Mar 31 2011

cost analysis, kid style [day 309]

My youngest son came home with this a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure why he decided to draw this, but I’m glad he gets it.  Joe likes money and likes to spend money, but he also lives in the real world.  He’s 10 years old and somewhat budgets his money, that is, enough budgeting to get what he wants to buy.  He talks about buying stuff all the time, but he’s selective when it comes to actually making a purchase.

My oldest talked about an idea he had for an environmentally friendly missile.  While we were sitting in our think tank (hot tub), Cole spent almost 15 minutes telling me about his missile design.  It’s a missile that puts out an environmentally friendly gas that temporarily paralyzes people, allowing the police to ‘go in’ and get the bad guys, place them in prisons, and when the gas wears off, nobody is harmed in the process.  Here’s the blueprints.

Here’s the best part.  Yesterday, he did a cost analysis and figured out was his profit margin will be.  ??!!??!  How does he know how to do this?  He’s eleven years old.  I’ve talked about cost analysis stuff, but I’ve never shown him the process on paper.  Take a look.

Not only did he think of the labor costs, but when Joe talked to him about advertising, he adjusted the analysis accordingly.  I’m guessing Joe’s ad plan for him was to advertise during the Super Bowl.  If my two radically different kids partner together in the future, using their gifts to collaborate for good, they’ll do great things.  Yes, I’m the proud parent today.  :)


Mar 17 2011

the one for one model [day 295]

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, was a keynote speaker this year at SXSW.  Not only was it incredible to hear his story, but just to hear the magnitude of positive change his company has created in the world.  Here’s the best part.  Blake made this statement at the end of his talk.

“From this day forward, TOMS is no longer a shoe company. It’s a one-for-one company.  Our next step is meeting those needs around the world.”

Yes, TOMS is now a one-for-one company.  In June, they’re launching their next product.  You buy one, somebody in need gets one.  It’s a for profit model, and an extremely successful one.  I have to say here that I would love to go out and buy a pair of TOMS shoes.  With my one year of no retail shopping, unfortunately that’s not an option.  If I buy them used, a person in need will not get a new pair of shoes, however, even in the secondary market, good can still be done.

  • If I get them at a thrift store, that money goes to charity.
  • If I wear them, I’m marketing TOMS and this one-for-one model.
  • If I buy them used, paying less than retail, I’ve saved money that I can donate to one of my favorite charities.

How else can we apply the 1-for-1 model?

I’ve been pondering this question for a few days now.  I don’t know how anyone can hear the TOMS story and not wonder how we can all be a part of it.  TOMS is obviously onto something here.  I have a few ideas of how this could be applied in other ways to benefit TOMorrow.   Continue reading


Jan 29 2011

aldi vs. walmart: a shopping comparison [day 248]

You asked for it.  Here it is.  The price shopping comparison between Aldi and Walmart.  After my post on day 241, many people asked for a price comparison with Walmart, some because they love shopping there, others because they believe Walmart to have the lowest prices.  So what’s your guess on the savings?

Aldi is still a lot cheaper in comparison t0 both of the other stores.  On similar size off brand and generic items, Kroger was 52% more and Walmart was 47% more.  The savings at Walmart for these brands is not much less than a regular grocery store, neither coming close to the savings at Aldi.  On the name brands, Kroger was 113% more and Walmart was 67% more.  Here’s where the Walmart savings come in.  Name brands you’re familiar with, for much less than other places.  This whole process has made me think about my previous grocery shopping habits and has encouraged me to make some changes.  I’m going to label these a little differently.  Let’s call these stores by type.

conventional grocery storediscount grocery storesuperstore – convenience store

All of the store types have pros and cons, however making educated shopping choices for your money and well being isn’t the easiest thing to do sometimes.  Here are a few of my observations and answers to questions I had before doing this comparison: Continue reading


Jan 19 2011

recycle your electronics for good [day 238]

I saw this recycling box at the local camera shop.  No, I wasn’t shopping, I had to go there for work.  I was surprised to see the red dot that says, “10% of proceeds will go to charity”.  10%?  There are a lot of collection boxes where all of the proceeds go to charity.  I know there’s some cost involved with the recycling or repurposing of electronics, but this is clearly a retail profit center.  I’m not against retailers making money, but if you have a choice of 10% or 100% of proceeds going to help people, wouldn’t you rather choose 100%?

The really important thing here is that these electronics don’t end up in a landfill.  Most of them contain toxic materials that pollute our drinking water and our environment.  As long as the dumb phones, VCR’s, camcorders, old cameras and old computers stay out of the trash, I can live with a little bit of retailer pocket padding.  If you have a choice of 10% or 100% though, go for the 100%.


Dec 27 2010

the story of stuff [day 214]

I have an idea.  I know, no surprise…

I stumbled upon this little video called The Story of Stuff.  It’s a little over 20 minutes long, but I watched the whole thing.  Before I get into the details here, take a look if you haven’t seen it.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, skip around and take a quick look.

Although I like the overall message, I was questioning the statistics as I was watching it.  The presentation is awesome, the content easy to follow.  Again, the overall message here is a good one, but I have a few things to discuss and challenge.

The big picture of stuff. The message here is that we, as Americans, are abusing our planet, taking advantage of the disadvantaged and that we have all fallen victim to materialism.  On many levels, this is true, but some of the statistics seemed a little off to me.  After a bit of research on this video, I found they are using it in schools to teach children about materialism and “stuff”.  I’m not opposed to that at all, but this video is not just creating awareness, it’s trying to impose a guilt trip, and as Fox News stated, “Other critics have called it a “firehose of paranoia” meant to scare children into becoming environmental activists. They say the video romanticizes poverty in its attack on industrial nations and corporations.

I hope we’re teaching our kids to watch something like this and process it in a healthy way, as they should do with everything.  My kids question things, think about everything they take in, and sometimes have a viewpoint that even I haven’t thought of.  This video’s overall message is a good one, and unfortunately, it does paint an accurate “big picture” of our wasteful society.  The reason I say that, is because this video could be remade without all the statistics, showing both sides of the message about consumerism.  That’s a hint for my idea…   Continue reading


Oct 3 2010

charitable marketing. yes or no? [day 129]

Is charitable marketing good?  I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as it’s a huge and fast-growing trend.  It works, but is it ethical and trustworthy?

As David Frey wrote on frugalmarketing.com, “Many savvy small businesses are affiliating themselves with charities to market their businesses. Not only is it a primary means for developing a powerful network but also it helps others in the process. People like to associate themselves with businesses that support causes, which help disadvantaged people in a meaningful way.”  And he follows that with, “Don’t think that charities are oblivious to your motivations. Most charities today understand your secondary purpose for participating in charities and are experienced at helping you receive a return on your charitable investments.”

I decided to research just a bit, as I find this concept very interesting.  Here’s 3 case studies from radically different businesses. Continue reading


Jun 19 2010

playing dress up [day 23]

Most people would argue that I’m an extravert, and although I do have those tendencies, I’m very much an introvert.  On the continuum of ‘E’ to ‘I’, my slider is much more toward the ‘I’, which is one major reason I’m not comfortable in large groups of people.  I feel exposed and awkward.

Last night I had a wedding to attend.  It’s not only the large group thing, but I also don’t like to wear fancy, dressy clothing.  I know this because I really don’t own anything besides casual clothing.  I also know this because of the bulging eyes and gasps from my friends last night, as they’re scrambling to find their cameras, in complete disbelief that I was wearing a dress.  That is, my $3 thrift store dress with sandals I dug out of the back of my closet, that were broken and stapled together to stay on my feet.  I guess I fit in well enough with the current trends in clothing, which was good, because a wedding is no place for me to make a statement about society’s pressure to conform to ‘socially acceptable’.  The photo on the ‘right’ shows how I feel about fashion.  This was part of a gallery showing I had a few years back called ‘excessable’.  It says more than I could ever put into words.

I’m quite sure my feelings on clothing stem from my childhood.  My mom had me in beauty pageants and I was never allowed to choose clothing I liked.  I was taught from an early age that you are judged by your appearance, which explains a lot about the way I dress myself today.  If I’m going to be judged, I do not want to be thought of as a conformist to our culture.

Don’t get me wrong here, I like style and a lot of my clothing is what would be considered ‘in style’ by our current fashion trends.  It’s the excessiveness, the name brand gods and the financial prostitution that bothers me.  Yes, I know those are harsh words, but allow me to explain.  I really wouldn’t mind having a new top, or for that matter, a whole new outfit.  The excess in this industry makes it difficult to choose an outfit, and if I can finally select one, it becomes my identity.  People don’t see me first, they see what I’m wearing.

The financial part?  I use the words financial prostitution because it means money and using your talents for an unworthy cause.  80% of my wardrobe is from thrift stores and the rest from discount stores.  Sometimes I wish I had a new outfit, but I’m not willing to make the financial commitment that is associated with it.  The retail establishments are making a killing off of clothing, many of them using cheap labor overseas to make it even more profitable.

Finally, the name brand god.  One of my favorite pairs of shoes are my Ed Hardy shoes, although I only wear one at a time, the other being a Converse or Sketcher.  My EH shoes were free, but they make the statement that I spend a lot on my clothing and that I support major retailers.  I like the artwork on them, but I think people see the name, not the art, then they judge.  Cynically, I do this too.  I see name brands and here’s the process I go through.  First I judge them, thinking they have spent a lot of money and have been sucked into the excess of our culture.  I get angry with them for being wasteful with their money.  Then I get angry with myself for judging, as it’s not right, I should treat others like I want to be treated.  I don’t like being judged so I shouldn’t do it.  After my conviction, I realize I don’t know their story.  Maybe their stuff was free, maybe they paid full price, not for me to worry about.  I need to worry about me and my actions, which brings me to my latest experiment.

My most comfortable pair of shoes is a beat up pair of Nike shoes.  I’ve had them for about 6 years?  I paid full price for them when they first came out.  I’m not sure it was money well spent, but I have gotten a lot of use out of them.  I was looking at these shoes one day and realized I’m a walking advertisement for Nike.  Each shoe has the name or the swoosh on it five times!  I got a razor blade and cut all of the logos off.  Sadly, they still look like brand name shoes, even with giant holes in them.  I’ve worn them at least five times, in different settings.  Not even one person noticed anything or said anything.  It really makes me want to go cut all the logos off ALL of my clothing.  Don’t be surprised…  Oh, here’s a pic of the shoes.

Society’s expectations of style and fast moving trends are a reality, and not something I want to eliminate.  What I would like to see?  Balance.  (you just thought of New Balance shoes, didn’t you?)  Money spent wisely on sensible clothing purchases, supporting companies that support fair labor practices and all of us, including myself, not to judge people by what they’re wearing.

I have to wonder if I would be as uncomfortable in large groups if I knew we all embraced each other’s outer and inner individuality, without judgement?  Probably not, but it might make it more tolerable.  Am I the only one that struggles with this?  I would love to hear your thoughts.