain causes them cancer. Does that make any sense to you?

I am by no means more of a help than a hindrance. I’ve been educating myself and changing habits slowly but I am no saint when it comes to these issues or when it comes to anything. It’s hard. But now that I know that I know – because I did know…I guess I just didn’t care or didn’t think about it – I can’t stop thinking about it.

So what am I doing about it:

#1. I am inviting an increase of income in my life (I estimate I will have applied to 100+ jobs and temporary projects in the month of March alone in case you thought I was only “inviting” and not taking action). Need is no longer an applicable word really. There are people who do with so much less. But let’s get real, everything costs something: time, energy, money, or favors, and knowing that you can keep a roof over your head and food in your stomach makes room for everything else that is important to you. In my case:

#2. Shopping for the food that I want, buying local and juicing more. I believe the FDA certified organic is overrated. My family owns a farm and the land nor the animals have been touched by anything unnatural for 4 generations. Can’t get more organic than that. FDA regulations make it hard on farmers and ‘local’ often means organic in a purer sense. If you aren’t sure shopping at the Farmer’s Market will always give you an opportunity to ask.

#3. Consuming less. I’m already what I would consider a ‘low-consumer’. Outside of food I typically only buy things when what I’ve got is worn out or when I need supplies/business attire for work. I’ve never been a big shopper, prefer making gifts for family and friends and don’t have many possessions I truly care about outside of my laptop. My three big products this year thus far have been a juicer from my parents for a late Christmas gift (mine was in the $80 range and works great), a replacement phone when mine was stolen and a pair of wrinkle free sheets…they feel amazing.

#4. Gasoline alternatives…I admit that I have a gas card from one of the Seven Sisters. It does not make me happy. I thought that Diesel was the devil up until I watched a few documentaries and learned that Rudolf Diesel’s original design ran on corn oil alone. Huh? Standard Oil, who I was already familiar with, bought that patent and started marketing it as strictly a petrol engine, a fact whoever taught me conveniently left out. So now I’m considering dumping my car or altering it to a gas engine (runs on fumes only, can go for 100+ miles per gallon), diesel engine or solar electric system. This is pricey, time consuming and requires a ton of research before making a decision so I have a couple years to work on that one…

#5. Down-sizing. I’ve been obsessed with Container Homes (recycling 40 x 8 ft. shipping containers as building structures) and Tiny Homes (any house smaller than 800 sq.ft.) for a few years now. Since home design is a hobby, I already have a lot of construction experience and own a decent amount of the required tools I’ve decided I want to build a tiny home. I like living small. It’s a fun challenge, is inexpensive and my entire life thus far has always fit into about a 13 x 13 ft. space anyway. So why not dump the roommate, the landlord, and the utility companies? I want to own a home. I’d like to design and build that home myself. And with almost no space to build in LA this provides so many more options. If I build it myself I’m looking at about $20k just for the structure and basic amenities. I’ve got a few ways around this (sponsorship, recycled lumber, fundraising) which I think will cut my costs in half. The rest…well that is 1 year’s rent in a 1 bedroom apartment. Not too shabby for something that could last a couple decades.

All this will enable me to save a lot of money and use it to travel, see family more, have more barbecues with my friends and sail much more often. And all that sounds pretty good to me.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I started so many posts in the last several weeks; going on and on about my job search, oscillating between points of view on certain issues, trying to come up with topics that were applicable to my original topic without getting to preachy and complaining about the ongoing poor communication skills of a couple of my clients as well as myself (I just got my NLP Practitioner certification so I have no excuse). But all that stuff’s not really what makes the world go ’round ya know? I think this time I actually got out what I needed to say and it feels good.

-Half-price

Hello, my name is Half-price, and I’m in debt.

7 Oct

I started this blog 3 weeks ago. My first and only entry strayed from what I had intended: speak honestly about debt, explore ways to live a healthy lifestyle without losing my shirt while working towards financial freedom and really just keep myself accountable. My first entry did all those things but was also coming from a place of negativity and complaint. Can we start over?

Hello, my name is Half-price, and I’m in debt.

I am currently $9,042.59 in debt according to Mint.com, my favorite online personal finance application. Much better than the national average: $47,568[1] of debt per capita…holy ****! So with that fact, the current state of the economy (which is actually good for some), the current unemployment rate, especially in California AND the fact that I’m only 25? I don’t feel that badly. At least much better than this guy. He is attempting to cut 100% of his $90,316 debt in ten months. But then again at least he spent it on something useful…a law degree from Harvard. Unlike mr. harvard I have no college debt. I got a full scholarship to a great 4-year University and didn’t see the need for an advanced degree for what I wanted to do. So what does my $9k of debt consist of? Three “investments” that have yet to yield much return in any sense of the word.

I’m attempting not to be bitter. After all it did gain me a great health product that will last me 15 years, contact with the producer of a major blockbuster film who calls me by cell phone and my first lesson in entrepreneurship…starting (and closing) my first business.

I’ve began cutting back on my already simple lifestyle. I have cut back on alcohol almost entirely (10% because of money, 90% because for some reason I all of a sudden have a tendency to get hangovers). Is it me or have my bank account and my liver conspired against me? My friends did warn me about the year 26 alcohol intolerance syndrome. I started shopping at the dollar store for basic toiletries. What would have cost me $35 at the grocery store was only $8 at the 99cent store. The only name brand item I bought was Colgate toothpaste (I’m typically a Crest person but I wasn’t going to be picky). The 99cent liquid detergent, foaming hand soap and body wash haven’t made me feel any less clean than normal…not once.

What is the stigma around debt? Where does it come from? Chances are we are ALL in it. A couple weeks ago I attended a talk given by Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics. He kept coming back to the story of how money began in this small village however long ago where instead of the traditional gift society model the mayor decided to introduce a currency made of round pieces of animal hide. He distributed 10 pieces to each family at the beginning of the year and said “at the end of the year each family will owe me 11 pieces”. Now this makes sense when compared to modern day money. We borrow $500k to buy a house and by the time we pay it back we’ve probably paid back double the amount that we initially borrowed, at least. This is very interesting, by the end of the year ten families would have to go bankrupt. Why? because where would that 11th piece for each family come from? So in actuality debt has been in existence almost exactly as long as currency itself.

It used to be that families would have a trade or a crop and they would produce way too much for themselves to consume so they gave away what was left…which was actually a lot. And if everyone in the town was producing and giving away a portion of what they had then everyone would get enough of what they needed: food, clothes, basic services, everything.

If you think about it some of the “poorest” people in America are not in fact the poorest. Why? because they have no debt! They live paycheck to paycheck? Yes. Get help from the government? Maybe. Are homeless and/or jobless? Some of them. But there are doctors, lawyers even Fortune 500 CEOs that are up to their ears in debt. THESE are in fact the poorest people in our society. So then “poor” is not a measurement of how much money you have in the bank (or under the mattress, or in the coffee can in the cupboard or in the safe behind the family portrait) but “poor” is a measurement of assets, relationships, borrowing power and class. Interesting.

I wasn’t exactly expecting to come to that conclusion…in fact I’ve never even seen the word “poor” from that angle. I’m thankful for the change in perspective.

Buy what you need, create what you want.
-Half-price

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[1] When the news is scaring US citizens with “$47k of debt per capita” they fail to mention to the public that this number actually refers to public debt. That’s what the government owes per capita. Personal, private or “consumer” debt, how much actual individuals, not companies, or any level of government owes is actually between $7-20k depending on your sources.