When you live alone, no one will kick you out of bed for eating crackers.

Ask the Bitches: Why Are Painted Mason Jars the Internet’s Only Solution to My Tiny Apartment Woes?

In finance, Piggy and I are as the knuckle-dragging Australopithecus. We’re upright, we get the job done, don’t yell at us! But we’re the clumsiest possibly hominids. Our knowledge is erratically cobbled together from history books, finance podcasts, Kitty’s racist-yet-thrifty grandpa, and poorly-sourced socialist Facebook memes.

Thankfully, there are other areas where we are Homo neanderthalensis: graceful and erect, with powerful bodies and minds, superbly adapted to the cold, with cosmopolitan attitudes on interspecies breeding. Our knowledge in these areas is instinctual, virtuosic. And one of these areas is organizing small spaces.

Today we have a great reader question from our Tumblr on this very topic:

Hi! I love your blog and I find it really helpful!! I’m a mid-20s human in the SF Bay Area. I got a job and and was able to get an extra $15k in my salary (thanks to your advice!), and have now moved into my own little studio. My problem is this: Everything to help you “save space” on the web seems to actually be “how to move your entire kitchen into hand-painted mason jars”. Any advice on how to organize my space without buying useless storage buckets on Amazon?

Is… is this what I think it is? IS THIS PERMISSION TO GO ON MY BIG RANT ABOUT MASON JARS? Oh, thank the stars! (Jars?)

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The transition from struggling to thriving can be very jarring.

Ask the Bitches: I Know How to Struggle and Fight, but I Don’t Know How to Succeed

Oh, everyone, I have a great treat for you today. It’s a very interesting letter from one of our Patreon supporters!

If you don’t already know, anyone who makes a $5 donation to our Patreon account will get to ask us a question. Any question! And they may do so privately or publicly. This was a private question, but I asked our patron (whom I’ll call Hope) if I could share it with you. Because despite Hope’s rather specific situation, I think it speaks to a surprisingly universal experience.

I’m a single mom and have spent the last 7 out of my son’s 10 years of life struggling HARD. I’ve climbed my way up my professional ladder with no formal education or degree. I accrued $20K in debt during these hard years, but I have a plan to pay it off over the next two years, and overall my prospects are good.

My problem is this: I’ve always dreamed of putting away money for a down payment on a house my son can grow up in. But my son will be 12 by the time I’m ready to start saving. By the time I can afford a house, we’d have little time to enjoy it together. I can’t see myself being stuck with a house at 40 years old and my son gone off to school or whatever he ends up doing.

I know it sounds like this isn’t a problem, but I’m afraid that without a plan or goal, I’ll end up squandering anything I’m able to save once I get this paid off. I’m afraid of having money and not struggling and wasting money. I’m thinking of starting a college fund, a travel fund, I have no idea fund, but other than the small-scale budgeting I can do, I have no idea how money works. 

How can I “get riches” and be smart and not lose them for lack of a plan? is it too late to set my son up for success in other ways? Should I just be talking to an accountant? 

Any advice you could give would be great. I know how to struggle and fight, but I don’t know how to succeed.

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Beat identity thieves to the punch. File your taxes early.

Go Ahead and File Your Taxes Right Freakin’ Now

Ah, late winter. What a fine season!

Thick stews and steaming hot soups for dinner every night… haven’t seen my friends in weeks… onto our second tank of expensive-ass oil heat for the season… so pale and wan I look like one of the tuberculoid Brontë sisters, but with fewer published novels to show for it… people asking me what I want to do for my birthday…

Oh. Wait. I hate late winter!

I’m a procrastinator when it comes to nearly everything, but the one exception is filing taxes early. I love getting my taxes out of the way in February. And there’s a few really good reasons for it.

Lower your risk for identity theft

If some kind of l33t haxx0r gets their hands on your social security number, it’s relatively easy for them to file a fraudulent return in your name and pocket your return funds. Joke’s on anyone who tried to do this to me from 2008-2012! Self employment taxes are a bitch!

This is one of the most common forms of identity theft. Although it can usually be sorted out, it takes a long-ass time to do so—an average of 278 days. I’m sure that involves untold hours of bureaucratic headaches and heartaches.

A tightly protected social security number is a great place to start, but identity thieves could phish this information from gullible family members or steal it from employers with poor information security. That’s why the best secondary line of defense is filing taxes early. Knowing that most people wait until April to file, identity thieves work quickly to file their fraudulent returns first. Beat them to the punch.

It’s especially crucial this year due to the recent Equifax breach, which we wrote about here. (more…)

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Do not get me started on the whole "audiobooks aren't books" thing.

Your Library Lets You Stream Audiobooks and eBooks FOR FREEEEEEE!

Our love of libraries is well-documented. Did we mention we feel the same way about librarians? We’re working on a dating app to connect our two core user demographics: INTJs and librarians. It’s called Stackitect, and it’s coming in 2019! Copyright, copyright, copyright. (Copyright law works just like triple talaq, yes?)

We love going to the library in person. Entering a library feels like taking an Adderall. (Again, I assume. I’m lame.) My ass gets FOCUSED! It’s the perfect place to work, read, research, study, and learn. And whatever you’re doing, librarians can be incredibly helpful. They are friendly, knowledgable, and waging a quiet war to protect us from fascism.

But sometimes it’s tricky to physically get to your library. Maybe the parking situation is rough, or the hours overlap with your work schedule, or a trip requires a long series of bus rides. Maybe you find the librarians too distractingly sexy. I’m not here to judge.

Too sexxxay.

Have no fear! In recent years, libraries have made incredible strides into the dense and unmappable jungle that is the internet. There’s a slew of new and constantly-improving apps that allow you to instantly rent and return free audiobooks and ebooks. Including graphic novels! And movies!

As you well know, the only thing we love more than librarians is free shit. Here are some of the top apps. Please go download them immediately.

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What’s the Effect of Social Media on Your Finances?

“What’s the effect of social media on my finances?”

Our regular readers know that we ask our Patreon supporters to help us choose article topics. This month’s poll was a dead heat, so we decided to take on both! And this was the question posed.

It’s a tough one to answer comprehensively with data. Everyone uses different platforms, in different amounts, for different reasons. But some immediate commonalities jumped out at us. Some were good, and some were bad. In honor of my tepid* acknowledgment that Star Wars exists, I’ve categorized them into light and dark sides.

GUYS I’M JUST SO

HIP AND TOPICAL

YOU CAN’T EVEN HANDLE IT.

Go see a star war.

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I said I wanted to be a horse when I grew up.

The Actually Helpful, Nuanced, Non-Bullshit Way to Choose a Future Career

I waded into a lot of “career advice” as part of my research for this article. It was so universally bad that I feel stirred to apologize for it, even though I didn’t write it.

I am so, so sorry. 

We haven’t improved on any of it over the last few decades. In fact, it may have gotten worse since I was a student, back during the Polk administration.

This article is my apology to you. It contains all of the best and wisest advice I have for teenagers and young adults trying to choose which career is right for them. It may also be helpful to fellow olds who have a vague feeling that they’re ready for a change.

The key isn’t to rely on experiences. Instead you must identify and follow where the immutable parts of your deeper personality.

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Piggy and I are both card-carrying members of the Highly-Educated Older Millennials Making a Liberal Arts Degree Work Come Hell or High Water Club.

High School Students Have No Way of Knowing What Career to Choose. Why Do We Make Them Do It Anyway?

We have a favorite reader demographic. And no, it’s not fellow personal-finance-slash-chicken enthusiasts, though they’re a damn close second!

It’s the Younglings. The sweet children of winter who live in the wild, welcoming woods of Tumblr. They are wise beyond their years, eager for our advice, and willing to politely overlook the old-ass pop cultural references they don’t understand.

Crying Native American man, Geocities, “fingerprints,” carrying no more than exactly 2,000 pounds of meat, the shoeing of George W. Bush, and Pogs, Pogs, Pogs!

A very frequent question we get from them concerns the choosing of a future career path. For high-school-age kids, there’s a lot of pressure to articulate some kind of plan for what you want to study, and how you’d like to translate that into a job. It’s appallingly weird that we would set such questions to fifteen-year-olds! Especially given all the ways that we as a society fail to help them find the answer.

But seriously, though: Pogs.

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Meaning a necklace, not a garrote.

I Have No Gift to Bring Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum: The Anti-Consumerist Gift Guide

Kitty: <writes title>

Kitty: <pats self on back until wrist breaks>

Self-congratulatory.

As we discussed earlier this month, shopping for holiday gifts can be… well, sucky. As often as it’s fun, it’s stressful and financially draining.

But if you’ve been paying attention to our RADICAL SOCIAL JUSTICE WAR CRIES, you won’t be surprised to hear that we’re pretty conflicted about holiday gift-giving in general. Specifically, our gripe is with the hyped-up mass commercialization and the endless push to consume.

Tokens and gestures of kindness give us a seasonal thrill—I mean, we’re not totally dead inside! Merely partially! But when you hate consumerism, it can be really hard to participate in the good parts of the tradition without feeling like you’ve lost touch with your own values.

Anti-consumerism is a lake fed by many rivers. Mindless consumption is bad for people, bad for the planet, bad for your wallet, and rote and impersonal. Some people care a lot about one or two of those aspects more strongly than others. If only there was some kind of helpful venn diagram that broke down anti-consumerist attitudes about gift giving…

Oh wait! Silly me, I’m a graphic designer! I’m paid to eat data and shit venn diagrams!

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Our society is deeply invested in upholding a cultural myth that all mothers know instinctively how to nurture and love. They don't.

Ask the Bitches: I Was Guilted Into Caring for a Sick, Abusive Parent for Years. Now What?

We’ve been talking a lot recently about unequal circumstances. Some people, through no fault of their own, have a harder time achieving financial independence than others. This is why the “anyone can do it,” one-size-fits-all success narrative is harmful and exclusionary.

This question is a good example of one such set of circumstances. This came to us from an anonymous Tumblr follower.

“Bitches I need advice, I have never had a job because I was guilted into caring for an emotionaly abusive sick mother right out of high school. I am twenty three and have no idea what to go into now that I am free. I’m mostly afraid of going to school because I don’t have any money, but I have no idea what jobs I can get without an education! I don’t want to work in fast food and retail until I’m thirty, please tell me you can advise this poor bitch :(“

A poor bitch indeed. Oh, my sweet child of winter.

My poor child of winter.

You have opened the door to my heart, and also my memories. Because I, too, spent a precious chunk of my young adulthood doing the exact same thing.

I ask myself why I did it all the time. The only real answer is that there is immense social pressure on children to care for their ill parents—particularly daughters. Friends and family members I hadn’t spoken with in years (or ever) tracked me down. They got my phone number from my mother, or found me on social media, and twisted my arm until it broke. I was too young and inexperienced to tell them to fuck off.

I share these details because I want you to know that you are not alone, and you will never be alone. Abusive and toxic people are very good at turning illness to their advantage. Their greedy hearts are fed by the sympathy and attention, and they will manipulate the situation to get what they want from you.

And the people who were absent? Who enabled them? Looked the other way? They’re tumbling out of the woodwork like termites to volunteer you for the job they don’t want to perform themselves.

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When you come from a family such as mine, exchanging presents at holidays becomes a massive impracticality.

How Can I Tame My Family’s Crazy Gift-Giving Expectations?

Want to know how much the average American spends on Christmas gifts in a single year?

It’s $929.

Keep in mind that this does not include airfare to visit family, food and drink for large gatherings, donations to charity, holiday decorations, or other common yuletide purchases. That’s just the gifts.

Given that a majority of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency, it’s hardly surprising that a majority of Americans also go into debt to buy Christmas gifts.

This indicates there is a startling cognitive dissonance around Christmas. Our cultural scripts constantly remind us that gifts are unnecessary, that the true spirit of the season is love. Yet so many of us martyr ourselves financially to be able to give each other yet more stuff.

It’s hard to push back against the weight of tradition, but the results are well worth the effort. We Bitches, using different systems, have managed to make the last several winter holidays a stress-free, debt-free season. Here are our secrets.

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