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

Sep 7 2010

insomnia. informercials. insanity. [day 104]

Insomnia. I don’t like it, but when I get it, I deal with it.  Sometimes that means watching TV at 2:00 am.  Infomercials. Are you really awake and seeing this or is this some crazy dream?  Maybe I’m still asleep, becasue there’s no way that could exist.  Insanity. The realization that the robotic popcorn hand eating device really does exist and people are actually buying them.

Two specific commercials jumped out at me.  I really have to wonder (a) if people really buy into this stuff and (b) what in the heck they’re thinking if they do.

Space Bags

These aren’t such a bad idea for long term storage of garments, but for everyday use?  So if we tightly shrink wrap all of our stuff, we can make space for more stuff.  So let’s say I want to wear that blue sweater in bag number 9 (because for $19.95, they triple the order of 3 sets if you call right now), that would be a lot of work to decompress the bag, get the sweater out, re compress my other stuff so I can still fit lots more in my closet and then try to make the sweater fluffy again, with no wrinkles.  Seriously?

“And yes!!!  This is a great thing for travel!  Imagine being able to fit all your clothes easily into your suitcase…”  Last time I stayed at a hotel, I’m pretty sure they don’t give you vacuums.  So let’s imagine trying to get it all back in the suitcase without the space bags!  No thanks.  Time to clean out the closet, get rid of what I’m not wearing and stop buying so much.

This is unbelievable.  So unbelievable that I can’t believe that even one person has done this.  Check out the terms of your loan:

The cost of your loan is based on the size of the loan you are approved for. It ranges from $0.90 per day per $100 borrowed (324.1% APR) for small, short-term loans down to $0.28 per day per $100 borrowed (98.7% APR) for larger, longer-term loans for customers with successful payment histories or higher credit scores. While these rates are lower than the rates charged by many other short term lenders, they are higher than some other forms of credit, so we encourage you to pay off your loan as quickly as possible. For a typical transaction, the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a loan of $1000.00 is 198.5% with 18 bi-weekly payments of $104.00.

There are no hidden charges or fees – you only pay interest for the time you keep the loan. You can reduce the cost of your loan by paying down or paying off your loan early – there are no prepayment penalties. However, if you make a late payment, skip a payment, or your payment is returned, you may incur additional fees.

Hidden fees?  Clearly they’re not hiding anything, except for the amount if you’re late with your payment.  I can’t even imagine how much that might be.  The funny thing about this is the infomercial.  They suggest reasons why you might need cash from them.  To pay your bills, to get you through to the next paycheck, car payment, food or to just buy things.  I would panhandle before I would pay 324.1% on money for food.  I’m pretty sure I would have to be on my death bed and need that money to save my life before I would borrow it… and even then, I would have to really think about it.

The other funny thing about this is the link on their website about a 12-step get out of debt program.  Not once do they say debt is bad, they just suggest you pay your debt payments on time.  And they send you to the government for assistance instead of telling you you’re an idiot for paying this type of percentage rate to borrow money.  The list is funny if you want to look, click here.

I just hope I can sleep tonight, I should be able to knowing I have plenty of storage space and no debt.

Jun 12 2010

sports, borrowing & recycling [day 15 & 16]

I’m going to play racquetball this morning, and I just realized I’m down to one ball.  Last time I played, the ball split in half.  Now I’m quite sure this is not attributed to my incredible upper body strength, but because I left the ball in the excessive heat inside my car.  These little rubber balls only last a few months at best when you play frequently.  So.  Racquetballs are not groceries, nor are they toiletries.  I can’t buy any, and the chances of finding any at a thrift store is slim to none.  I cannot expect my racquetball partner to buy them just because I won’t.  But I did come up with a solution.  When my last ball ends up dying the same death as the previous one, the rec center lends racquets and balls, so I will use theirs.  The availability of those to be borrowed are included in my monthly gym fees.

Again, not really much else to report on the shopping front.  Right now, I’m not missing it, although at some point I’m sure I will.

Also, a quick update on the recycling program.  [day 14] I have received some emails about that being unethical and it has stirred up some controversy.   I am planning a personal field trip to the Frisco recycling center.  If indeed my plan is not right, I will modify it.  If you have thoughts on any of my ideas, tactics or implemented plans, good or bad, feel free to comment on my blog.  The people that sent the emails have good points and I do take them into consideration.  More later, off to play racquetball.  :)