How To Start at Rock Bottom: Welfare Programs and the Social Safety Net

Income inequality is a real thing. Let’s start there. We are not all starting on a level playing field. In fact, some are actually starting at rock bottom.

Whatever way you define rock bottom, it’s a shitty place to start when envisioning your financial future. And it’s a frightening reality for many Americans. Giving advice about how my fellow college-educated Millennials can get ahead in their careers, defeat their student loans, and buy homes is all well and good. But it’s utterly useless advice for someone with no education, no family support, and no job prospects to speak of. It’s useless to those drowning in medical debt or responsible for supporting a family on a minimum wage salary.

You can’t think about Step 1 when you’re currently at Step -37. Those living at rock bottom need to achieve a basic standard of survival before they can think about “getting ahead.”

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What To Do When You’re Asked About Your Salary Requirements in a Job Interview

One of the shittiest questions to be asked in a job interview is arguably also one of the most important considerations when looking for a new job: “What are your salary requirements?”

It’s shitty because even if you’re prepared, the question can immediately throw you into a state of self-doubt and nervous confusion where you risk shooting your potential earnings in the foot. You don’t want to blurt out a number too high and risk them writing you off as an entitled, money-grubbing Millennial with an overinflated sense of self-worth. But you don’t want to lowball them either, lest they see you as a bargain hire and take you on for a fraction of what they’d planned to pay.

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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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Other People's Weddings Don't Have to Make You Broke

Other People’s Weddings Don’t Have to Make You Broke

There’s a code of honor when it comes to weddings: if you came to mine, then I will go to yours. Even if yours is on the other side of the country, and especially if you boarded an airplane to get to mine.

I don’t think I need to point out the flaw in this reasoning.

Other people’s weddings are expensive. This past year my husband and I collectively attended five weddings, two in the state where we currently live and three about 2,000 miles away in the region where we grew up. And that was it. That was our travel budget for the year. All gone.

So this isn’t going to be a story about how to save money on your own damn wedding. Today I’m going to tell you how to save money on other people’s weddings.

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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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Status Symbols Are Pointless and Dumb

Status Symbols Are Pointless and Dumb

You guys. I just learned about a thing so utterly ridiculous it defies belief: investment purses.

What is this mysterious and logic-defying item? Well, according to the Interwebz, it’s a grossly overpriced handbag. It gets to be grossly overpriced because a famous designer’s name is plastered all over it. And it’s called an “investment purse” because you buy it with all the money you’re not investing in your future financial well-being. I’m assuming. Because what else could possibly be the explanation?

An investment purse, as it is so loftily known, is similar to a luxury car or a gold-plated Rolex watch. In other words: it’s a status symbol, a way of keeping up with the Joneses.

And status symbols, my beautiful, badass, budgeting butterflies, are fucking dumb as shit.

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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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I Read a Book About Warren Buffett. Here's What I Learned.

I Read a Book About Warren Buffett. Here’s What I Learned.

So I read The Snowball by Alice Schroeder. It’s an absurdly long, absurdly detailed book about one of the most famously wealthy people in the world: Warren Buffett. Notorious for his frugal ways and uncanny ability to predict the future of the stock market (no seriously), Buffett’s name has become synonymous with financial success. Which is why I read the book.

I wanted to see if the Wizard of Omaha (I know—not nearly as sexy as the Wolf of Wall Street) had anything to teach me about making lots of money.

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It's More Expensive to Be Poor Than to Be Rich

It’s More Expensive to Be Poor Than to Be Rich

Terry Pratchett had a really perfect explanation for one of the many reasons why it’s more expensive to be poor than to be rich:

“Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of ok for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

-Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

By this model, one reason the rich are so rich is because they manage to spend less money… and not just on boots.

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