Category Archives: Think

Things I Wish I Had Done When I Was Younger

Such an emotional journey! It's easy to forget that today's excuses are tomorrow's regrets. I love the idea of weaving your dreams into your daily life.

My life has been anything but traditional. Most traditional life paths look like this–at least, if we millennials had gotten the opportunity to pursue the path our parents’ generation preached would lead to success:

  1. Go to college.
  2. Get married.
  3. Start a family.

I’ve been married a couple times now, finished school nontraditionally, and had kids before I got that degree.

None of those steps happened in order. But for the most part, I haven’t bemoaned the consequences. My journey has been unique, and it’s been one with plenty of opportunities for self-actualization.

That being said, lately there have been some opportunities I’ve become aware of that I totally wish I could pursue. If I didn’t want to keep the kids in this school district. If I didn’t have this business that I’m kind of in love with running.

And so I’m putting it out there on the internet that if you’re young and have relatively few responsibilities, go. Do these things. Or the things you dream of doing. Because right now is the time. As you get older, you will have more responsibilities. Sometimes these responsibilities are restrictive.

If you’re anything like me, you feel like your responsibilities are already enough at your age. And they are. I respect you for meeting them. But believe me when I say they will get heavier as you age. Sometimes that’s a beautiful thing. But sometimes it can prevent you from applying for a job in the jungle to work with orangutans.

Things I Wish I Had Done When I Was Younger

Get a job in the jungle to work with orangutans.

A pet interest of mine lately has become primatology. I never thought this would be a huge interest for me. Animals are cool, but I never felt particularly drawn to study them.

But go watch YouTube videos about bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. It’s incredible to watch these creatures, our closest cousins, go about their lives. Experience their emotions. Use tools. Care for each other.

So much of what we consider human can be observed in these practices. This, plus access to a language both species can apparently gain fluency in, American Sign Language (ASL), has my brain spinning lately. Especially as so many of the great apes are going extinct because of habitat destruction and the bush meat trade, both of which are caused by humans.

So when I saw an open position at a research outpost my heart soared and the immediately turned sour. Would I love to go work in the jungle to study one of the gentlest of the great apes–the orangutan?

Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

But again, kids. Business. These are also things I love and want to be spending time at, and both demand attention.

Why did I not do ish like this when I was younger? I think back and can point to a million reasons why, many of them related to my lack of college education at the time. I wish I had known more about grants and scholarships back then.

Live abroad.

I have very few excuses for not doing this. When I was extremely young, I did live abroad. But I was so young I don’t remember too much about it.

When I was college-aged, I could have gotten a job at a hostel or done work online. Apparently, I could have also volunteered as an orangutan researcher in the jungles of Indonesia. In a low enough cost-of-living area, moving abroad would have been more than feasible. But none of these possibilities even crossed my mind.

Study abroad did, though. That’s one thing that stings about not doing college traditionally: I pretty much missed out on study abroad opportunities. I still dream about them now, but pursuing a semester abroad at my age has a lot more complications as far as visas, childcare, and those children’s educational needs go.

I’m not saying it will never happen. But living abroad probably isn’t in the cards in the near future here. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop dreaming, though. 😉

Invested money into index funds.

Okay, so I didn’t know what the hell index funds were when I was younger. I wouldn’t find out about those until J L Collins introduced them to me when I was slightly older but still young.

And I thought you only had enough money to invest if you were rich. And I was decidedly broke, though I did manage to get together decent emergency funds from time to time.

But had I gone to college traditionally I would have graduated at the peak of the Recession. Stocks were so cheeeeeaaaaaappppp. I would have so much more saved for retirement now, but back then I didn’t even know how to open an IRA and robo advisors didn’t exist. I could be wrong, but I feel like you generally needed more to get started back in the day (which really and truly wasn’t all that long ago.)

But I can still help the orangutans.

Just because I didn’t do some of these things when I was younger doesn’t mean I can’t transfer some of the enjoyment I would get from them into my life.

I may not be able to go back in time and invest from the age of 18, but I can regularly save for my retirement today. Future me will be grateful I started when I did rather than waiting until later. The best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago, but the second best time is now.

I may not be able to live abroad at the moment, but I can bring the joy of travel into my kids’ lives by exposing them to it early via vacations and long weekends, building it into the budget all the while.

And I may not be able to go research orangutans in the jungle, but I can still help the effort to save them by donating to the research center’s cause.

Life doesn’t necessarily get worse as you get older. Your joy just changes forms.

 

 

My Financial Muse is a Razor

Trigger warning: This post discusses feminine hygiene products.

This is such an interesting read. Marketing to you based on your values is huge now, but I didn't realize it was because of Gen Z. Definitely going to be thinking about new ways to be a conscious consumer.

While I was in Florida, I made many Walmart trips. Because you always forget something.

On one of these trips I was picking up razors. I was about to buy my regular brand when I thought I’d check out the guys’ razors. My finances could use some shoring up, so I’ve tried to be conscious about exercising a bit more frugality. And the guys’ razors are always cheaper.

Except this time, they weren’t!

isolated incident of womens razors being cheaper than mens razors

My jaw hit the floor. The Pink Tax in reverse! Two similar products, same brand. One clearly marketed to women, the other to men. I’ve tried both, and they both successfully get the hair off my legs. It’s the packaging you’re paying for.

Normally, the women’s razors would be more expensive than the men’s, but for whatever reason, on this day in this particular location men’s razors were more expensive.

So this anomaly was exciting.

But then I came home and found that the Pink Tax has been working its regular magic at all the area suburban stores I’ve shopped at since.

In fact, Friday night I was shopping in preparation for Snowmaggedon. I was buying razors, and went through a similar thought process to the one I experienced at that Floridian Walmart.

*reaches for women’s razors*

Wait! Bad! Buy the cheaper men’s razors!

*reaches for Bic’s men’s razors*

Wait, wait, wait. Remember that commercial that made you feel like maybe there are some good people in the world after all? And how at least some Twitter bots are protesting because apparently they don’t want a society that’s safe for women and children? Because that’s a platform now?

Buy the Gillette razors. They used their platform for good. And, yes, to appeal to Gen Z for advertising purposes. But you know what?

Good job, Gillette.

*grabs Gillette’s men’s razors*

*eyes Gillettte’s women’s razors. realizes that means you’re looking at Venuses.*

Nope, that ish is still expensive as hell.

*walks away, Nike sneakers squeaking on the freshly mopped floor*

The Pink Tax

So obviously I’ve had a lot of deep thoughts about razors lately. I’d like to look at the financial issues and psychological economics behind these thoughts I experienced.

First there’s the Pink Tax. It’s this thing where women’s products cost more than men’s, even when they’re identical products only differing in presentation, which is gender-binary-oriented.

Razors are obviously an example. So is shampoo. The list goes on. If it’s marketed to men, it’s cheaper. Perhaps the logic behind it is that women are more eager to be beautiful because that’s how society values them so they’re willing to invest more money into “beauty” products which are really just a part of basic hygiene.

But that logic makes me want to throw up in my mouth.

The Pink Tax is also a problem when it comes to feminine hygiene particularly. I live in the great state of Pennsylvania, where we’re not taxed on things like food and other necessary items like basic clothing.

You know what else we don’t pay tax on?

Tampons.

Pads.

Also known as feminine hygiene products.

H-Y-G-I-E-N-E.

No one buys tampons because they like the way they feel. These products are not luxuries. We buy them because they are necessary to function in the day-to-day world. They’re necessities. Just like food. Just like basic clothing. Yet many states still tax them.

I’m kind of crazy and think that not only should they not be taxed, but they should be a fully-covered benefit of any ACA-compliant plan. And that same coverage should be mandated as a contingency of granting states Medicaid funding.

But that’s just me.

Am I a sucker for advertisers?


Yes, I did exactly what these advertisers hoped their commercials would influence me to do. I bought their product because of their moral stance. Gen Z is coming of age.

You can officially stop calling 18-year-olds millennials. I’m in my 30s now, and I’m pretty close to the middle of the pack.

Gen Z is the hottest new target audience, and they lean liberal. They take note of things like social positions of companies, and they truly do vote with their dollars.

Millennials do this to some extent. Obviously. I bought into the razor ad. But I think Hasan Minhaj does a good job of exemplifying the effects of millennial anxiety on our final spending decisions. I’d recommend watching the whole thing, but you’ll pretty much get the point I’m trying to make if you watch to 1:40.

Note: We’ll be talking more about millennial anxiety and its effect on our personal economies in coming weeks. You can subscribe here to get a notification when the post goes live.

So I bought a product because the people in their marketing department were smart enough to prey on my sense of morality.

Does that mean I’ve been duped?

I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t. Now, it may have been a bit irresponsible of me to not research if Gillette as a company has any skeletons in their closet before I made the purchase. But given the information I had at the time, I’m happy with the decision.

Conversations for Informed Consumers

Really I think we just need to talk about these things and accept that sometimes our individual actions or opinions may be wrong. For example, with retrospect I can see that I should have researched the company via actual news sources to see if my values aligned with theirs or not. This rather than relying on an advertisement put together by marketing professionals. They hit my values on the nose in that ad. But do they exemplify those values after I give them my money?

They very may well. The marketing department may have had only the greatest of intentions as they crafted this ad that made me cry. The company may very well live up to these values. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary. I couldn’t immediately find anything disturbing about the ad like I experienced with that terrible Pepsi commercial a year or two back, either.

But because it is coming from an advertising department, it’s not necessarily a reliable source to represent the actual company culture.

If we don’t openly talk about our values and the way we digest media when those are the very things advertisers are targeting, we will cease to be informed consumers.

In the meantime, if anyone has an inside scoop on the work and company culture at Gillette, lemme know. Until I have information that changes my mind, I’m going to consciously allow myself to be swayed by this brilliant marketing campaign.

Free Rides Home to Prevent Drunk Driving

Sending this to my friends---free rides to prevent drunk driving!

I had an interesting conversation with my Japanese friend while she was visiting a few years ago. We were driving through an area laden with bars and night life.  Which can be a fun area if drinking is what you’re there for.

But that wasn’t what we were there for, and it got us talking about drunk driving. I related the lives I’ve known that have been lost to the horrible mistakes of both themselves and others while under the influence and behind the wheel. I lamented the lack of consequences for those who do drink and drive.

She looked shocked. “It is not like that in Japan. If I did that, my father would lose his job.”

Hell, yes, Japan.

Costs of Drunk Driving

Our system is way too lenient. But that doesn’t mean there are no consequences. Here’s some of what you face if you do drive drunk:

  • A night in jail.
  • Bail money.
  • A fine.  And a big one. They get bigger the more offenses you have, but the first one is nothing to laugh at.
  • Possibly extra time in jail. Upwards of six months.
  • A misdemeanor on your record.
  • Might have to attend AA.

Honestly, a DUI with its accompanying consequences would be good news. The fact that the cops caught you means that they got your drunk butt off the street, preventing you from killing someone else.  Or yourself.

Free Rides Home When You’re Drunk

Believe it or not, there are quite a few ways to get a free ride home when you’re drunk–especially on major holidays. Here are some of the best:

Cheap and Frugal Alternatives to Driving Drunk

Maybe you can’t get a free ride home, but you can use one of these options instead. Every single one of them is a heck of a lot cheaper than a DUI:

  • Public Tranport– This one is best if you plan to use it before you leave. On New Year’s and other holidays, cities usually leave their public transport open much later than usual so you won’t have to drive at all.
  • Sober Rides– AAA has created a compilation of programs across the country that offer DD services. They do charge a fee, but most of them not only drive you home, but also send a second driver out to get your car home, too. Check them out here.
  • Tell Siri you’re drunk. She’ll immediately offer to call a cab for you.

Cheaper Than a Funeral

Even if you pay for a super long, super overpriced taxi fare and get your car towed, the costs will still be less than that of the average funeral: $7,000. And that’s if only one person dies at your hands, not including additional damages awarded in the sure-to-happen law suit and the deep, painful remorse you’ll experience for the rest of your life.

It’s okay to have fun–as long as you’re responsible.

I hope everyone has fun time tonight–truly!

But I hope even more that you’ll do so responsibly.

 

 

Year of Bravery in Summation and 2019 Reveal

Love this twist on the new year's resolution. Setting intentions through single words, and the results.

You may remember that 2018 was my year of bravery. I did things that intimidated me. Things that I had been putting off. For the most part, this panned out well. Regardless of the end results, I learned something as a result of taking each and every leap.

Year of Bravery in Summation

Most of this I’ve told you about before. I was reticent to book my trip to Japan without my kids, but it ended up being the experience of a lifetime. I’m so glad I did it.

I wrote a book, which was released on October 15. Aside from a few trolling tweets, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I shouldn’t seek outside validation, but when you put a creative work into the world it’s hard. It’s like bearing your soul to the world, and then trying to get people to look at it. So when the feedback comes back positively, there’s a huge wave of relief.

I moved into my own place, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It has also opened up opportunities for great personal growth, though.

Going Back to School

Then there was going back to school. I thought I had this one down, but, boy was I wrong. First, the school I chose to attend was an hour and a half away. Which was fine (though I did start feeling terribly about it when the latest climate reports came out.) I can deduct the mileage as a self-employed person working towards further education, but spending 9 hours in a car per week was overwhelming. I made the right choice on which school to attend; I just wish it were closer. Or that I trusted and then owned a self-driving car.

Either way.

While none of my classmates were anything but kind, it was completely weird being in a sea of 18- to 21-year-olds. I had to adjust to the professor/student dynamic again, which wasn’t too big of a deal. It was just something I didn’t think about. I interview academics on a pseudo-regular basis for work, and have a few friends in the field. Taking that interpersonal dynamic down to an 18-year-old level again was a move I made awkwardly at first, but I think I figured it out.

I asked too many questions. I missed too many classes thanks to kids’ illnesses and snow days. For a little while there I was ill myself.

And I had to reconcile the fact that I wasn’t going to get an A on everything. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my studies. But I simply didn’t have the time. Even with substantial childcare help from my family, I had to choose kids and work over school several times, which was not a decision I wanted to face. But it was the only one that was logical at this juncture of my life.

Pretty much, I overbooked myself. So I’m taking next semester off while I get a plan together to viably try it again. While I learned amazing things and wouldn’t assign the word “regret” to the past semester, I did realize I need to do less things better moving forward. Which brings me into my plans for 2019.

The Year of Organization

By nature, I’m hyper type A. I like spreadsheets. I like planning for my future 1-, 5- and 10-years out. I oddly enough enjoy the process of filing taxes–even if the end result isn’t always fun. I like making to-do lists, and get way too much joy about crossing all the items off of them.

But the past few years, I haven’t been myself. My money hasn’t been as religiously organized. My schedule has changed at the drop of a hat over and over again both because I’m self-employed and because I’m the mother of young children. So I got to a point where I built skeletons of schedules scant on details. Which led to a lot of incomplete to-do lists.

Some people can operate in this space. I’m not one of them. So this year I’m really going to try to get back on track. To legit fix my money. To get a concrete schedule down–which will undoubtedly change a few times throughout the year–so I can cross more of those items off my to-do list.

I want that sense of accomplishment back. Because this year, I learned that while bravery comes with great rewards, I am left in a state of panic after its results come in if I don’t have a plan. I am capable of handling it. But handling it is not something I enjoy.

So in 2019, I’m going to continue to be brave. It’s a value that is now integrated into my life, I hope. But I’m also going to get organized so I can enjoy the fruits of my efforts a bit more. I’ve already got a weekly schedule down. My paperwork is almost to a point where I’m ready to file taxes. And I’ve scheduled money dates with myself for both my personal life and my business.

While this is a great time for new goals and new beginnings, remember to not wait until the new year to address any aspect of your life you’re not happy with. Start as soon as the thought or motivation comes to mind.

Do you have a word for 2019? What goals/resolutions are you currently working on?

Tech I Can’t Believe I Can Afford

This post is in collaboration with Mention Me.

This is an interesting thought. I've definitely seen prices for technology drop over my lifetime!

Recently, I took a trip down to Florida. I drove. I got a heck of a deal by using Auto Europe to book my car rental, and ended up with an SUV.

This thing had heated seats in the front. I was able to hook up my phone via bluetooth to listen to Google Maps and podcasts. And then there was the luxury I wasn’t quite prepared for: the backup camera.

I could parallel park with a new sense of confidence. It wasn’t a big deal that I had bags packed up to the ceiling in the trunk because I didn’t need to see out that window to back up. I was entering the 21st century, and it felt glorious.

That led me down the road of looking at backup cameras. Just for funsies. To my surprise, they’re an affordable add-on. Like super affordable. Like you can get one for under $150 at TadiBrothers.

As I was reflecting on my newfound ability to afford fancy tech, it got me to thinking about what other things I have thought were out of reach over the course of my life, only to have them be made available both by an increased income and the lowering of prices as technology becomes more accessible.

Smartphones

I was not on the smartphone bandwagon at first. I didn’t graduate out of my old flip phone until 2012. I didn’t want to carry my email with me everywhere, I didn’t need to be able to surf the web with my thumbs and I wasn’t into paying big bucks for data.

Then we were offered an unlimited data plan with phones whose prices had been reduced down to $10 or something ridiculous. And now I’m addicted to the dang thing, for better or worse.

Laptops

A couple years ago, I was seriously stressing about having two laptops in one house. I remember saving my pennies back in the day to contribute towards getting an internet-capable desktop with my parents. It was expensive as all get out.

What I failed to realize, and you all were kind enough to point out to me, is that computer prices have gone down dramatically since the turn of the millennium, and that having more than one per household is pretty darn normal.

What tech can you afford?

Are there any tech items you’re surprised you can afford? Was it an increase in income, a lowering of tech prices or both?