gratuitous kitten post

My little gal turns 17 sometime around now. She showed up in an April snowstorm in 1998 as a tiny kitten. Like palm sized kind of tiny. She’s still a wee cat, weighing in around 6 lbs, but size is not a measure of worth. She’s my therapy, my entertainment, my alarm clock, my constant companion. Together, we’ve lived in eight different places in three cities, with twelve roommates (not including O or my mom), three other cats, two dogs, and five foster dogs. She’s been a trooper through it all. She has cost $348.99 so far this year (yep! I keep a budget) and probably thousands overall, but I consider every cent of it well spent.

Cleo’s here with me on this latest adventure, while my other cat and dog stay with my mom in Manitoba, because she has kidney failure and requires special care. I have no idea how much longer we’ll be together but I hope it is many, many more months. And money will not be the reason we part. In two decades that have seen a lot of upheaval, she has been a source of stability and comfort. If it doesn’t sound too sucky to say, I don’t know how I would have managed moving here without her. And so, without further ado…. pictures! Really, this whole post is just an excuse to post pictures of my cat. I wish I had some baby pics but they are all in a box in my mom’s basement so you’ll just have to imagine how big her ears were.

cleo loves the sunny spots  (me too!)

cleo loves the sunny spots
(me too!)

one of seven million pictures of cleo and rufus spooning

one of seven million pictures of cleo and rufus spooning

cautiously exploring our new back yard

cautiously exploring our new back yard

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the ethics of austerity

This is not a post providing intelligent macro-level critique of neoliberal economics and capitalism. This is just some good ol’ micro-level whining. I am quite fine living on a serious budget. I’m okay making do with the clothes and shoes that are already in my closet. Although it would be nice to have a computer that wasn’t eight years old or a pay-as-you-go flip phone, they are both doing what I need them to do. And books? Movies? More than happy to be getting those from the library.

My problems are food and beauty products. I need to eat, obviously. Maybe some would disagree, but I think being clean and presentable is also a necessity. These are the two areas of my budget where there is some room for savings. And these are the two areas where, in order to spend as little cash as possible, I make choices that I hate.

Food… I’m vegetarian. I chose not to eat meat for a variety of reasons, and one of those reasons is the way animals are treated in industrial agriculture. I do chose to eat eggs and dairy, fully aware that both of those industries also have some pretty questionable and, okay, downright shitty, practices. I try to limit my dairy purchases but omg, I love cheese. And eggs are just a super easy and convenient source of protein. My dilemma now is that as an unemployed student, I can’t really afford to buy free-run, organic eggs from a local producer. We’re talking the difference between $3.59 and $6.99 per carton. Or, yes, I can afford the $3.40 price difference, but where do I stop? With eggs? Cheese? My organic apple habit? At some point it isn’t a few bucks anymore but an extra $15 or $20 per shopping trip.

Beauty…. Besides the fact that I don’t want to drench myself in a bunch of chemicals, I also have had problems with eczema since I was a teenager. I have a very simple beauty routine and I stick to very basic products. Like the $24 bottle of argan oil. Or that $16 tub of coconut oil. And just like that, I’ve spent $150. The only up side is that the products last for ages so I spend that amount a couple of times a year.

With the beauty products, I suck it up. After years of experimenting, I’ve found a handful of products that don’t make my eczema flair up and I’m sticking to them. With food…. I stand in front of the dairy case wrestling with my conscience and wishing that we lived in a kinder world. Sometimes my desire for yogurt wins out. Sometimes I spend the extra on the organic option. Sometimes I just skip buying it altogether. And none of those choices feel good. The last one seems easiest, but I still have to eat something and every choice opens up a whole new round of questions. How much fuel was used to ship this? Were the workers paid fairly? Was rainforest cleared to grow this crop? And on and on. While all of these issues are so much bigger than my monthly food budget, having money at least provides me with the option of making more ethical choices. Or at least the illusion of making ethical choices….. I’ll get on my greenwashing soap box another time!

queen of versailles

Watched this documentary on the Passionate Eye last night (I think it’s also available on Netflix). It’s pretty fantastic on a variety of levels. The filmmakers started out making a movie about the uber-wealthy Siegel’s, who were building the largest and most expensive single-family home in the U.S. But the market collapse in 2008 turned the film into an oddly funny cautionary tale.

Before you start feeling too worried about the Siegels, I’m happy to report that they are back on their feet, suing the filmmakers and finishing their travesty of a “home”. So hopefully some day they will get to use those ten kitchens, roller/ice rink, regulation size baseball diamond and closets that are big enough for six families to live in. Okay… sarcasm is out of my system…

The interviews with the two oldest kids and the nannies, although a small part of the film, were the most interesting. Especially the nannies. Quite heartbreaking, actually. But I was most fascinated by the mom, Jackie. She seems like an intelligent and down-to-earth person, often very funny and self-depriciating, but also completely delusional and living in a fantasy land. And she’s my age!

Well, she’s older than me but in the film, she’s the age I am now and our lives are so far apart. She’s my age…. with eight children, married to a man 30 years older than her. My age, with huge fake boobs and a shopping habit of a million a year. In the middle of their financial crisis, she still managed to keep up with her laser treatments and botox injections. Their Christmas morning is nuts! Heaps and heaps of junk that no one will ever use. Their house is a mess. Dog shit, toys, stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff.

As I write this in my little apartment, living on less than $20,000 this year, sitting on my used furniture and eating off of used dishes,  I can’t help but feel that I’m so much happier than her. I actually felt sorry for her. I have love and I have autonomy. She is trapped by wealth. And as charming as she is in the film, she also seems kind of useless. Like she has no purpose in this world and all her worth is tied to having money. Made me a bit sad.

i’m baaaa-aack!

Back in school, that is. Again. And back to living hand-to-mouth. So let’s celebrate with a song!

For pretty much all of my adult life, whenever I’m most broke (like, so broke that I want to run out and be crazy irresponsible and buy new shoes and eat fancy food and splurge on an expensive bottle of gin… like, that kinda broke) THIS is the song I get in my head.

 

winnipeg cheapskate

In the middle of reading The Official Guide to Being a Winnipeg Cheapskate by Jeremy Bradley. Was planning to read it and write a review but I can tell you right now, I won’t make it to the end. Let me save you a few bucks or a trip to the library.

I’ll start positive. The biggest plus is that it doesn’t centre around shopping and consumption. There is a segment on the CBC morning show called “money saving moms” that is all about shopping for the best deals and it totally bugs me. Here’s a tip…. want to save money? Then don’t go shopping for a bunch of cheap crap you don’t need. This book does talk a bit about coupons and online deals, but it’s overall focus is on being frugal by doing things that are fun and cheap / free.

My biggest complaint is that is has nothing to do with Winnipeg, other than the premise that Winnipeggers are cheap. I was really hoping for some home grown tips like places to go and things to do in Winnipeg, not “have a garage sale” or “clean the house.”

There was also some pretty lame advice. Bradley suggests making extra money by getting crafty. Okay, but…

One idea – thanks to a school project from back in the day – is accordion-folding a page and tying it in the middle to make a butterfly. When you are done, set up a table outside and sell your art (p.7).

What?!? I mean, c’mon… this is not a serious suggestion. If it had started “One idea for your kids…” then maybe. Maybe. Though… I might make some money this way because my neighbours would feel sorry for me for being so pathetic and buy my stupid butterflies. And then talk behind my back about how I was totally losing it.

In the chapter on birthdays, he talks about surprise parties and suggests that a surprise guest list is better than a surprise event. I’m still with him at this point. Then he tells a story about bringing in a distant relative, in this case, a long-lost grandson. But wait…. who is paying for this distant relative to get to the party?  I guess it’s a cheap surprise for the organizer if the grandson is paying for the flight. Anyway… the whole thing didn’t seem well thought out.

I don’t want to diss the entire book. There are tons of really practical suggestions, like considering whether you can afford to live in the area of town you want and in the big house that you want before you actually buy a house. Being house poor sucks so maybe you’re better off starting lower and working your way up. So yes, excellent advice. There just didn’t seem to be anything mind blowing. Read blogs and read other books. There is already so much great information on being frugal that this book hardly seems necessary.

2 stars out of 5 (and both those stars are because Bradley seems like a really sweet guy).