Friday, August 23, 2013

Consumption

Nothing makes you evaluate the role you play as a consumer like moving.  As I stand, surrounded by boxes of shoes and clothes and toys, I think, "how do I own so much stuff?"  This makes me think back to Lyn's post, which is better than anything I will write on the subject.

Then we make another trip to Ikea or Target to acquire even more stuff, stuff we need.  And admittedly, we do need a new bed to house our new mattress that will hopefully alleviate back pain rather than cause it.  Therefore we need new sheets and a new comforter, in the appropriate size.

I try to make sure that I'm using the things that I own, and what I'm not using goes to a new home.  I also try to make sure that new home is a local shelter or organization that will use my items and make sure they are useful to somebody.  Most of my clothing goes to a local women's shelter, because I know that they sell some stuff through their consignment shop but they also provide clothing to women who have, for example, had their clothes shredded, bleached, or stolen by their abusers.  Our furniture that doesn't come with us and doesn't get sold on Craigslist will be donated to a local charity that furnishes halfway homes and transitional housing.

I would like, very much, to be a person who mostly thrifts all of her clothing, because reusing is the best way to reduce.  I would also like to be able to make my own clothing that is work appropriate (and perhaps extra cycling appropriate).  I do not do this because my finishing is not very good and everything I make looks handmade.  I would also like to be the kind of person who enjoys minimalism, who doesn't like having stuff everywhere (or at all); however, I haven't figured out how to be a minimalist without being a mooch.

For right now, the biggest help has been to sign up for an app called EEBA.  Because it turns out that what's best for our wallets is also what's best for the environment.  If I save my clothing budget for this month, then next month I can buy a more expensive, ethically made, higher quality item that will hopefully last a long time.  If we don't buy too much stuff, we have more budget to go out and enjoy life experiences, which all of the research says is the biggest factor towards determining happiness.  I take a lot of satisfaction in recognizing that while I have not always been very good about reducing my consumption, it's never too late to start, and the less I buy now, the less there will be for me to agonize over and hoard in the future.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

It's really hard to tell, when buying a house, if you are being penny-wise, pound foolish.  Meaning, are you trying so hard to save money in the short term it hurts you in the long run.  The biggest question for us right now is whether or not to buy a home warranty.

I'll start by saying that the big question a week ago was whether or not to join Angie's List - it's $39 for a year.  However, there is a 40% off coupon you can find pretty easily by googling, and we got an extra 20% off for using PayPal - so what was a $40 question suddenly got knocked down to $18 and became an easy decision.  So far, we like Angie's List - it's been great for reviews of moving companies, etc. but, according to the spouse, it is also full of negative reviews of home warranty companies.

We also solved a big question this week of what homeowner's insurance to get.  We got a few quotes, and then decided to go with AllState, which was not necessarily the best value, but we sat down, put all of the coverage into a spreadsheet, and then talked through what kind of coverage we needed.  On face value, there was one company that was a better value (there was a math ratio thing going on), but we talked through it and realized that we did not need $150k of coverage for our personal possessions.

I'm going to take a brief aside here and talk about the importance of renter's insurance.  First of all, renter's insurance matters because it forces you to sit down and list the value of all of your personal possessions early on in your furniture buying, and then you just have to upgrade certain categories.  Secondly, renter's insurance matters in case you get robbed, your house burns down, or you lose your engagement ring at the gym.  The entire reason we went with AllState, besides they were a good enough value, was that I was so happy with how they dealt with us when I lost my engagement ring.  From the time of filing a claim to the time of receiving a check was less than two or three weeks, the guys we worked with were really nice, and the whole thing was pretty easy.  Sidenote: insure your jewelry.  You can either get a rider for a specific piece of jewelry or you can get a rider that covers all of your jewelry.

I feel like with houses, it feels really difficult to make these decisions.  Everything feels so huge, so fraught, so "you are making this decision and it could cost you billions of dollars!" not to mention the part where you are spending all or most of your savings on this piece of land.  It's hard to get a grip on the bigger picture.  It's hard to take all of the advice you are getting into consideration.  Any more advice on navigating these issues?