Dispensing advice about the Latte Factor to those who live one medical emergency away from complete financial ruin sounds a helluva lot like poor shaming.

The Latte Factor, Poor Shaming, and Economic Compassion

There’s a piece of conventional financial wisdom that goes like this: if you’re looking to save money or pay off debt, start by skipping small luxuries like lattes and instead put that money toward your financial goals. The single digit savings will add up to a significant amount over time, all because you had the fortitude to practice a little self-control. It’s a simple, effective way to find some wiggle room in your budget and a great first step toward living a frugal lifestyle.

The Latte Factor, as it’s known, is both virtuous and practical. It gives its frugal practitioner a sense of self-righteous superiority over those who continue to waste their money on overpriced, over-sweetened, caffeinated beverages every day. And because it’s such a simple solution, those preaching the gospel of frugality peddle it like a magic elixir. Can’t seem to save money? Just skip the latte! It works miracles.

Yet to those who truly struggle with systemic poverty, getting advice about the Latte Factor feels horribly condescending. In fact, being told that skipping a small luxury here and there will raise you up out of your low-income status feels downright cruel and deliberately ignorant. Because in cases of economic disenfranchisement, a lack of frugality is not the root of the problem.

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"Take your fairy tale upbringing in a sylvan glade drinking unicorn tears and shove it."

You Are above Bottled Water, You Elegant Land Mermaid

One time during my freshman year of college, I walked into my dorm to find my pals holding up a bottle of Fiji water like it was the Holy Grail. Recently escaped country bumpkin that I was, I had never heard of Fiji bottled water. “Oh, you have to try it!” they exclaimed reverently, “It’s the best water.”

I sipped. I was underwhelmed. “Tastes just like my well water back home,” I explained. They gave me looks that clearly said, “Take your fairy tale upbringing in a sylvan glade drinking unicorn tears and shove it.”

All of which is to say that I have never been impressed with our country’s feverish devotion to bottled water. And here’s why I am perfectly vindicated in that point of view.

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I don't agree with the cultural consensus that period blood is inherently more gross than any other bodily fluid. That said, all body fluids are hella fucking gross.

Blood Money: Surviving Your Period While Poor

Trigger warning: I use the word “panties” like, so, SO much in this post.

Some women have really figured out how to lean in to the concept of their menstruation. They describe it as a period of heightened sensitivity and awareness. They talk about how in-touch it makes them feel with their power, their humanity, and the changing seasons of their body.

I’m so happy for those women. I wish I could count myself among them. But I do not go gently into that dark night.

I HATE my period. No, I really fucking HATE it. It does not make me feel powerful or mindful; its arrival fills me with a fresh sense of mortal outrage. Sixteen years of menses has not dulled my sense of shock and dismay when I go to wipe myself and the tissue comes back red. Every month, I am fucking appalled.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN "EVERY MONTH?!"
It’s not that I think period blood is something shameful or dirty. It’s just so fucking unfair. There are so many cultural parts of being a woman that fucking suck. We work more, get paid less, are constantly judged by random strangers, get legislated bodily by old white men, and carry the psychological and physical burden of sexual violence. There are biological aspects to being a woman that also suck, but most of them are at least an opt-in situation. (I can work on my upper body strength, it’s my choice to play video games instead.) But menstruation is just a thing that happens to you, and you’ve got to deal with it.

Worst of all, it’s expensive. Disposable menstrual products are a fixed monthly cost that’s surprisingly high—and they are inexplicably taxed as luxury items! (Don’t bother trying to repeal the tax, ladies! Your dashing white knight of a male governor will do it for you! Oh wait, no he won’t, he’s going to FUCKING VETO IT.) Reusable products have a startlingly high initial cost, and aren’t always convenient or appropriate for all people and situations.

With this in mind, Piggy and I have mined our own experiences and those of our vast network of Vagenda operatives to bring you clear-eyed reviews of each of these products through a financial lens.
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There's no faster way to sour a friendship--and jeopardize your future trading opportunities--than to mishandle the intricacies of the friend trade.

The Delicate Art of the Friend Trade

When you’re short on money and long on time you get creative about paying for things. And a great, creative way to save money on goods and services is by trading for them with other goods and services.

I haven’t paid for a haircut in literally years. My hairstylist friend just happens to be a mom, so I trade babysitting for haircuts and we both walk away happy. This friend trade is a mutually beneficial arrangement: we both get something we really need, we both save money, and we both get the satisfaction of helping a sister in her hour of need.

But the friend trade is a delicate art. There’s no faster way to sour a friendship—and jeopardize your future trading opportunities—than to badly mishandle the intricacies of the friend trade.

Let’s examine how you can save money by navigating the waters of friend trading without being a total garbage person.

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Gently-used pre-owned shit is often just as good as band-spanking-new shit.

Almost Everything Can Be Purchased Secondhand

Shit’s expensive. If you need to buy shit, you should try to make it less expensive. Spend less on the shit you need to buy, and you’ll have more money to spend on your other financial goals. A great way to do this is by buying your shit secondhand.

Gently used, pre-owned shit is often just as good as brand-spanking-new shit, and can always be purchased less expensively than new shit. It can even be free! To really drive this point home, I’m going to start with a by-no-means comprehensive list of shit you can (and should!) get secondhand.

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