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 your self.   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.