Friday, January 17, 2014

Planning Purchases



// Etsy // deviantART //

It is considered rude to discuss personal finances. Not when we're using general terms--the specifics are what's touchy. You can't directly ask someone how much money they made this year, just like you can't ask a middle-aged woman how old she is. TODAY Money addresses this phenomenon:

"Although the theme of money seems to endlessly get discussed, most of this talk cleverly keeps money at an arm's length away: It’s about other people’s wealth or lack thereof, how to make money, how to lose it, banking, taxes, the economy, etc. But when it comes to our personal money, it’s a very different matter. Personal money feels private. There is a loud silence in the room when we talk about our personal finances.

Attitudes about money can expose the deepest aspects of our personality or insecurities. We have a feeling, largely unconscious, that it might reveal too much about us. It might reveal our irrationality, impulsiveness and the unthought-out nature of our money attitudes."

I disagree with the emphatic framing of that last bit, as if it were a fact and not conjecture, but the hypothesis is intriguing. If you prefer a scholarly source, The Psychology of Money says:

"Money is frequently discussed--the tax rates, cost of living, price of property--but remains a taboo topic. Celebrities and ordinary mortals seem happier to talk about their sex lives and mental illnesses long before their monetary status, salary or frequent financial transactions. Secrets about money matters are surprising in our [American] society but not in all cultures. In the openly materialistic cultures of South-east Asia, enquiries into others' and open discussion of one's own financial affairs seem quite acceptable." [Please note that the stated difference between America and SE Asia is the openness, not the materialism itself.]

Bishop Mark Hanson told Portico Benefit Services, "Money is such a private issue, and so often it's loaded with feelings of guilt, and maybe bitterness, and even resentment." [Bold added.]

I could go on quoting for ages--this Huffington Post column is interesting--but I want to eventually get to my point. The paragraphs above are meant to preface the fact that I am going to disclose some specifics about my financial situation, because I don't see a rational reason why I shouldn't.



// Money Man //

Recently my mother mentioned that to her money means freedom, whereas to my dad money means security. In terms of fiscal attitudes, I resemble my father. Now that I am supposedly an adult, I feel tremendously guilty and anxious about not being financially independent.

Here's a brief overview of my situation: I live with my parents and have a part-time job. I do pay rent and contribute to household expenses, but my contribution is based on a percentage of my income rather than on the actual cost of my existence. When you factor in medication and therapy, both of which are pretty damn necessary, the $380 payment seems paltry. (Initially I wanted to give everything to my parents, but they insisted that it would be unhealthy.)

Anyway, my projected gross income for February is $760. (Keep in mind that I live in the Bay Area, where the cost of living is staggeringly high.) This is how I divide up what I make: a third for taxes, half for my parents, and a sixth for spending or saving. That leaves $125 for February fun. (Or I could be very sensible and not touch it, but hahaha no.)

As much as I love thrift shops, I want to support endeavors to manufacture new things in an ethical manner. But I am having a hard time deciding where to devote funds in order to maximize my dollars-to-satisfaction ratio. There are a few candidates, several from this series, but that's actually kind of a dilemma (albeit a good one as shopping problems go). How do I pick between so many options?

I am considering MakrBox, which Unpack the Box describes thus: "MakrBox is an indie subscription that features handmade items that are that are beautiful, artful and sustainable." The service's website offers similar thoughts: "MakrBox is a response to the big-factory, made-in-China, disposable product culture we live in. We [...] focus on truly unique handcrafted goods built by independent makers. Every product we ship is carefully chosen and must meet our strict requirements of sustainable production, artful craftsmanship and thoughtful design." The concept is right, but not all of the products appeal to me.

I guess I will keep seeking for a retailer that enchants completely. I don't want to buy for the sake of buying.



// Eva Senin Pernas //

In closing, a caveat: I know that my situation is tremendously privileged. Every day I consider where I would be if my parents couldn't support me, and feel a weird kind of hypothetical dread. (At this point in time, my mental illness makes me unable to function without significant support.) That said, I also know that I have middle-class myopia, so please feel free to offer criticism. I appreciate being given opportunities to expand my perspective!

22 comments :

  1. I understand, there is a warm joy and satisfaction with unpacking a box and making a discovery. Can I make a recommendation? Look into Ophelia's Apothecary. Affordable. She makes everything herself. You can tell her your skin concerns and allergies and she substitutes. Plus, lovely. I held her subscription for many months and was very happy.

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    1. I will look her up! Thank you for the suggestion; I appreciate it especially from a connoisseur like yourself!

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    2. ~blushes~ I think she'd be a good fit. She's half the price of MakrBox, but I might be slightly biased since I think her lip balms are epic.

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    3. I enjoy epic lip balms! But gosh, who wouldn't want an epic lip balm? That sounds, well, epic.

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  2. Thank you for your transparency! I love talking about money and budgeting and am part of online debt free forums, but I agree it's a little awkward when talking about it in social gatherings. Thanks for your thoughts! I enjoyed reading.

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    1. Oh, and I was excited to see your first picture of the money rose because I made a few of those for Christmas gifts this year with $2 bills. :-)

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    2. Ooh, that's a cool present! And thank you for reading! If you wanna share links to some of those forums, I would definitely be interested.

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  3. Very interested post! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. it really is a strange phenomenon. my hubs and i have been getting by what is around the living wage for the past 5 yrs or so, although we never were really good at budgeting but both very frugal so it's always been fine. i remembered once a neighbor complaining to us how she got laid off and had to downsize her house (to live next to us) from her big house before and just kept to myself that she was living in the home we (w/ 2 roommates) & the salary two of us were living on. but it's a diff perspective when you start making more you can support yourself, and i'm excited we'll begin being able to pay off debt soon w/ my husband having graduated college. to me money though is definitely freedom, the whole "go to hell money" thing, but i also look at my ability to make money as a huge social privileged, and look forward to being able to keep living frugally and donate a lot to people in need over that whole american dream of retiring to a lake house and a boat/whatnot. so i'm just getting really off topic, but supporting ethical purchases is awesome and, there is absolutely no shame in living w/ your parents! actually, i'm living w/ my dad now since my husband is in Austin already. i'm also paying him rent, it's more, but my salary is also more (i work fulltime) & works out for both of us. in college i wish i wouldn't have lived at home for part of it, but now i'm just working/studying most of the time anyway so it works out for both of us (and the cats keep him company : ).

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    1. I think your version of the American dream is better! (Sorry I don't have a more thorough response, haha. I appreciate this whole comment but don't have a lot to say.)

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  5. Money's quite a thing, isn't it? You can't survive alone without it (at least in the 'first-world', urban environment we currently inhabit), but at the same time it's made into the kind of taboo that other necessities like food aren't when it comes to discussion. What annoys me is that you can't 'win' in discussion terms no matter which way you have it - if you have a surplus of money, you don't want to talk about it because it either seems like bragging, or people will suddenly develop this irresistible urge to tell you what you should do with it (usually in very sanctimonious tones). If you have a dearth of money, people will often get uncomfortable (guilt at haivng more), or annoyed (because you're seen as 'whining' or 'angling'). Obviously this isn't the case with all people everywhere, but it's a sort of set of socially conditioned responses that crop up all too frequently..

    Generally speaking, I don't feel like I need to know how people are earning/spending, but I do find it interesting when they do share, so thanks ^_^. The only area where I'm really curious is spending on food. Like what people's grocery budgets are and what they can get for X amount in X country. I have a wierd obsession with this :-P

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    1. Definitely true. It's really awkward. I think the whole thing is symptomatic of individualistic capitalism, where "socio" and "economics" belong in one word.

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    2. My comment seemed less opaque when I wrote it, but what I was trying to say is that since social class and economic class are inextricably tied, talking about money causes social stress and shame on either side of things. Which is also a clumsy way to put it, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Hopefully, haha.

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    3. I understood :-) It is indeed awkard when something ike money becomes inextricably tied with social identity. It's one of the reasons that my schools had a uniforms (most here do) and restrictions on jewellery, etc. It wasn't just to kill people's fun - it did really help to stem the tide of 'label wars' and shaming people because they were 'poor' (kids can be cruel). Obviously, obnoxious people found other ways to dig at people they didn't like, but at least it helped to keep money from being something that the kids displayed by their very appearance.

      Because kids? Generally not afraid to talk about money...

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    4. I went to a Catholic high school that had uniforms, although the policy was instituted more to discourage gang symbols than class warfare. (Yup, I live in that kind of neighborhood.) For the most part I approve of uniforms, despite being all about ~self expression~, because of the reasons you mentioned.

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  6. I just posted what our family income is...people are funny on numbers...If given a choice to wear your age or weight most people would wear there age....I wonder if people would wear there wages print on a t-shirt or have it print in paper so all can see.
    Maybe the question should be...which employer exploits there workers.

    Coffee is on

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    1. People ARE funny on numbers! That's the perfect way to put it. I guess I would rather wear my age than my weight. . . Definitely some food for thought there.

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  7. I'm actually glad that you brought this up. Money can be kind of a taboo thing to bring up, especially when it comes to education. I am going to college right now, and there is no way I could be going right now with having a child unless I was getting student loans. (My sister and her husband have also been letting us stay with them for the past two and a half years after I left my ex-boyfriend) So, I have been living off of those and the little bit of income I get from working part-time at McDonald's. I went a while not even having any money at all, and what little I did have was from the yearly PFD that Alaskan residents get in October. So it was very strange to suddenly have money, and I didn't budget that well when I first got it. Now I have gotten better at it, but it still doesn't get easier. That's why I appreciate blogs like yours, where you emphasize the aspect of putting together clothes in different and offbeat ways to try and make new creations. I love it! It really inspires me to not go out and buy a bunch of new clothes (which is tempting to do since there is really no limit to amazing stuff out there). Thanks for what you do, Sonya! I love what you do with this blog. Keep up the great work! Also, thanks for being honest with us about this stuff. Not a lot of people openly blog about it to the extent that you have.

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    1. I really admire that you cope as a single parent on a constrained budget, AND kick ass as a student, AND work. (And have a blog!) Dealing with all of that seems unimaginably hard to me, since any one of those things can take a lot of time and energy.

      I'm glad that we can play off of each other in terms of remixing and inspiration, and figure out a way to make it work without breaking the bank. Because style is priceless, amirite? Haha.

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