The Simple Dollar tackles privilege and advantage

Posted in simple living with tags , , on 07/24/2015 by Fox

Well, well, well. Looks like I haven’t been the only one told that my story is due to “privilege.”

“The other day, I received a note from a reader who informed me that the only reason that my story of financial recovery was even possible was due to my own ‘privileges.’

“In the end, life deals you a hand of cards. Sometimes that hand of cards is good and sometimes it isn’t, but the game isn’t over after the deal. You choose how to play your hand and make the most of it.”

This idea that Trent or I only did what we did because of our (unspecified) privileges is toxic. Yes, disadvantage is real. Privilege is real. But telling people that their success was possible only through privilege is just as oppressive as telling people that success is only for the privileged. I’m white, I pulled my ass out of debt. If I did so only because of my privilege, does that mean that someone who is Latino or physically handicapped or transgendered can’t pull themselves out? That their “disadvantage” makes it so that they can never hope to achieve what I have?

Last time I checked, that was called “racism.” See also: “offensive.”

You don’t win even when you win OR I got called a “classist” for insisting that actually, most people could get rid of their debt

Posted in simple living with tags , , on 07/21/2015 by Fox

You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.
~Jim Rohn

Bulkiest post title in the history of the blog, guys.

So in a comment thread on another website, I mentioned that actually, I’d paid my loans off making about minimum wage and that most people could do it…if they really wanted to.

I got called “classist” and “class collaborator.” I got told that “not everyone has bootstraps.” I got told that it’s not possible “if you’ve ever had even one period of longer than a couple weeks on unemployment [and/or] had to pay all your own expenses.”

Nevermind that during the time I was in debt I spent two months unemployed and I received no substantial aid from any quarter.

Of course a lot of this is the Social Justice Warrior mindset. Gotta stick up for the little guys, even against other little guys. Oh, wait, I’m white, dammit, that means my opinion is invalid. Shit. But I digress. While it’s impossible to tell, given the following of this particular website, no doubt these are most likely youngish, affluent, white females. They probably have no idea what it’s like to not be able to afford a new bath towel set in the fabric and colorway they prefer, nevermind not being able to afford a bath towel, period.

But I’m the classist prick because I insist that yes, most people can pay off their debt and they don’t because they don’t want to. God forbid they give up their lattes and apparently buying a new shower curtain liner every month is mandatory for the rest of humanity. I did not realize this. I change mine when it’s gross. At no point during my comment did I say that everyone can do this. I know for a god damn fact that there are people who cannot, for various very good reasons. My comment was that most people can, and that a lot of the bitchers don’t want to give up the bitching. It’s fashionable to be in debt, and god damn there’s a post I’ve been meaning to write since the blog’s inception.

These people think they’re being socially conscious. They think they are sticking up for the little guy. They honestly feel that getting out of debt or making do is impossible. And they think this because they’ve never lived it. They’ve never been without that latte or that new shower curtain liner or the new bath towel set. They’ve never gone without and minimalism is this big crazy thing that’s completely new and fresh and it’s all about sticking it to The Man and saving the environment and looking good and organic bamboo free-range yoga pants and they forget that some of us have been practicing minimalism for completely different reasons and sometimes for a very long time. Only it’s not cool when we do it, because we look like hobo Goodwill shoplifters and not cool fashionable people who practice White Buddhism.

And if we make it, well, we’re just a fluke. It’s where you live. It’s your employment history. It’s where you went to college. It’s your parents or your significant other. If you didn’t have all that, where would you be then, so there.

No, the Social Justice Warrior has to swing down from the fucking heavens with manna and name-brand shoes. You can’t have your great American story about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. The new great American story is the affluent taking pity on the lesser beings.

When do we encourage and inspire people to pull themselves up? Where do you draw the line between valid excuse and failure to take personal responsibility? When do affluent white people stop getting into other peoples’ business?

Not with a bang, but a whimper: “Millennials” and the new world order

Posted in simple living with tags , on 04/20/2015 by Fox

There is nothing permanent except change.
~Heraclitus

Unsurprisingly, television ownership and use are falling. I’m not even surprised it’s picked up speed. As ease of streaming increases, and as television culture as we knew it decreases, the change is only going to become more rapid.

It’s like good ol’ Blockbuster. Faded away to obscurity because something better has come along. I saw the new Cosmos on Hulu. Netflix is creating their own television series. It’s happening…television has become the domain of the older generations. Television channels are becoming horrible, panicked conglomerations of whatever they think will bring in viewers. Hello, bullshit reality TV on every channel. Television companies are popping out idiocy now in hopes of prolonging their own demise. Unless they innovate, death is inevitable.

Commercials as we know them are dying as well. Hulu will prop them up for a while, but I predict we’ll see more product placement and/or companies like Netflix will continue to bankroll their own shows in order to entice viewers to continue with their service rather than switch to another. In short, we’ll see streaming channels rather than television channels.

What does surprise me is that car ownership may be in decline as well. It’s not because of the smartphone, though, as the writer suggests. Read the comments. The decline in car ownership is due to increasing urbanization, increasing costs of ownership (although the guy who said a Versa Note is “$800 a month before gasoline” is full of shit), and increasing college attendance with the student loans that accompany it.

In short, kids these days are broke-ass motherfuckers (what cursing?) that don’t need a car as badly as they once did.

That being said, cars aren’t going the way of televisions. There will always be those, like me, who choose to own a car for whatever reasons. But you can bet your ass that if this trend continues you’re going to start seeing sub-trends of more environmentally friendly vehicles and more budget sub-compact cars.

In the meantime, I’m going to bask in the slow death of the television.

Life really doesn’t need to be that complicated

Posted in simple living with tags , on 04/04/2015 by Fox

In the long run, I believe that honesty is definitely the best policy. One can get away by being dishonest for a short term, but ultimately, honesty is what pays.
~Kapil Dev

When I began actively looking into buying a house, I visited my credit union to inquire about how much I could get a loan for and the general interest rate I could expect. I had exactly enough credit history to apply for a loan. The broker said “You must live a very simple life.” I replied with “I don’t like debt.”

And it’s true. My life is drama-free and relatively simple. The key is being honest with yourself and with those you deal with.

My neighbor is losing his house. He’s moving into an apartment, and he wondered aloud to me what would happen if he left the utilities in the complex’s name. I told him he’d probably be fined by his complex and then evicted if he didn’t take care of it. Then he decided to put the utilities in his roommate’s name so he didn’t have to pay the balance he owes the utility company. Now he’s going to stop paying on one of his rent-to-own furniture sets because he doesn’t want it anymore.

This is exactly the sort of dishonesty that gets people into these situations. He is, sadly, not the only person I’ve seen work as hard at not paying as some people do at just making the money to pay what is owed.

But being honest with others is easy. The hard part is being honest with yourself.

You have to know what your weaknesses are. You have to acknowledge when you’re making excuses in order to stop making them. Admitting that “I’m going to just buy shit and that’s just the way I am” is failing to be honest with yourself. “I’m just going to buy shit and I don’t have control over my finances” is much more truthful. There are times to just buy shit, but those should be few and far between, depending on your financial situation. Eventually you know when and where to spend and how much to allot yourself to indulge your particular weaknesses. You don’t stress out about your purchases because you know it’s okay. You’ve got it covered.

Being honest with yourself is realizing your mistakes and correcting or mitigating them. It’s knowing that you’re losing your home because you’ve chosen to spend your money on rent-to-own furniture, DVDs, and late payment fees. It’s knowing that buying that thing isn’t the best move, but you’re not going to lose your home because your mortgage payment has already been sent out for next month, you’ve got everything else covered, and your emergency fund is rebuilding itself nicely.

Trying to fix your mistakes is costly, trying to prevent them is hard, but trying to get out of them dishonestly will bite you in the ass every time. What I didn’t tell my neighbor was that the utility company requires the name on the lease to match the name on the account. The digital age will ensure you pay your pound of flesh, there’s no way around it.

“Rewards” credit cards are scams

Posted in simple living with tags , , on 03/18/2015 by Fox

When I was young, people lived from paycheck to paycheck. Today, it seems like they live from credit card payment to credit card payment.
~Robert Kiyosaki

I know I’ve said it before (and I say it a lot more often in person), but “rebate” or “rewards” credit cards are scams. Not in the overt sense, but in more subtle ways.

One is the simple fact that it costs retailers to run cards. The more people who use cards, the more clout credit card companies have to set pricing for card readers. I work for a company that doesn’t regularly deal with the general public, and we don’t have a card reader. I had someone try to pay for something in our shop and get pissy with me because we didn’t have a card reader. Fuck you, too, dude. He was an old guy, which surprised me. Cash or check, the old fashioned way.

The more cards get used, the more retailers pay to accept payments, the more prices for goods rise to compensate. You will pay for those airline miles, one way or another. So will I, and everyone else.

The other way is more direct. I was recently offered a credit card that supposedly would “help reduce [my] mortgage principal balance by making everyday net purchases.”

Let me tell you internets, that’s actually kind of tempting. Then, being a tightwad and not a fool, I ran the numbers. The rebate (after the bullshit introductory period, which should never even be considered in such things), is one percent of purchases. Disbursements to your mortgage payment only occur once twenty-five dollars are gained in rebates.

I would need to spend $2,500 to earn $25 back in “rewards.”

In the meantime, if I carried a balance like 34% of Americans do, I’d be charged about 20% APR.

One percent cash back.
Twenty percent APR.
Does that seem worth it to you?

My biggest reason for not doing this is the temptation aspect. If I wanted rewards, I’d need to use the card for more than just the occasional internet purchase. And then I’d lose control and fall off my financial tightrope. I’m not a financial god, and if I was, I’d be some flawed Greco-Roman version. I fail (often, recently) and my main mode of financial control involves using cash to promote artificial scarcity. I’d have to become MUCH more stringent if I used a card for everyday purposes, and that’s hard for me. The system I have now works great. Fucking with it for a mere one percent rebate applied to my mortgage would be catastrophic.

There are a few situations in which credit cards are viable options, and in those situations, a rewards card (if the APR and other detriments were comparable) may be ideal. If you can manage to budget despite using a credit card and pay off your balance monthly, sure, get the card you want. But I’m not going to be able to get past that 1%/20% thing. That’s past Sketchytown and right smack dab in the middle of Areyoufuckingkiddingmeville.

Video killed the article star

Posted in simple living with tags on 02/23/2015 by Fox

When you’re young, you look at television and think, there’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want.
~Steve Jobs

Why do people prefer videos to articles? It seems like every time I try to find instructions for something, I get large numbers of Youtube videos and few articles. Even the links that look like articles are videos sometimes.

I much prefer reading to watching. I can read much faster than I can watch a how-to video, and it’s easier for me to skim to the pertinent shit than sit there and watch some guy blather on about how a new faucet will make my crappy late 70’s bathroom look god damn amazing. I. don’t. care. Even with crochet, I’d much rather read the article, then decide for myself if I need to watch a video to get some vague motion down.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just DIY projects and how-to. But do I really need to watch a video of still images and short clips while someone reads aloud what I could’ve read myself in a quarter of the time?

Check this shit out.

This is an article. For some bizarre reason, it is instead a Youtube video. The guy’s got a fantastic voice, and I’ll admit I listened to a number of these while crocheting, but it’s a damn article being read aloud. Take that fantastic voice and record some audiobooks, dude.

Skip to a random point in this one if you’re not interested in some excellent commentary on Half-Life 2. THIS IS A PROPER VIDEO. The visual portion of this video is absolutely integral to understanding the audio. He’s not just talking about how great HL2 is, he’s going over specific points in detail, and needs to illustrate them with clips from the game. The bit with the Barneys about forty minutes in still cracks me up.

Theoretically, this content could have been made into an article, but his delivery is a substantial part of the humor. Therefore, this is also a proper video.

I don’t know why this is a thing. It’s reflected in the pervasiveness of television over books, as well. Perhaps most people just prefer to passively absorb media via video than do the mental work involved in reading it. That does not mean, however, I won’t bitch about people turning perfectly good articles or blog posts into Youtube videos.

What’s sad is that I’m in the minority and am doomed to shout ineffectually at the uncaring sky.

Financially simple, remarkably strange

Posted in Uncategorized on 02/17/2015 by Fox

What was I doing here? What was the meaning of this trip? Was I just roaming around in a drug frenzy of some kind? Or had I really come out here to Las Vegas to work on a story? Who are these people, these faces? Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used car dealers from Dallas, and sweet Jesus, there were a hell of a lot of them at 4:30 on a Sunday morning, still humping the American dream, that vision of the big winner somehow emerging from the last minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino.
~Raoul Duke, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

I was applying for a mortgage loan at my credit union. The counselor printed out my credit report, and upon looking at it, remarked that I had just enough lines of credit to qualify, and no more.

“You must lead a very simple life,” he said.

I don’t know what I said in response. I should’ve asked why everyone else chooses to lead such complicated lives. Is it really that hard to know how to decline the allure of credit, or to say “I’ve spent enough,” or to realize that living at or above your means isn’t sustainable? I would’ve thought the latter, at least, is self-evident.

I know it’s easy to just slide into bad spending habits, or to have unforeseen circumstances ruin your plans. But how is it that financial simplicity is remarkable? How is it that most people choose to complicate themselves in one of the most excruciating ways?

I have no answer for this. Perhaps I should stop drinking while watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It does things to my head.

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