Yesterday I watched a friend who was struggling with homelessness unpack her few belongings. Inside her purse was a large, rather expensive, luxury-brand chocolate bar. She held it up and twiddled it back and forth in her hands, letting the silver foil catch the light. “Sweetie, I’m homeless,” she said, very matter-of-fact. “You’d better believe I’m getting the good stuff.” And boy was she making a great point.
I’m a little wary of asking for discounts, especially from very small companies. When it’s just one or two people running the show, it means those one or two people spend an inordinate percentage of their time doing things they don’t like to do. Nobody starts their own business because they love filing quarterly taxes—they soldier through it for the 10% of the time where they’re actually doing the thing they love.
And every small business owner I’ve known has lost sleep over their pricing. No matter what you’re selling, there’s local and global competition for it, and consumers have tools now that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago that allow them to find, compare, rate, and review similar services. The world is a buyer’s market, and it’s really hard to measure what you know your work is worth against what you know people are willing to pay for it. Asking to pay less for the same product is almost always a wearying and unwelcome question… with one very special exception.
Back when I lived in a hippie commune with approximately nine humans and 37 dogs, I would bike to the library on a regular basis to keep myself in reading material without spending all of my meager paycheck on books. As I was leaving one day, I asked one of my roommates if she wanted me to pick up anything at the library for her. Her response: “Is it free?”
Is it free? Is it free?
Let’s pretend for a minute that it’s not completely weird and unbelievable that an adult human being could grow up in the United States without ever having learned the first thing (literally, the very first thing) about the public library. Let’s also set aside the fact that this particular person was an English major. I’ll just state, definitively and for the record:
The library is fucking free, you fool. So why the hell wouldn’t you use it? Especially if you’re trying to save money or you’re already on a tight budget?
In my short lifetime, I have heard more than one perfectly sensible person tell me they “can’t do” single-ply toilet paper.
I don’t know why people tell me these things. It’s like they want me to cry out to Father Dagon and Mother Hydra and bid them raise an army of Deep Ones from the many-columned depths of Y’ha-nthlei to sweep over the land and drown the humans in a cosmic flood as recompense for their innumerable and unpardonable follies.
When Piggy and I first talked about starting a finance blog for Millennials, we spent a lot of time talking about how traditional financial advice had failed us. Some advice failed simply for being too old. It relied on outdated growth models, or it ignored a rapidly changing globalized economy, or discounted the possibilities of living in a world transformed by technology.
These failures were innocent. Others were not.
Too lazy to set up your 401k? Too afraid of the paperwork? Feel like you’d rather use that money on stuff right now? Well buck up, son, because I’m about to tell you why you can’t afford not to use your retirement plan.
A 401k (or 403b if you work for a nonprofit) is your basic retirement fund. You set it up with your employer so they can take money directly out of your paycheck and squirrel it safely away for you to use when you’re terrorizing orderlies in the nursing home. That way you can focus on maintaining your record as Wheelchair Drag Race Champion of Shady Hills Retirement Community and not get distracted by petty financial concerns.
But the trick is you have to opt into your 401k. It’s not forced on you, and it doesn’t happen automatically. So against your best interest, you can actually choose to just not save for retirement. And as broke as you are right now, ignoring a perfectly good retirement fund is a terrible idea.
Sometimes you don’t have enough money in the bank to buy stuff, so you borrow money to buy the stuff. But if you have some money, it is always better to use it to pay for part of the stuff than to borrow all the money you need to buy the stuff.
In an ideal world, we’d all pay for expensive things like cars and houses and a college education with the money that we already have. But unless you have a Scrooge McDuckian money vault at your disposal, paying cash in full for a car or house or bachelor’s degree feels nigh impossible.
If you’re a rad feminist guy who loves the women in his life and wants to make life fairer for everyone, there’s one incredibly easy thing you can do—right now—to close the gender wage gap. Are you ready? Here it is…
Tell your female coworkers how much money you make.
And be specific and honest: no ranges, no euphemisms, the exact number that appears on your paycheck. And don’t skip the bonuses and raises either. This is a tremendous boon to yourself as well as them. Here’s why.
Like the table? Of course you do. It’s beautiful as shit. I made it myself and it only cost me $29.
(…Or did it?)
I found this poor wretch on Craigslist. It had a crust of chipping chalkboard paint—because apparently there are people who like to dine to a soundtrack of plates scraping across a blackboard. Underneath, it was solid wood, sturdily constructed, fully disassemblable, and priced to sell at only $25. Like the conventionally attractive nerd in an early 90s movie, it only needed its glasses lifted off to become beautiful.
After sanding the old paint off, I took some glossy white paint I had leftover from another project and applied it to the legs. Then I stained the tabletop with a $4 can of Minwax stain obtained on clearance from my local hardware store. The result is a beautiful handcrafted table that you’d never know cost $29!
There’s only one catch… Read More