Category Archives: Economy

I Hate Planned Obsolescence

Published / by Annie / 8 Comments on I Hate Planned Obsolescence

The other day a friend stopped by and announced that he had a surprise in the back seat of his car. Curious, I stepped outside to see what it was.

To my surprise, he had an ancient iMac sitting on his back seat. He explained with a grin that he had been visiting another friend when he saw their neighbors carry it out to the trash.

“I immediately thought of you, so I asked permission to have it,” he explained.

We carried it into the house. It lacked a keyboard and a mouse, but it fortunately still had a power cord, so I connected a spare Windows mouse and keyboard to the machine and plugged it in.

That old dinosaur powered on.

According to my research, this machine (iMac model M5521) came out around the turn of the century, which means that it is almost 20 years old. The hard drive is a bit noisy, the slot loading CD-ROM sticks, but it still works!

The more I played with that old machine the angrier I got. This computer cost someone $999 new. That’s the equivalent of two month’s expenses for me. The thought of someone tossing that much money in the trash just pissed me off, not because they discarded something they no longer needed or used, but because of the fact that this poor machine was obsolete just a few short years after it was purchased.

That’s the way it is with stuff anymore. You purchase a new phone, computer, gadget, outfit, or whatever only to be told it is useless or out of fashion before you’ve hardly managed to break it in, so what do you do? You go out and buy a new one, tossing the old one into a closet or—like this poor old machine—in the trash.

Heck, purchase a new appliance these days and you’ll discover that the lightweight gears and moving parts within the machine will fail within a few short years. Don’t believe me? Go to the store and buy a cheap fan. See how many seasons it will last you before it dies. Next, go to a thrift shop and buy one of those ancient fans with the old cloth-covered power cords. I’ll bet that thing still runs even if it is close to 50 years old. In fact, I happen to know a gentleman who uses an old percolator to make his coffee that is even older than that! He got tired of buying coffee makers every couple of years so he dug out the old percolator his mother used to make her coffee with.

Anyway, back to this computer. After tinkering with it for a while I decided to try an experiment. I’m going to see if I can acquire the parts needed to give this puppy an upgrade and make it useful once again. I want to get it set up with some simple games, configure it for printing, add a word processing program, and let my grandson use it to play and do his homework on.

This isn’t exactly a priority to me so I plan to spend as little as possible. I’m going to ask around for spare parts to upgrade the RAM and search online for a copy of the operating system that I can download and burn to disk. If I get lucky I’ll manage to score a new CMOS battery for it, since the original is long dead.

And piece by piece I am going to turn this ancient machine into something that can be used today, just to prove that it can be done. It won’t be the fastest but that’s not the point. The point is that we spend a fortune on items that manufacturers declare completely useless years before they actually are. We spend hours of our lives each week earning money to buy items like this old computer, only to discard them as worthless a short time later, when in fact, with a little love and a bit of work, they can last longer than Big Business wants us to keep them.

I’ll let you know when I get the old dinosaur running. I will also let you know just how much money I spent turning it into something that can actually be used (paperweight is not an option).

What was the last item you saved from the trash? Please share your stories in the comments below.

You Know You’re Poor When…

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on You Know You’re Poor When…

During Christmas I found myself surrounded by family and friends when the subject of my cheapskate ways (and thus my website) came up. One of my companions made the comment that the majority of folks really don’t know what it is like to be poor and to do crazy (and sometimes illegal) things just to get by.

Time went on and we started discussing the crazy stuff we have done and seen others do just to survive. Some of the stories were simply mind-boggling so I asked permission to create this list so that others could get a glimpse of the other side of the fence.

To make this easier (and eliminate any potential identifying markers) I asked them to finish the phrase “you know you’re poor when…”

Here is what they came up with.

These items are in no particular order. For the record, some of these things are harsh and dark, but others are simply hilarious. I have done some of these things personally; as for the others, the only requirement was that it had to be something that they had either done personally or had actually seen done.

I make no judgment about the stories shared to me that night and I trust that you won’t either.

***

1. You know you’re poor when dumpster diving is an acceptable sport.

2. You know you’re poor when you never lock your door because you have absolutely nothing to steal.

3. You know you’re poor when $5 on the Dollar Menu is all you have to feed your entire family.

4. You know you’re poor when the neighbor’s fights are your version of reality TV.

5. You know you’re poor when you know how to use a box of Sudafed to pay your electric bill.

6. You know you’re poor when your grandmother celebrates every time she refills her Percocet prescription.

7. You know you’re poor when your whole neighborhood shares the cable bill.

8. You know you’re poor when you learn how to hack just so you can steal your neighbor’s internet.

9. You know you’re poor when sugar daddies are a viable source of income.

10. You know you’re poor when you envy your local drug dealers.

11. You know you’re poor when all of your tires are donut spares.

12. You know you’re poor when all of the DVDs you own are bootlegged.

13. You know you’re poor when you close your car windows with duct tape.

14. You know you’re poor when you really do live by the motto “duct tape fixes everything.”

15. You know you’re poor when all of your presents are purchased on an EBT card.

16. You know you’re poor when the most successful member of your family is a drug dealer.

17. You know you’re poor when you visit the website of your local jail to find out where your friends are.

18. You know you’re poor when you are more afraid of the cops than the dope fiends.

19. You know you’re poor when you look at the dope fiends as a source of cheap merchandise.

20. You know you’re poor when “reduce, reuse, recycle” also includes cigarette butts you pick up off the street.

21. You know you’re poor when you pray for snow so the landlord won’t come knocking.

22. You know you’re poor when a medical card means you can finally get a phone.

23. You know you’re poor when you catch a rat in the kitchen so your kids can have a pet.

24. You know you’re poor when you consider the stuff set outside after an eviction to be a free yard sale.

25. You know you’re poor when a happy meal is whatever you can buy with the change in your couch cushions.

26. You know you’re poor when you dig for change just to make it home.

27. You know you’re poor when you look at a fellow smoker and ask to share the wealth.

28. You know you’re poor when you can’t afford to eat at the restaurant you work at.

29. You know you’re poor when you steal ketchup packets so that you can make spaghetti for your kids.

30. You know you’re poor when you gather up extra napkins after you run out of bathroom tissue.

31. You know you’re poor when you call up your brother and ask him to reconnect your water meter.

32. You know you’re poor when you know how to make a pack of hot dogs feed your kids for a week.

33. You know you’re poor when you use shampoo and dishwashing liquid to clean your laundry.

34. You know you’re poor when you call your dog your official bed warmer.

35. You know you’re poor when the creek is your swimming pool.

36. You know you’re poor when you carry a fishing pole to hide the fact that you live by the river.

37. You know you’re poor when your phone is over 10 years old and you are still using it.

38. You know you’re poor when the pawn shop is on speed dial.

39. You know you’re poor when you give the scissors to your toddler and ask her for a haircut.

40. You know you’re poor when you use kool-aid to color your hair.

41. You know you’re poor when it takes five people to buy one 40-oz.

42. You know you’re poor when your second job is a phone sex operator.

43. You know you’re poor when you’re afraid to own upholstered furniture because you are so afraid of bedbugs and fleas.

44. You know you’re poor when 13 people live in a one-bedroom house.

45. You know you’re poor when the cockroaches move next door.

46. You know you’re poor when you have to take stuff back to the store just so you can buy your kids a birthday cake.

47. You know you’re poor when you have to use your dirty socks for feminine pads.

48. You know you’re poor when you are banned from getting money from the pop machines.

49. You know you’re poor when you have to pass around a 2-liter bottle because you’ve had to sell all of your glasses.

50. You know you’re poor when you go to Ruler Foods and ask to put away carts just so you can collect the quarter.

51. You know you’re poor when you exchange food stamps for cash to pay the water bill.

52. You know you’re poor when you grow your nerve medicine in the back yard.

53. You know you’re poor when you have to wipe your butt with a coffee filter.

54. You know you’re poor when you know just how far 50 cents worth of gas will take you.

55. You know you’re poor when you stick your own hair in your food to get a free meal.

56. You know you’re poor when a seafood dinner is what you’ve managed to catch in the creek.

57. You know you’re poor when you try to claim your pets as dependents.

58. You know you’re poor when you start smoking just so you can get a break at work.

59. You know you’re poor when you sell your dirty panties for gas money.

60. You know you’re poor when you raid the local tobacco field every time you run out of cigarettes.

61. You know you’re poor when you pimp out your daughters just to get the finder’s fee.

62. You know you’re poor when you count on your food stamps just to pay your bills.

63. You know you’re poor when you know exactly how long it takes for a check to hit your bank.

64. You know you’re poor when you know how to use the memo field on your checks to escape a debt.

65. You know you’re poor when you consider the weeds in your yard to be a food source.

66. You know you’re poor when you know how to make a tampon.

67. You know you’re poor when you know how to curl your hair using bathroom tissue.

68. You know you’re poor when there’s a tree in your town that everyone calls “the pooping bush.”

69. You know you’re poor when you eat dog or cat food on crackers.

70. You know you’re poor when you eat Kibbles and Bits as a breakfast cereal.

71. You know you’re poor when you’re still breast feeding your six-year-old because you can’t afford to feed them.

72. You know you’re poor when you smoke a cigarette every time you are hungry.

73. You know you’re poor when you drink a cup of hot water every time you are hungry and tell yourself that it is soup.

74. You know you’re poor when you decide to keep drinking because there is no food in the house.

75. You know you’re poor when everyone you know works at McDonald’s.

76. You know you’re poor when your job doesn’t cover your medical expenses.

77. You know you’re poor when you have to sell your dog to pay for dinner.

78. You know you’re poor when your commode sits at a 90-degree angle.

79. You know you’re poor when you have to reuse your bathroom tissue.

80. You know you’re poor when you stick stuff in empty soft drink cans just to increase the weight.

81. You know you’re poor when your cat adopts the neighbor because she’s hungry.

82. You know you’re poor when people judge you because your parents bought you an iPhone.

83. You know you’re poor when people judge you for wearing nice clothes even though you bought them at a thrift shop.

84. You know you’re poor when you are grateful that the wealthier members of your family purchase your children or grandchildren expensive toys.

***

Do you have anything to add to this list? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

Sign of the times

Published / by Annie / 7 Comments on Sign of the times

While Katie and I forgo decorating our home to celebrate the holidays we still enjoy walking around our little neighborhood to examine the festive atmosphere. We may live in the ‘hood but several of our compatriots enjoy going all out for the season.

I wasn’t up for last year but since I’m feeling a bit better we resumed our little tradition this Christmas Eve. We anxiously awaited dusk to arrive, grabbed our coats, and started walking.

Our first stop was a pair of houses just a couple of blocks away. The folks who live there team up to create a fabulous display complete with music and the occasional light show so I was excited to be able to witness their annual offering.

As we approached I noticed that the lights weren’t on. “That’s odd, “ I commented to Katie. “They’re usually lit by this hour.” Disappointed, we continued our walk expecting them to be alight by the time we came back through.

The second house we approached was just as dark as the first. So was the third, the fourth, and so on. Slowly we realized something sad.

Only two houses in our little hood had even bothered to decorate. Even the brightest houses were dark and what displays we saw were muted.

It is a sad time when nobody decorates for Christmas, not even the ones who savor the season.

In my experience, people in this area don’t decorate when money is tight because they are afraid of the electric bill. It is a sign that jobs have been lost, income decreased, and fear prevails.

I wonder what next year will hold.

Were there any changes in how your neighborhood celebrated Christmas this year? Did you do more or less this year? Why? Please share your stories in the comments below.