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While we should all do what we can, the key phrase there is "what we can."

Ethical Consumption: How to Pollute the Planet and Exploit Labor Slightly Less

There’s a short story by Ursula K. LeGuin called The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. With apologies to the late, great author, I want to summarize it here:

In the city of Omelas, everyone is deliriously happy. The people eat well, drink well, and party all the time. There’s no sickness, no pain, and the weather’s always perfect. It’s a utopia. Everyone has everything they could possibly want or need.

Well, almost everyone. For deep in the heart of Omelas is a dark, damp, cold room. And in this room is a child: unwashed, starved, uneducated, and treated cruelly. They don’t have a name, a family, clothes, or a clue as to why they’re kept in horrible conditions.

Everyone in Omelas is taken to see the child once in their lifetimes. They’re made to understand that, somehow, all the glorious happiness of Omelas relies on this one person’s suffering. As long as this child suffers, everyone else in Omelas will thrive.

And it’s then that the individuals of Omelas make a choice: to stay in Omelas, content in the knowledge that their comfort and happiness relies on the misery of another; or to leave, to opt out, to go somewhere that might not be as perfect as Omelas, but where they can live without exploiting another for their own gain.

The ethical choice is, of course, to walk away from Omelas. It’s a fable for modern times.

We live in a world where so much of our lifestyles, our wealth, relies on exploitation. Animals live short, brutish lives on factory farms so we can eat meat from the supermarket. Carbon emissions slowly damage the climate to devastating effect so we can drive cars and ride airplanes. Children work twelve-hour work days in sweatshops so we can browse a closet full of fashionable clothes and still say “I have nothing to wear.”

The way we consume—food, clothing, electronics, everything—is, all too often, pretty fucking unethical.

Now here’s a gif of a doggo hanging out with some baby chicks because that shit just got real fucking dark!

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Podcast Episode 007: "I'm terrible at budgeting. Do I suck it up---or is there another way?"

Episode 007: “I’m Terrible at Budgeting. Do I Suck It Up—Or Is There Another Way?”



Today we’re doing that thing we love to do: taking age-old advice, rolling it up into a ball, and dunking it with the speed and grace of a green-screened figure.

You don’t have to budget to live a frugal, responsible life.

Today’s question

We tackle this topic at the behest of Patron Sarah C., who writes…

“How the HELL does someone stick to a budget? I have ADHD and self control and budgeting is already hard as is, so if you have any tips or tricks to help a gal stay in a budget (especially a very stringent one!) that would be neat :)”

Also today’s episode contains a bold-faced lie. In it, I swore I would never bring a chicken to the vet. This was recorded before my favorite chicken got sick. And I contemplated the enormous sacrifice she made laying an egg for us every single day, and I…

Brought her to an emergency avian specialist…

At great expense…

What can I say? I am as lava cake: crackly exterior, gushy interior.

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Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Ranked

It’s that time again…

The time of year when we gather with our fellow witches closest friends around a glowing green bonfire kitchen table to determine which village baby to steal away name-brand snacks are worth it… and witch which are not!

Last year we settled the ancient blood feud of which cheese cracker is best. There were lots of surprises in that test! And the results permanently altered the course of our cheese-cracker-buying habits.

This year we’re talking about chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies: a thin layer of vanilla cream resting in the loving embrace of two chocolate cookies.

Yes… we’re talking about Oreos and Faux-reos.

Guided by our extremely awesome Patreon donors, it is time to answer the question: can a store-brand cookie knock the Oreo from its throne and/or cast it down into the darkest pits of hell?!

Let’s find out!

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Don't try to parent your parents. That way lies madness.

Ask the Bitches: My Dad Sucks with Money. How Do I Make Him Change?

We have a letter from a reader today! And it’s a keeper.

Bitches, what can I do to help my parents be smarter with their money?

My dad is in his fifties, and he has really bad money habits. He makes a decent amount, but he clearly lives beyond his means. He drives a luxury car, and goes on 2-3 vacations every year. There’s a storage unit full of toys (ATVs, a home gym, etc.) he owns but barely uses. He orders in most meals, even though he has an amazing kitchen I would kill for. Seeing how wasteful he is makes me want to scream.

As far as I know, he has almost nothing saved away for retirement. He doesn’t seem to have an emergency fund. I don’t know how much debt he’s in, but I’ve seen his credit card come back declined more than once.

I’m so worried that he’ll reach retirement age with absolutely nothing. My own finances are probably in better shape, even though I’m younger and work at a tiny nonprofit! I’ve tried to educate him about personal finance several times in the past. He gets defensive and brushes me off. I offered to help him make a budget more than once, but he declines. Last time we argued about it, he said his plan is to never retire! What can I say to make him change?

When parents suck with money

This letter is perfectly timed, as our really, really, really ridiculously good-looking Patreon donors have asked us to write on the subject of parents who are bad with money.

I think a lot of young people can relate to this letter writer’s problem. On the whole, Millennials are better at setting financial goals and saving/investing toward them than their Baby Boomer parents. (Though they have some things in common. Boomers say they don’t need to invest in their retirement because they’ll never stop working; Millennials say they don’t need to because climate change will kill us all. Comme ci, comme ça.)

When I was ten years old, my mother yelled at me when my kitten peed on our family room sofa. “It’s a brand new, six thousand dollar couch!” she cried in frustration.

As I did my best to scrub the ammonia stink away, I remember internally questioning why anyone would buy a six thousand dollar couch—especially someone with three kids, a dog, and a kitten. I didn’t have a strong concept of the value of a dollar yet… but I knew that was a lotof boxes of Swiss Cake Rolls.

Two decades later, I’ve come to what I think is a more mature, nuanced understanding of how to approach your parent’s finances. At our patrons’ behest, I want to share it with you all today. It’s only four words long!

Letter writer, I think you need to mind your own business.

Stay in your lane.
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MASTERPOST: Everything You Need to Know About Saving Money and Being Frugal

{ MASTERPOST } Everything You Need to Know about Saving Money and Being Frugal

The Colosseum teems with unruly members of the plebeian class. As the sun beats down upon their heads, a riotous energy gathers and surges through the gathered masses. “Masterposts, masterposts, masterposts,” they begin to chant in unison.

The charioteer’s horses stamp their feet in agitation as the chant grows louder, reverberating around the stone walls of the arena. The captive tigers and lions pace back and forth as their handlers exchange nervous glances. How much longer can they hold their deadly charges back? How much longer will the people be denied?

Co-Empresses Piggy and Kitty—looking extremely classy in complimentary but not matchy-matchy ionic chiton gowns—stand and extend their golden and white respective arms. The crowd falls silent, awaiting their judgement.

Thumbs up.

There will be masterposts. And our first one is on ways to decrease spending. Are you not edutained?! Is this not why you are here?!

Look, there are really two basic ways to get more money: increase your income or decrease your spending. Through a clever application of both methods, you can end up with enough money to live comfortably and stress-free without having to sell your organs in the process.

Let’s focus on one half of the equation today: decreasing your spending. The less you spend, the more you have to work with. And living a frugal life means you’ll need less money to get by. It’s all a beautiful circle!

So here it is! The complete list of everything we’ve ever written about being frugal and saving money. Your mileage may vary, so try different stuff until you find what works for you.

And hey. We’re all in this together. Don’t give up.

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Disney vacations and their ilk are marketed to parents as experiences so magical you would be A Terrible Parent if you deprived your kids this holy formative experience.

Splurging on Kids: When It Works, and When It Doesn’t

Piggy and I have a general policy against giving childrearing advice.

It’s not because we don’t have opinions on the subject. Trust and believe: we have opinions on everysubject. For example…

  • Opinions on land use in Paraguay? The Bitches say: Keep the grazing cattle in the Chaco region. Although we are Team Yerba Mate, everyone knows that the climate is just too arid—although better land management practices are needed to prevent desertification.
  • Thoughts on the performance of the current mayor of Fair Haven, Vermont? The Bitches say: We strongly approve of Lincoln, the Nubian goat. Eating the paperwork itself may be the best way to combat bureaucratic creep. Honestly, Lincoln the Goat 2020.
  • Was Paris wrong to give the Golden Apple of Discord to Aphrodite? The Bitches say: Absolutely! Athena clearly offered him wisdom because she could see he was sorely lacking in sense. Women are not prizes, Paris, so stop using your magical fruit like a fistful of arcade tickets you’re hot to trade in!

See? We’re a bottomless pit of opinions!

But because we don’t have children ourselves, we try to keep our big mouths shut on the subject. Especially when talking to actual-factual parents. We’ve lived the experience of mansplaining; we can only imagine that DINKsplaining is similarly annoying.

But today we wanted to explore an interesting topic for our readers who are becoming, thinking of becoming, or trying to become parents:

Think back to the times your parents “splurged” on you. In hindsight, you probably know which things you truly enjoyed, versus stuff you just put up with.

So which expenses were worth it? Which ones weren’t? If you could go back in time, what would you tell them to stop doing, or do more of?

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Auditing taxpayers is a "dying tradition."

My Taxes Are a Little, uh, Creative. What’s My Risk of Being Audited?

Enough time has probably passed for me to admit to playing fast and loose with the truth in some very old tax returns. But let’s drape this whole conversation in a veil of hypotheticality to preserve our modesty.

THIS ARTICLE DEALS IN HYPOTHETICALS, I SAY!

MY FAN FICTION NOVEL HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ONE DIRECTION, I SAY! NOTHING!

As all liars will tell you when caught, I (hypothetically) had great reasons for lying. I was (hypothetically) a new graduate during the worst part of the Great Recession, cobbling together freelance jobs to afford a gruel made of boxed mac and cheese thinned with water and Goya packets. I was (hypothetically) hanging onto adult independence by my fingernails. And my fingernails were notoriously hypothetically thin and weak from my high-sodium gruel diet!

This was pretty much how my first tax return after college went…

KITTY:
I made $18,000 last year.

IRS:
Awesome, give us $3,000 of it.

KITTY:
That can’t be right.

IRS:
It is.

KITTY:
Wh— Bu— I live in one of the most expensive cities in America. I can barely pay rent and put food in my cupboards. The unemployment rate for young people is almost 20%, for fuck’s sake! Surely you wouldn’t charge a flat tax rate on someone so desperate?

IRS:
We totally would.

KITTY:
Teach me, dear creature, how to think and speak.
Lay open to my earthly gross conceit,
smothered in errors, feeble, shallow, weak,
the folded meaning of your words’ deceit.
Against my soul’s pure truth why labour you
to make it wander in an unknown field?
Are you a god? Would you create me now?
Transform me, then, and to your power I’ll yield.
But if I am that I am, then well I know
I do not have three thousand dollars, bro,
Nor to your purse no homage do I owe.

IRS:
Ma’am, will that be check or money order?

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Theres a silver lining to this shit cloud.

How to Pay Hospital Bills When You’re Flat Broke

It’s a fucking travesty that the leading cause of bankruptcy in these United States is medical bills. Not credit card bills nor risky investments. Not even student loans, but hospital bills. Invoices racked up through freak accidents and diseases the patient certainly didn’t ask for and would probably prefer to live without.

To our readers in other, more civilized countries, you’re dismissed. This week we’re going to be dissecting a uniquely American problem: exorbitant medical bills and how to pay them.

The CEO of GoFundMe, an online crowd-funding platform, never dreamed that his company would become synonymous with “I’m broke and need $300,000 to pay for my child’s cancer treatment.” What he envisioned as a way for entrepreneurs and artists to raise money for their passion projects has become the last desperate hope of sick and injured Americans on the verge of total financial ruin.

It blows, dear readers. It fucking blows.

Which is why we need to get creative with some of the lesser-known and best ways to pay for medical bills. Sure, it might be cheaper in the long run to move to Canada, Sweden, or Namibia. But if you bleed American blood on American soil, here’s what you do.

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Another recession is coming.

Ask the Bitches: How Do I Prepare for a Recession?

We’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about a hypothetical looming recession. The stock market has taken a bruising; bellwether companies are stumbling. Do such omens and portents mean that another recession on its way?

The good news is, we can answer this one very easily.

Yes. Another recession is coming.

We know this with 100% certainty.

How?

The same way we know with 100% certainty that Piggy and I will be dead within the next hundred years. It is in the nature of a living being to die, just as it is in the nature of economies to grow and contract. The sun rises; the sun falls. The tides go in; the tides go out. It’s just the way things are.

Sounds kinda shitty, right? It’s possible that, someday far in the future, someone will devise some new system that will smooth out or even eliminate these cycles. Maybe the nature of goods and services will change so fundamentally that economies will transform in ways we can’t even imagine. But that’s Phillip K. Dick stuff—innovations that live so far in a hypothetical future that they’re still science fiction. You should plan to endure these market cycles throughout your lifetime.

And yes, there are lots of things you can do to make yourself more prepared. Let’s go through them.

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Like anyone optimizing your finances, the minimalist's ultimate goal is freedom.

Everything I Know About Minimalism I Learned from the Zombie Apocalypse

Dear readers, it’s time I made a confession. You need to know The Real Me™. I’ve been hiding myself for too long.

Guys… I fucking love zombies.

It’s true. Every year around Halloween I go watch a live theatrical performance of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I’ve met Max Brooks twice and both times he declined my marriage proposal. Same goes for Mila Jovovich. I finished The Last of Us in forty-eight hours. Zombieland is my favorite family-friendly, feel-good buddy comedy. I attend my city’s annual Zombie Crawl religiously.

I pride myself on having read the entire canon of zombie literature. Yes, even the one about zombies on the Titanic. Even the one where a zombie gets elected president. Even the one where a high school football team is reanimated as zombies just in time to win the state championship. Even the one where zombies played a pivotal role in the formation of ancient Israel. And yes, even the YA romance trilogy (no, the other one). I read Warm Bodies before it was published.

Having lived for years with this unhealthy obsession with zombies, you would naturally think that I would’ve learned something by now (besides the double-tap rule and how to steel yourself for mercy-killing a loved one, of course).

Turns out I did. I’ve learned a helluva lot about minimalism from the zombie apocalypse.

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