Mar 10 2011

poverty: the stress of a downward spiral [day 287]

My rent payment is $286.  My utilities are $190 this month.  I don’t own a phone, I don’t have a job and I have a baby to take care of.  My name is Iris Isaacson… but only in this temporary make-believe world.  This world I’m speaking of is a poverty simulation, a game to teach people what it’s like to live in poverty.

I participated in this event last night.  At first, I thought it seemed like a lot of work and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there.  In the middle of it, I was thinking, “…what a chaotic game…”, but also realizing much of it was like real life.  At the end of it, I was worn out.  I couldn’t pay my bills, the ones I did pay were late, I had to pawn my jewelry, sold my camera, and after all the hardships and paying everything late, I got evicted anyway.  Here’s a description of the simulation.

The Poverty Simulation is a simulation experience developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action. During the simulation, participants pretend to be members of a low-income community attempting to survive four 15-minute weeks of poverty. The simulation relies on role playing techniques and extensive props to help participants understand the day to day challenges faced by families living in poverty.  Continue reading


Jan 6 2011

the green machine [day 223]

I’m really not sure exactly how much money I’ve saved doing this challenge, as I haven’t tracked it, however I know it’s a substantial amount.  I have no debt, I’m not always broke and comparing my finances to last year, I’ve spent way less.  I attribute the savings to these:

  • No retail. Buying things from eBay, craigslist, thrift stores and yard sales saves 75% or more off retail prices.
  • No impulse buys. Staying out of retail stores and practicing the 24 hour rule with my kids (day 140) works great!
  • Smart shopping. For the groceries and toiletries stuff I have to buy, I price shop shop in stores where I know the prices are generally lower.  I try and buy some generic brands and buy things with minimal packaging.
  • Usage. Will I really use this?  Is it something I’ve wanted for a while or something that just popped into my head?  If I haven’t been looking at something for a while, I wait.  If I really want or need it, it will stay in my mind.
  • Trading & sharing. I make trades with friends and share things like tools, yard equipment and things not used frequently.  This minimizes the amount of stuff I have, making cleaning and organizing much easier.
  • Counterculture. We didn’t do Christmas like the rest of society.  No Christmas bills!  It was still a very good Christmas, just different than the rest of the USA.
  • Look ahead. How long will this item last?  What’s the maintenance and upkeep cost?  Is it green?

Looking at all of this, my kids and I made a recent large item purchase.  It’s something we had in our old house and used quite a bit, all year long.  We’ve been wanting one for four years now, since we moved into this house.  The used market on the item has good availability, but difficult to find certain models.  Many are in working order, many are not.  Some require lots of extra money for set up, installation and transportation.  So what is it?  A hot tub.  Continue reading


Dec 24 2010

twas the night before Christmas… the culturally correct version [day 211]

Let me me be perfectly honest here.  I really hate holidays.  And, I’m an equal opportunity holiday hater, I don’t like any of them.  I love Christmas, that is the true meaning of Christmas, but I hate the cultural crap that comes along with it.  I just want to skip all this and move on to the new year.  I don’t want to spend a bunch of money I don’t have, I don’t want to eat a bunch of sweets, I don’t want to do the holiday dog and pony show, I don’t want to go to holiday parties alone, I don’t want to go to them with a spouse I don’t have, I do not like it in a box, I do not like it with a fox. I do not like green trees, this sham or culture’s Christmas, mad I am.

Some people think the Grinch stole Christmas, nobody cared, so he gave it back and everyone lived happily ever after.  That’s the fictional version of the story, because you and I know darn well, that if someone stole all of the things in our house and all the gifts from under the tree, we would not all be in the street holding hands and singing.   The story would be a little different…  Here it is, in the form of “Twas the night before Christmas.” Enjoy…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town

Many creatures were stirring, using credit around;

The plasma tv was unloaded with care,

In hopes that the credit bill was lost in the mail;

My kids wanting toys, finances in red,

While visions of electronics danced in their heads;

Me on my laptop, looking for deals,

Wondering where I will get the next meal;  Continue reading


Oct 29 2010

paperless. I need your junkmail. [day 155]

Let’s see… A trip to the grocery store, a quick stop at the thrift store and trying to fix my temperamental grill once again, not a huge shopping day.  My kids have outgrown most of their winter clothes so I needed to find some sweatshirts and long-sleeve shirts for them.  I found 3 pieces of clothing and a thermos my son wanted for warm lunches.

I have been thinking a lot lately about paperless mail solutions.  Why?  Because I’m doing an awareness art project.  Also, because I tried to go paperless on all of my bills, and on some, that’s no easy task.  In my mind, paperless should be the default option, or at least an option.  I suppose the mail carrier doesn’t see it that way.

Give me your junk mail. Yes, my art project needs a lot of junk mail… in envelopes.  I don’t need flyers, postcards or newspapers, but I do need anything with envelopes.  Please help me and you will keep me from diving into my neighbors recycling bins.  (Carrie, that was for you)  :)  More to come on the art project…