Quality of Life

Some people like to say, "Eat well, do good, get exercise, and die anyway," as some sort of excuse for partying, being unhealthy and/or being inconsiderate. This logic has no place in a happy, fulfilling and successful life. Regardless of when you die, you want the life you live today, and tomorrow to be the best life you can possibly have. There is no excuse for not doing the best for yourself and the best you can for those you love. Even if I were going to die in six months, I still would continue my diet exactly as I do (if not do even better) because I want the highest quality for my life. The quantity is quite irrelevant.

~Raederle Phoenix Jacot

"Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?" ~ M. C. Escher

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What separates you from the rich?

My mother bought all of my clothing at second-hand stores up until I was around thirteen years old. I never thought anything of it as a kid, and I think it is a good policy. Healthy children spend time crawling around on the floors, climbing trees and playing in the mud, so why would you spend $20 on a brand-name pair of jeans for a child when you could buy a second-hand pair that was just as nice for $5 at thrift store?

Unfortunately, not all of my mother's spending habits were so brilliant. While cutting-out coupons, attending sales, and comparing prices will all make small differences in the amount you spend, it won't do much of anything to improve your over all quality of life, and it certainly won't make you rich.

Until I married, I had no idea that the difference between "rich folks" and "poor folks" was not necessarily income. By following my husband's example, I now see that I can live a much richer life without making more money.

As it turns out, the main separator between the "upper middle class" and "lower middle class" is spending habits and lifestyle habits.

Being rich is about having a higher quality of life, not about having more money. It's about being healthier and happier than you ever dreamed possible.

8 Steps To Being Rich:

  • 1. Recognize that what you buy affects your entire life, your community, the environment, the government, the country, and the planet.

Your dollars are your biggest mouth in the world. They scream louder than your personal actions and words ever will to the guys in the "big chairs." Corporate CEOs, investors, the political big "somebodies" and so forth; they don't listen to what you say, they don't watch what you do, but they pay a lot of attention to what you buy. If you're just as willing to spend your money on products that are harmful to your body and the environment, and it is cheaper for them to make harmful products, then they will make harmful products because it makes them rich, and it makes their stock-holders happy.

  • 2. Buy Organic

Various cheap laundry detergents will wear out your clothing, meaning you have to spend more on new clothes because you spent less on laundry detergent. Many cleaning fluids will ruin the surfaces you use them on over time, not to mention slowly poisoning your home with harsh chemicals. Organic, green and genuinely natural for the win. (Remember that "natural" on the label is meaningless.)

  • Organic Soap

It's incredibly common to see people buy soap for $1.50 a bar, and then $3.00 lotion for the dry hands that result from the cheap soap. And worse yet, you still end up with dry hands despite reapplying the lotion ten times a day.

When I moved in with my husband I was confused by his soap. "My hands won't get clean!" I exclaimed. But then I would dry them and they didn't feel oily after all. It wasn't that my hands were dirty, it was that they were moisturized. I visited my parents for a time and my hands were so awfully cracked and dry. I used the lotions they had, but it didn't help at all. I realized my skin had been dry and cracked and somewhat hurting my entire life until I moved in with my husband.

I returned home to my husband and after washing my hands with one of his organic soaps five or six times, my hands were back to feeling smooth and richly moisturized.

The lesson: If you buy high quality organic oil-based soap that costs $5 a bar instead of $1 a bar, you will never need to buy lotion again. The soap actually leaves your skin more moisturized and healthier each use, instead of dry. Besides that, when you buy organic products you support smaller companies who need the money a lot more and stimulate the economy as a result. It's a more effective way of stimulating the economy than donating your money to some-such thing that says it's pro-jobs or pro-green or whatever.

  • Organic Shampoo

The same is true for hair products. You'll buy a cheap shampoo and conditioner all-in-one that leaves your hair dried out and crumbling, and then buy hair-lotions, hair-sprays, hair-moose, etc, etc, trying to get your hair to look healthy, on top of dying the hair another color, or even your own color, just to get it to shine more.

Instead of buying all those cheap products that are full of chemicals and produced by large corporations who generally pollute the environment and outsource half their labor to China... You could just buy one or two really quality products. I am currently using this henna-shampoo that I found in the organic section. It lightly colors my hair a slightly redder tint because of the henna in it, and it doesn't strip my hair or leave it dry at all. Aside from that, all I use in my hair is a few drops of jojoba oil or coconut oil. (I use coconut oil when making my raw-treats and I wipe the excess off onto my hands and rub it into my hair. With olive oil I rub any excess into my skin. It's much more effective and natural than any lotion.)

  • 4. Ignore "On Sale" Products

Have you ever bought something because you happened to see it on sale?

A good portion of the time the sale is not really real. You could get it for the same price as the "sale price" online, or somewhere else and they're just making it out as though they are selling it for less.

The other portion of the time the product is on sale because it is not a good product and nobody will pay its full price. If they would pay full price, then they wouldn't need to put it on sale. When people buy these products on sale, a good portion of the time they end up with something that doesn't work, or works poorly.

  • 5. Research What You Buy

You can find what you really want for a price you can afford with a little bit of research online (or in person -- ask your friends and associates their experiences with the products they've recently bought.)

Read customer reviews
Read product-comparison articles
Read product-review blog entries
Watch product-review and product-comparison videos

Example of something we didn't buy because of research:

My husband and I were considering buying a juicer. It looked (from the specs) like it had everything we needed, and it was on sale. After skimming the reviews on the sales page I decided to get some opinions from other sites. I visited six different sites and skimmed around seventy product reviews. While three of the sites had only positive feedback, this is likely because the site weeded out any bad reviews. The other three sites I visited contained massive amounts of bad feedback saying that the juicer simply stopped working for most people within the first two months, and after being replaced it would simply quit again within two months. Some people even reported the juicer quitting after the first cup of juice it made. Just think what a headache we avoided because I skimmed a bunch of reviews!

Example of something we did buy after research:

My husband was upset that his set of knives had gone dull. He said to me that they were not very good knives to begin with, so perhaps he would just replace them for a better set. He wanted my opinion, so he asked me for it. My response was that they seemed like perfectly good knives, and I hadn't noticed they were dull at all.

He suggested that we buy a knife-sharpener in that case, because there was no need to get a better knife set if I liked the one we had. I was dubious that the knives needed to be sharper, but continued to seek a solution with him. He also proposed that we buy, perhaps, just one really, really good knife instead of getting a new set or a sharpener.

We looked around at some really, really good knives, but they ran around $30 or more for a single knife. We looked at some sets, but they were all of poor-quality or of high price. So then he researched knife sharpeners. There was a cheap option, of course, but eventually he decided to get fairly expensive manual knife sharpener.

Neither of us could be more pleased. All of our knives are sharper, and now I do see why having very sharp knives is better. It turns out I grew up with dull knives my entire life. And the best part? No matter how many knives we do or do not ever attain, we'll always be able to sharpen them.

  • 6. Don't Impulse-Shop

"Shopping will make me feel better..."

Being depressed is not a good reason to go shopping and blow a paycheck. Instead, consider making yourself a banana-nut smoothie with soaked raw almonds, raw cacoa nibs, ground flax, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, a drop of coconut juice and five fresh organic bananas. All the omega and b-vitamins will give you a much more effective lift to your mood without breaking your wallet.

"The advertisement said..."

Who cares what the advertisement said. Advertisements are chocked-full of lies. There are blatant scams on advertisements all the time.

I once was unfortunate enough to purchase a product that supposedly would take the hair of your legs by "rubbing" with this particular fabric pad. The advertisement claimed it had been done for centuries in other countries, that it was easy, that it worked for anybody, that it was healthier than shaving, etc. The product doesn't work. Not at all. No matter how soft the hair, and no matter how long you rub, you're just an idiot rubbing your skin with a scam-product. If I had done some research first, I would have soon discovered other people complaining about the scam. There was no refund, but there was a bunch of plastic to throw in the trash.

"But this looks really cool, and what if they don't have it online!"

So it looks cool. But do you need it? Will you really use it? Could you jump up and down fifty times right now because you're so excited about buying it? If you can't jump into the air fifty times and squeal like a little girl about it, then you probably don't need it. That may sound absurd, but it's a test I use on myself regularly. If I can't make myself jump up and down and squeal, then it must not be exciting enough to spend money on.

  • 7. Read Labels

Things come with labels for a reason. Don't just look at the part of the package they want you to look at; look at all sides, especially the ingredients. This applies to food, clothing, toys: everything.

Is it made out of cotton or wool or what? Don't waste money on something that you're allergic to, or that will pill on the first-wash-through in the laundry, or that is made in China. Instead of buying six items of clothing, two of which are going to wear out quickly, one of which you'll never really like anyway, and all of which are made in China, instead, buy one or two items that are high-quality that you will love for years and years.

Often the product that isn't half as flashy and costs a two dollars more is more durable.

The result from shopping this way: Less clutter in your home. Less trash and waste. More income going back to the community and small businesses. Higher quality products that you really love. Spending less money in the long run by not needing to replace items as often.

  • 8. Buy Fresh Organic Produce

Many people buy conventional produce at the store, and frozen dinners, and other cheap boxed products. These foods contain toxins, chemicals and little nutrition. As a result, the people spend less money on food, but then spend three to ten times as much on medical bills, prescriptions, surgeries, etc.

The most effective way to combat this both from a health standpoint and an economic point is to grow as much of your own food as possible. Anyone can grow their own sprouts without sunlight, soil, or much space at all. A package of sprouts at the store will run you about $3, give or take. A sprouter will cost you $40. Your general sprouter will hold twice as much as one of those $3 packets at a time in sprouts. It takes somewhere from three days to a couple of weeks to grow them, and next to nothing for the seeds themselves. You can even sprout the seeds from fruit you've bought, the seeds that would have usually gone into the trash. If you grow one full sprouter-full of sprouts each week, the gadget will pay for itself in less than two months and you'll be able to continue growing them for life.

However, many people just can not conceive of giving up their television programs, sports activities, social occasions or whatever it is they are doing to spend time growing things. And so, I must simply propose that you make better choices at the grocery store.

Being ill is the biggest expense in life. You can not work, you can not play, you can not do anything at all if you're too ill to do it. And even being moderately ill is still serious, because then you work and play but you do both with little efficiency and wander through life feeling empty and wondering if there is more to life but not feeling like you can do anything about it... Meanwhile chugging several cans of soda and never making the connection between how terrible you feel and what poor fuel you're giving your body to make it's millions of cells out of each hour.

Another tip, as an aside: Don't count calories.

Raederle's sage wisdom for the holiday: Pay the extra dollars or cents for organic and local products when you can. You'll be doing a great thing for the economy, the country, the region, yourself, the environment, your health and your conscience all at once. It's a win-win-win-win-win all around. And in the end, it saves you money too.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Recession Reconsidered

The "bad economy" is a myth. First people buy things they can't afford. Then they hoard their money. Then they spend the little they do spend to huge corporations who send the money overseas and line the pockets of rich folks. Little money makes it back into the community because not enough people shop at local businesses. More money hoarding. It perpetuates itself.

John Leathers says: "Raederle, I couldn't agree with you more. Once I worked at a bank selling mortgages. The bank would often approve home loans for people what would take 45% of people's pre-tax income. People would often want something much bigger, though, and ask for a loan with a payment that would take 65%, 75% or 85% of their pre-tax income It's difficult for some people to know what "enough" is, apparently. I was amazed about how eager some people are to go into debt."

Nathan Jett says; "Debt will mean nothing when the dollar is worthless..." and suggests watching The Obama Deception.

John Leathers: "That would be a real mess."

Nathan Jett: "That will be a real mess."

John Leathers: "It will be good for tourism. We'll have lots of foreigners coming to the USA on vacation to take advantage of the weak dollar."

Nathan Jett: "I think when that day comes there will be more people leaving USA than coming to USA."

John Leathers: "Northern California's already like that. We lost people during the recession. Many immigrants, especially, left the state and moved back with their families down south.
"Everyone's got their own philosophy about dealing with any future crisis that occurs. My plan is just to see what arrives when it arrives and deal with it then.
"If the sky's falling I'd rather not know about it. I grew up during the worries about the USA-Soviet nuclear apocalypse. I'd rather just live my life and enjoy today than spend the whole time worrying about something I can't control that could happen tomorrow."

Raederle: I agree that sometimes it's better not to know the sky is falling. Keeping our heads up, keeping positive and sticking together are better than being depressed. Although, it's also ignorance of the public that has people in the messes they are in today.

Nathan Jett: "Oh don't get me wrong, I am in now way worried. I just like to be informed."

Raederle: I also like to be informed, but each American can not learn everything there is to learn about all the issues causing the economic struggle, the unemployment, the obesity, the rising cancer and diabetes rates, and every other issue we're facing.

I try to simplify what I do about it. Instead of trying to research each and every thing in the world and figure out if I trust it or not, ...I just keep following the same principles:

Be compassionate
Buy organic or local whenever possible
Waste as little as possible, recycle as much as possible
Teach others when they are willing to learn
Learn from others when they are willing to teach
Be as healthy as possible and inspire others to do the same
Bring art, love and life into the world
Boycott anything I learn is particularly hazardous
Don't buy things made in China
Hand-made whatever I can
Grow as much food as I can

Brian Honeycutt says: "I always thought the idea of a recession was sort of funny given that the resources available are basically the same, so it is just a redistribution of energy and money to me."

Sarah Leven writes: You can't really blame people for buying from massive corporations anymore. Our society has gotten to be so poor that every dollar counts.

Some food purchases are difficult to make outside of a supermarket. As far as I know, there is no locally owned supermarket near my house. Up in Buffalo there is one but driving 30 minutes to buy groceries is kind of a stretch. Not to mention, they sell specialty items and not a lot of traditional meal ingredients. And it would cost me probably twice as much to shop there and I honestly can't afford it. I do try to frequent farmers' markets or other such things but in Western New York, that's a seasonal option.

The real problem is that the middle class is shrinking -- most people are going down into poverty levels. A two income household where one person loses their job can be difficult to make up the difference in income. I do agree that a lot of these families have a lot of extras that they don't really need. I've been watching the show "Downsized" on WE and it amazed me how wastefully that family lived.

Yet for some families, they already don't have a ton of extras and a family of five trying to live on 25,000 a year is tough. So you've got three kids and school is coming up. They need at least a couple of new outfits (since stuff gets ruined and children grow) and school supplies for the school year. Lets say you have about 600 dollars scraped together to accomplish that. That's 200 a kid. You need to buy them clothing, probably a new pair of shoes, paper, pens, pencils, folders, a backpack, etc. Personally the first place I would stop is a thrift store of some type to see if there were some good deals there. However, thrift stores cost about the same as Wal-Mart so I can understand the families that prefer to just go get it new. And thrift stores are usually a npo so shopping there isn't really helping the economy much anyway. I'm honestly not even sure where I could take my kids to buy locally made clothing.

Eventually as capitalism sets in more and more in these cheap labor countries, they will demand higher and higher wages. Eventually the jobs will come back here. However, it probably won't happen in my lifetime, and definitely not any time soon. The main reason you can't find stores to sell locally made goods is because the support isn't there. But it's difficult at the point we're at as a society to put support into local businesses.

I whole-heartedly agree with you on people not putting their money to work where it should. But as a struggling American who cannot find decent work and who wastes very little, I can understand it. We do have a broken economy because of how insane the debt got. People were buying too much house or too much car and it artificially inflated everything. Greed set in at both the corporation level and at the personal level. The problem is that now things are so broken, it will take a long time to fix them.

As a small business owner, I compete with Wal-Mart. Sadly, the materials alone for the jewelry I create are more than the necklaces at Wal-Mart. Mine are unique and are of a higher quality but people still will balk at the 20 dollar price tag. The materials for that necklace are about five dollars and takes me about six hours to stitch together. I wind up making less than 3 dollars an hour for the pieces I sell. Other jewelry crafters hate me because of my low pricing but I still have the average customer shying away when they hear the price. But they think nothing of buying a video game for 20 dollars that they play twice and then never again. But the mentality is, I could just buy a different necklace for a lot cheaper. And since Wal-Mart pretty much sells it all, I stand no real chance. There is a small movement going against big corporations now and if people could snap out of the desire to just get as much stuff as cheaply as possible, our country might stand a real chance.

~ Sarah Leven

Second hand is better than Wal-Mart. It's a choice anyone would make if they understood the state of the environment and our impact upon it, and the state of the economy and our impact upon that.

On principle, I'd buy the hand-made jewelry. If someone is too strapped for cash to buy handmade jewelry, then they have no business buying jewelry. It's a luxury. It's not needed for anything, and the only real excuse for needing some is if you're working a career as a model. And as a model, you don't want to be wearing department store jewelry anyway.

Cheap plastic junk.

Cheap plastic junk.

There is no place anywhere for department store jewelry. It's worthless junk, and much of it is never worn, never used, never appreciated, never enjoyed, and just clogs landfills so that fat cruel rich corporate folks can milk the sheeple of America dry.

If everyone stopped buying jewelry, make-up, body lotions, hair products and so forth and instead paid a little extra for organic whole foods, then they'd save a lot of money and be a lot healthier and look much more beautiful without the cheap jewelry, make-up and toxic lotion and sprays. Want your hair to have body? Braid it up, get it wet, dry it, and take the braids out. Want your skin to shine? Eat soaked seeds and raw vegetables. Want to decorate yourself? Buy jewelry from a local merchant, not from a department store.

...How to get these important messages to masses? (Those above, and those below.)

Be compassionate

Buy organic or local whenever possible

Waste as little as possible, recycle as much as possible

Teach others when they are willing to learn

Learn from others when they are willing to teach

Be as healthy as possible and inspire others to do the same

Bring art, love and life into the world

Boycott anything you learn is particularly hazardous

Don't buy things made in China

Hand-made whatever you can

Grow as much food as you can