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.


Tim said...

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

Any evidence for that statement?

I think the simple point from this post is this: spending more time can save you money.

Our societies have squeezed the time allocated to "domestic" tasks, like cooking or grocery shopping, in favour of time spent on work and leisure.

The ideal balance will vary between people. Some people will enjoy cooking and not mind giving up leisure time for it. Other people will find it a chore and prefer to spend extra money to avoid it. Personally I'm not sure the time and money spent gardening is worth it to me. Hand-washing is probably softer on your clothes (and more energy efficient), but who would be willing to spend the extra time?

Part of the problem is that many people are not free to vary the balance between working time and other time. At best they're stuck with fixed hours, at worst, they're under pressure to put in extra hours.

It's definitely something people should think more about, but I don't know if you can prejudge what their answers will be.

Phoenix's Muse said...


Good points as always. And perhaps I should consider hand-washing my clothing...

"I think the simple point from this post is this: spending more time can save you money." - Tim

This is true, but that's not the only point I'm trying to hit, and perhaps not even the most important. It's that you're not just saving money when you research things correctly, you *also* end up with a better quality of life. When you end up with what you really want, and not something half-assed, then your life (in some small way) is better. And these small things add up fast.

"Any evidence for that statement?" - Tim

My main evidence is just my own personal experience. I grew up in a ghetto with a family who didn't actually make much more than those around us, but we did better because we spent money on computers, books, glasses, internet, cameras, etc instead of spending it on expensive shoes, clothing, jewelry and drugs like our neighbors.

After I moved in with my husband I learned that my family was just a big fish in a tiny pond. In reality, we could still have been doing so much better on the same income if we had known simple things like not leaving wood in the sink.

Basic things I never grew up knowing, like how to oil a wooden cutting board, or a wooden table. I didn't know the meaning of a quality shoe. I thought more money for a shoe only meant it was more showy or some brand because the kids I grew up around paid more for shoes because they wanted the ones from the music videos.

It's amazing how you can take an income, let's say 35,000 a year, and it can mean poverty, or it can mean well-off, depending on how it is spent.

"Our societies have squeezed the time allocated to "domestic" tasks, like cooking or grocery shopping, in favour of time spent on work and leisure." - Tim

This is because we've dumped the entire "housewife" concept out the window. Someone who efficiently does the domestic tasks, who enjoys them to some degree, who understands them (to a greater degree than is common these days), and who is willing to work hard will actually pull their own weight financially just because of everything that is saved from waste.

"It's definitely something people should think more about, but I don't know if you can prejudge what their answers will be." - Tim

It's true that many, perhaps most, people are not at all willing to even worry about domestic activities, much less participate in them. And the idea of a house wife - or house husband - is often shunned as being an out-of-date concept that no longer functions. And thereby, people will waste $15 on a garbage lunch from some-such corporate place instead of making it themselves or having their house-spouse make it.

For those people who make plenty of money, it doesn't matter much. For those people in poverty, making some more educated choices can mean the difference between a life of illness and misery, and a life of contentment and health.