Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying: Finance Philosophy Explained by The Shawshank Redemption

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying: Finance Philosophy Explained by The Shawshank Redemption

What you are about to read is pretty graphic.

I’m sure it’s hard to read. At times, it was hard to write. It’s not an easy thing: to torture a metaphor to death.

I was almost at the point of walking away from this article when I heard John 3:16 ringing in my memory: “For Kitty so loved the world, that she gave one of her favorite movies, that whosoever believeth in her should not go broke, but have eternal cash.”

If you have not seen The Shawshank Redemption, I have two questions and one command.

  • The first question: are you some kind of Alexandreeey Dumbass?
  • The second question: how did you get from 1997 to the present without watching cable television during daylight hours?
  • The command: go watch The Shawshank Redemption! Only after you’ve done so are you allowed to return here and continue on.

One hundred and forty-two minutes of narration by Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) is the necessary prep work you need to open your heart and expand your mind.

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The Dollar Bill Game, Part 1: If Money Were No Object

“If money were no object, what would you do with your life?”

Did you get asked this hypothetical question a lot? Especially around high school and college graduation? I did. And it was frustrating as hell, because I was so overwhelmed by my choices that I had no idea how to answer.

This question requires you to have a deep knowledge of yourself and your place in the world—deeper than many young people will have adequate experiences to inform.

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Blood Money: Menstrual Products for 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 aspects of ~*womanhood*~ that fucking suck. We work more, get paid less, are constantly judged by random strangers, get legislated bodily by old jerks, and carry the psychological and physical burden of sexual violence.

Menstruation is just one more thing that happens to you that you’ve got to deal with it. (And although I’ll use the word “women” a lot, it bears reminding that there are other kinds of people who menstruate.) It’s messy, uncomfortable, disruptive, and draining.

Worst of all, menstruating is 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 menstrual 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 menstrual products through a financial lens.

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Why You Might Not Need Your Emergency Fund

Why You Might Not Need Your Emergency Fund

Excluding my mortgage, I’m a debt-free individual. That means my credit card is a pretty lonely lil’ guy. He doesn’t even get to live in my wallet. He’s entombed in my office with my library card, my old student ID, and that Best Buy gift card with only $3.52 left on it. He has a zero-balance and a $10,000 limit.

I used to keep $6,000 in cash squirreled away as part of an emergency fund—enough to make a few rent payments if I lost my job or had to cover an unexpected accident deductible. I was very lucky, and none of those things ever came to pass; but this meant my emergency fund sat in my savings account, slowly depreciating. Meanwhile, I was toying with the idea of closing my credit card altogether—after all, I never used it.

But eventually, I saw a wonderful opportunity to justify that card, and put my emergency fund to better use: I invested the $6K and designated my credit card as my new emergency fund. I’ve come to think that’s the ideal role for credit cards to play in a debt-free person’s life.

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Bullshit Reasons Not to Buy a House: Refuted

Bullshit Reasons Not to Buy a House: Refuted

Look, there’s a lot of terrible financial advice out there. I had to seek out a bunch of it to write this article, and I think my eyeballs rolled too far and are now permanently pointing into the back of my head. It is very hard to type. Are my fingers still on the home row? Everything is pink and dark. Please send help.

Recently, I’ve seen some advice against buying a home, and I really wanted to examine that. On the one hand, it makes some sense—in the wake of such a damaging recession, many traditional investment truisms proved to be overstated. Financial gurus were overconfident, and occasionally dead wrong. We are collectively wise to question everything.

But in the opinion of these Bitches, home ownership is right for most people. It can be done unwisely, even ruinously—but there are very few situations where renting in perpetuity is a great choice.

Whenever someone gives you advice of any kind, you have to ask yourself: “What is their angle?” If you ask a professional tattoo artist if you should get a tattoo, they’re probably going to be very enthusiastically in favor of the idea. If you ask your Bubbe the same question, she’s probably going to be very enthusiastically against the idea. Everyone has personal preferences, biases, passions, experiences, and agendas that influence how they advise you. Their intent may not be malicious, but it could be short-sighted or unsuitable to your situation.

Let’s get a spoon and dig into this heaping pile of problematic advice.

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Should Artists Ever Work for Free?

Should Artists Ever Work for Free?

I’m an artist. I am well paid to do my job. And I am way, way rarer than I should be.

There are a lot of historicaleconomictechnological, and cultural factors that keep the perceived value of art lower than that of professions that require comparable education and practice. Unfortunately, there ain’t shit you can do about historical, economic, technological, and cultural factors. But you can refuse to contribute, on an individual level, to the devaluation of your chosen industry.

The easiest way to do that is to refuse to work for free. Here’s why.

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How to Instantly Increase Your Credit Score

How to Instantly Increase Your Credit Score

If you’re trying to improve your credit rating, then one way is to lower your credit utilization ratio. That is, the amount you owe compared to the amount you could borrow.

It’s usually better to just pay down the principal, but sometimes that’s not possible. If you’re confident in your ability not to abuse it, raising your borrowing threshold will give your credit score an instant boost.

I’d assumed this was a complicated process requiring some degree of cringing. But it turns out increasing your credit limit is extraordinarily easy. An educator in my city’s free first-time homebuyer program described this method to me. I will try to transcribe it exactly as she said it:

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Your School or Workplace Benefits Might Include Cool Free Stuff

Your School or Workplace Benefits Might Include Cool Free Stuff

If you work for a large company, or a well-connected small one, you should investigate if part of your benefits package includes any unexpectedly awesome free shit.

Many companies act as corporate sponsors of local theaters, symphonies, museums, zoos, sporting teams, and other cultural institutions. And sometimes their patronage can translate to free or discounted tickets for you.

This is also the case for many colleges and universities. Whether you’re a grad or undergrad, the right student ID can equal discounted membership, classes, and admission to any institution your school partners with. I regret not taking advantage of my college’s generous museum consortium membership more often when I was a student. (To be fair to myself, I had just discovered alcohol. So. Mm-hmm!)

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