Frugal, ECO, Ethical Citizen

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Photo: Washington State University

I am so excited to be back because I can finally be a more avid supporter of eco-friendly products, small & minority owned businesses, ethical spending and civic engagement. In just the last few weeks I’ve been researching options for her & home, so that I can get into a groove that I can stick with. What’s more important is that I can’t afford to do this on a baller budget. I’ve got to find a way to chop my spending by about half and to adopt a less is more approach to the items I accept into our home. Going from a 4 bedroom townhouse to a 1 bedroom apartment is sure to be great practice. Here’s what I’ve come up with…

For clothes, I’m trying to craft my life around Courtney Carver’s 333 Project, by using decluttr and thredup to shed stuff I haven’t worn in years and to restock with new fair trade, frugal and fanciful wears. So, I’m still working through getting rid of stuff that hasn’t even yet arrived in my shipments from Africa, but for now I’m focusing on fair trade PACT Organic‘s organic cotton that meets Fair Trade standards in India and The Global Organic Textile Standard for the factory workers who make the wears. At $20 a dress at their annual sale (going on right now), there’s simply no excuse NOT to buy.  And, since underwear don’t count towards the 333, I’m investing in the Black & women owned business that’s proven to be a pick me up, under my clothes. You! Lingerie is making sure my belly bump doesn’t turn me into an old maid one minute before my time. With styles & prices on par with La Senza & Victoria Secret, this ain’t yo’ mama’s maternity wear!

For food, I’m going back to my old faithfuls. Mom’s Organic Market isn’t for the paupers, but anyone on a budget can manage it and, frankly, I feel it in my gut – literally – when I’ve grocery shopped elsewhere. To balance the budget, I’ll be going back to my old ways of relying on a CSA for fruits and veggies. First, it’s cheaper than buying everything separately, but second I get everything in one box with so much less packaging than would be the case in a supermarket chocked full of plastic bags and paper wrappings. That makes me feel like there’s less waste in the world just cause of me! Because I’m moving to a new neighborhood I don’t think I can stick with 5adayCSA, but I’ll give From the Farmer a shot. At $29 per box with delivery, I can’t complain! Oh and what to do with all the scraps that come from my juicer? COMPOST babaysssss! I am committing to dropping off the waste at the old, reliable Common Good City Farm in the District.

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Photo from The Make Your Own Zone

For the house, I’m back on the non-chemical disinfectant tip – well, as much as possible without creating a bio hazard. I’m stocking up on apple cider vinegar, which can be used for everything – literally – everything. And then I’m getting Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint in bulk, in spite of its weird label, so I can “Dilute! Dilute!” (read the label – it’s weird). And finally, I’ll oscillate between Organic Eco Nuts (which are so easy to use, have little packaging, are safe for the environment and simple as hell to (re)use) for my clothes & sheets AND True! Detergents (a Black & Veteran owned business that uses non-toxic & biodegradable ingredients) for the doggie’s goods and the hubby’s sweaty stanky wears.

I can’t wait to start afresh & I’m still open to other suggestions… send ’em my way…& keep ’em coming!

 

American culture shock.

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Photo: PINS Daddy

It has officially been 1 week since I’ve been back in the U.S., so it’s only right that I get back to writing my confusions, my exploits and my experiences. Thanks for loving me through the hiatus. It’s only right that – 8 days fresh off the wings of a United flight – I come back  to writing with a few questions for you’se guys who call this place home. Help me understand how this place works. There are so many things I just don’t get anymore.

 

1 – Why do I have to fill out the Customs forms if I have global entry? I feel like DHS & CBP just have a lot of paper lying around and they want to get rid of it by dumping it on those of us who don’t need it, but don’t yet know we don’t need it. Keep yo’ paper, bruh! I have enough luggage to worry about.

1a. Why doesn’t every American with a passport have global entry tho’?

1b. Who has life minutes to waste in long lines in airports tho’?

2 – Why is everything in the super market in a box or a plastic bag? Forgive my amnesia on this subject, but I’m going to repeat Chimamanda Adichie, who only recently joined our sacred Barnard sistahood (we’ll keep her tho’) and is also eloquent with a writer’s pen, “EAT REAL FOOD.” I was so sad walking through Trader Joe’s this week and Whole Foods last week when I felt like I walked out with more packaging than actual food. 5adayCSA here I come!

 

3 – Why are White people moving into every neighborhood in the country at this very moment in time? I mean, literally, I could trace the eastern seaboard with a litany of Brown people tears over gentrification. I’ve been in 3 states in the last 8 days and in each town I visited I’ve heard lamentations of the erasure of people of color, the displacement of low and middle-income families, and reverse White flight. I just can’t figure out why now? I could get into the race issues here, but I’ll just settle on simply asking “why are all the White folks moving?”

4 – What are cops for anymore? People (of color, predominantly) are more afraid than ever to cross paths with police officers, so I’m kinda wondering how exactly can they be useful. In theory, yea, public safety, blah, blah I get it (ish), but really I can’t be the only one wondering… 4a. when is it safe to call them exactly? 4b. Could I live with myself if something bad happened either way? or 4c. Would I be alive after they left?

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Pinterest – saved by Rebecca Mendez

5- Last, but not least, how many housewife shows are actually on the air right now? There are Real Housewives of like 12 towns & 49 states; 1st and 2nd wives clubs in satellite cities; Celebrity, Jail and Sister wives. I mean, we get it, shows about nuclear, dysfunctional families will keep women with disposable income glued to the TV looking at commercials and buying stuff we don’t need to mimic people we don’t like. But, c’mon, let’s do better. I’d trade you 20 of these wife shows full of fiancees & divorcees for just 10 HGTV channels, preferably in metropolitan cities where one can purchase a 3 bedroom house for less than $400,000 USD. A real wife can dream…

Riddle me that.

#musicamondays #MusicMondays (68)

Welcome to the 68th installation of #musicamondays #MusicMondays, which features music from around the globe. Each song is selected to start your week off on the good foot! One still in the bed and the other in another country…

I woke up this morning trying to google, youtube search and shazam stalk this song, but it took OkayAfrica to jog my memory. Alas, South Africa’s Black Motion‘s hit Imali (money in Zulu) will give you the jolt you need to kick start your week with positive, upbeat vibes.

And since it’s a Monday Morning, this feels appropriate…

#musicamondays #MusicMondays (65)

Welcome to the 65th installation of #musicamondays #MusicMondays, which features music from around the globe. Each song is selected to start your week off on the good foot! One still in the bed and the other in another country…

This song hails from Lloyd Kappas, a new artist from my adopted country of Mozambique. I love a good love story (“casamento” means wedding in Portuguese) and a solid rags to riches story (I think you all are smart enough to know that he won the lottery) – he delivers both. Enjoy all these positive vibes and have a great day ahead!

Stupidest things I did this year while trying to be smart…

Broke Life - https://www.pinterest.com/resumeedge/jobresume-funnies/My husband, my friends, people who know me well and people who met me yesterday all know that I am the queen of doing too much. I think I deserve a medal OR a dunce cap to remind myself of this, because I am always biting off more than I can chew. I’m studying and working at the same time. I’m not just studying actually. I’m basically trying to write a book. And not only am I working, but I’m supposed to be people’s boss all day long. This is all while being an expert doggie mum, a new batch cook, and an aspiring CFR fellow. In preparation for the end of 2016 and in an effort to put all this mercury in retrograde behind me, here are my confessions.

money blog1 – I changed my retirement withholdings to $1 per pay period. Yup, I did that stupid $hit! Why? You might ask. I’ll tell you why. I thought I was going to overpay the maximum withholding last year. So as to avoid this, I dropped down the withholding to bare bones on the last pay period of the calendar year. And then? You might ask. I just forgot. I forgot for 10 whole months and didn’t realize until I went on vacation, came up for air and looked at my pay stub without work fog in my eyes. And so… I did that.

2 – I drove up the offramp from Kenneth Kaunda street. If you don’t know anything about Maputo what you should know is that there are no real street signs. Actually maybe there are 3 or 4, but they just popped up in the last few months. In any case, there was road construction, I was late to work and rather than just stopping for a sec to see which way traffic was going, I kept going straight up the ramp until I saw a car heading straight for me. Then, I turned into the UNHCR driveway to turn around and head back the way I came and start all over. I remained late.

image13 – I ordered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot at Oktoberfest. Yes, I meant to order champagne. No, I did not mean to order a bottle. For some reason, while sitting in a large tent filled with drunken Germans in Stuttgart, I conveniently forgot that the 95.00 price tag was in Euro (and not South African Rand). Why would I think in Rand? Well, because the only times I end up in a big party full of 20something White people, I tend to be in South Africa. In any case, 95.00 Rand is about $8 USD, which is about how much any bottle of anything in South Africa costs, so there was also a bit of wishful thinking to it too. I messed up, mixed up countries, mixed up currencies and a shameless friend sent back the bucket and made me order a glass of some cheap fizzy stuff. It cost about $8 per glass.

14581584_10102690261571042_941430723435017587_n4 – I bought and read Mindy Kaling‘s book “Why not me? – This book is horrible, but it sounded like a great idea because I love “the Mindy project” and I had free downloads on Audible. So I’m not sure if I’m more upset that I had to listen to her voice for 5 hours OR if I’m thankful that at least I saved hours of life minutes I never would have gotten back if I had read it myself. In short, her retelling of her life experiences is boring. Maybe she does fun things in real life, but she didn’t talk about them in this book. And then she gave a revisionist telling of advice about being a confident woman years after actually having been asked. And even after years of rumination… her answer was still lackluster. I want my money & my life minutes back.

5 – Batch cooking – Ok, so this is actually smart. But, since we have no legit tupperware (just old plastic ice cream containers), I have no place to store the food except in the pots I cooked them in. They fill up my fridge and seem appealing & edible for dinners (though they were intended for lunch) and by Wednesday at 11am, I have officially ran out of meals for the rest of the week. I’m still working through this one, because I think it’s redeemable. I’m trashing the repurposed ice cream tubs and investing in glass containers with snap on lids… I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Hope you enjoyed my  “doing too much” calamity confessions. Laugh @ my pain…

Finicky Financial Advice

money blogI’ve signed up for many blogs and Facebook groups about money, business & investing in the last 5 years. Suze Orman, the Budgetnista, my banks’ newsletters…

I’ve saturated my brain space with such things at this point and I’ve learned a lot along the way. What’s challenging, however, is the fact that I’ve hit a wall. Some of this may just be lil’ ole’ me having zero willpower to implement new financial patterns, but I’ve brain stormed what’s not right (saying “wrong” sounds wrong) about the advice I’m seeing populate my many newsfeeds, pages and inboxes.

1 – The rags to riches story is tired.  A lot of advice starts from the assumption that you’re poor. Setting aside all the debates that argue that many poor people actually think they’re middle class, these “she used to have $12 in her bank account and now she has $1 Million” stories have grown old. I don’t want to be a millionaire and I definitely don’t have $12 in my bank account. I’m looking for tips on how to improve from okay to great, not how to save myself from destitution. The lessons aren’t the same, so the inspirational story loses impact, because the practical steps to make a change aren’t replicable.  

2 – Entrepreneurship is hard.  I appreciate the messaging around being a business owner and acting as one’s own boss, but actually doing it is not easy. Dare I say, it’s less fun than showing up at a “day job,” which could be totally boring, but not nerve wracking. Investing your savings in a business venture that’s supposed to grant financial freedom is a pipe dream. If it’s really yours, as a successful business will be, you are duty bound to making that business succeed, keeping up its reputation and growing its reach. To my mind, that’s the exact opposite of freedom, if you’re doing it right. It’s a huge emotional and time commitment that I don’t think many people are truly prepared for.

IMG_20160220_0811343 – Save money when you spend. Coupon clipping, deal seeking, promotion pimping shoppers still spend money. Yet, I find that many blogs don’t promote less consumption, just lower costs of consumption. And while I’m a good capitalist like the next woman with ten fingers and ten toes, I have to say that this is exactly the type of mind set that keeps sweatshops in business. If you don’t want to spend money, don’t shop. But, if you need/want to, I think it should be done with a conscience and awareness about the supply chain the purchase comes from. Even if we can’t afford to get out of the trap of supporting cheap(er) labor, we should be aware that we’re doing it and make efforts to ensure that our financial situation improves such that we can lessen the habit.

4 – Why do I have homework? Many blogs and books give you lessons, but I’ve found that many newsletters and groups are dishing out homework too. I’ve seen everything from accountability partners to daily tasks for financial wellness. I have the attention span of a fly when it comes to things that aren’t about work, school or family, so these reminders convert to spam and spam into trash. And there’s a vicious cycle of mass deletions.

5 – Everything on stocks sucks. I haven’t read anything good about stocks yet. I suppose it’s pretty plain that there’s no good “how to” guide for stock market and bond investing, but it just feels like all the books and blogs seem to say 1) keep your money in for at least 10 years, 2) don’t pull out when everyone else is and don’t invest when/where everyone else is, 3) invest in what you use and 4) only invest money you can afford to lose. Anything else?… If not, let’s not keep printing big books and articles that add other fancy pants words around these basic lessons.

6 – The charity and tax nexus are non-starters. Last but not least, there are 2 issues that very rarely show up in these advice columns. How to manage income and taxes to net more AND how to integrate philanthropy into a budget. Better yet, if I can find anything on how charitable spending can help lower taxable income, I’ll be sure to send the author home made chocolate chip cookies. Sure, maybe we all should hire a financial planner to figure this out for our individual situation… maybe… but can I just get some basic principles? just one article? one book? or one measly little blog post? Or nahh…

That said, for those of you who want to troll the wealth of financial baggage I’ve accumulated over the years, please check out the list below. It’s chocked full of useful info, but it’s not what I’m looking for anymore. To help me get past this money advice rut, share resources that worked for you in the comments section.

Sharing (even sharing frustrations) is caring!

Suze Orman’s book

The Live Richer Challenge

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

Modest Money

My Wife Quit Her Job