Ask your kids to help

Hi there

It’s been too long. I had grand plans of reblogging everything I blogged about but decided that’s boring. Not that much fun for me and probably not that much fun for you. All the posts from 001 to 365 are here for you if you want to read them.

Instead, I’ll just pitch a debt defying act to you from time to time for your thoughts and consideration. I will say this year is going much better than last. Seems I have a handle on it. Even if it’s still a grave situation in which we find ourselves. Slaves to the debt economy.

Anyway, that aside, one tactic I use is to enlist my kids’ help. They each have a main job and it helps us to keep on top of chores. A tidier house seems a happier one in our case as it is quite tiny.

Have a great week!

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Act 338

Stop and remember.

Today is one of those days. You’ll remember where you were when CBC Radio interrupted regular broadcast to announce that Nelson Mandela had died. So stop. And remember how much you have to be grateful for.

I am sad but also grateful that a man who suffered 27 years of emotional and physical torture in a cold and dark stone prison on an island off the Cape in the Indian Ocean, suffers no longer.

I am also touched that his life touched the life of my family. My dad worked in South Africa for several years. He even got to meet him on one occasion. My dad doesn’t talk about it much but I know enough to know it meant the world to him to shake his hand. And it means the world to me that I can tell my children that Grampa met him once. Mandela was kind and made sure my dad understood that what he was doing in South Africa was meaningful. The most meaningful things in life are also the most humbling.

I was working as a research assistant on the Hill when Mandela addressed Parliament. Parliament Hill is a busy, self obsessed, fussy place on the best of days. When he visited, it was calm, peaceful, respectful. That’s not something normally associated with the House of Commons. It was him. He had a presence, a respect and an effect on people. He appreciated Canada for reaching out to him. He was the first non-elected person to ever address the Houses of Parliament. His speech from that fateful day speaks to his deep appreciation of who we were as a country.

I visited South Africa a few years later. I learned things I never needed to learn. That the rich had rape gates in their homes. That dogs could be trained to attack only black people. That doing your own laundry could cause a revolt among servants who lived in tiny shacks far away from their own families so grateful were they to even have a job. I also learned that when a country is isolated from the rest of the world, some weird shit can go down.

It was the most shocking and insightful six weeks of my life.

Mandela’s struggle taught me that there is beauty in revolution, poetry in justice and that freedom is an art that speaks to everyone.

But really, for all our issues and all our concerns, we have no idea how the rest of the world lives. We need to stop and remember how lucky we are. He would want that because he would know that it would help us be better, kinder, more loving human beings. Revolution, justice and freedom. That’s what he spoke for. What he lived for. What we need to stop and remember him for.

RIP

Act 336

Dress Warm!

When I was little, my mom would insist that I wear a hat in winter. I hated it. I really did. I wonder now if that was a precursor to the situation in which I find myself today. I had the advice I needed. I just didn’t use it.

I went as far, as a child, to figure out how far down the street I could walk with my hat on until such time as my mom couldn’t see me through the kitchen window and I could safely remove it without getting in trouble. Seriously, that’s a feat of scientific measure for a ten year old, is it not?

Then, years later, I went to a high school hockey game dressed in what I thought was a perfectly sensible outfit. A jean jacket, a purple puffy vest, a pair of jeans and my white cheerleader running shoes. It was minus 40. I looked great but I nearly froze to death for my stylish choice, sans hat lest it mess with my sausage curls hair.

Today, in the Shuswap, normally known for gentle winter climate, the Arctic air is pushing temperatures below what we would normally see. It must be minus 15 plus wind chill. And yet I see perfectly reasonable grown ups about town with flimsy jackets, shoes, no hats and no gloves. Why suffer the cold? Yes, we look ridiculous in our hats and boots but we are warm and safe from frost bite.

It occurs to me that debt is like Arctic cold. A fact of life that can be avoided with proper planning. I hate being cold. I also hate being in debt. If I could knit a sweater or a pair of mitts that would get me out of this mess, I would and I’m  sure I’m a terrible knitter. But it would be worth the effort, would it not?

So wear a hat, some mitts, some winter boots and protect yourself. It’s not glamourous. It’s practical. And practical works. Practical has more disposable income. Practical has net worth. Practical has the hope of a healthy retirement. Never before has practical seemed so attractive!  Practical is Bill and Melinda Gates.

Life’s lessons are there, you just have to be willing to appreciate them. Debt is as bad as cheerleader running shoes in a Northern Ontario snowstorm. Only sorry it took me so many years to figure that out.  If I can know how far I can walk and safely remove my tuque without getting in trouble, it means that I’m also smart enough to know what I have to do to escape the painful reality of debt, or as I like to call it,  the stylish cheerleader runners in the snowstorm that nearly led to frostbite. My lesson has been learned.

Better late than never.

Act 331

Shop local

I’m shocked that I’m 331 days into this blog without having a single entry dedicated to shopping local. If my clients didn’t shop local, I wouldn’t have a job. And if I didn’t buy local, I wouldn’t have a local client base. Seems pretty obvious and yet…

If you’ve hung in this long reading my daily posts, you know that while this blog is mostly about money and debt it’s also about community, equity, income disparity, democracy, politics, economics and well being.

Salmon Arm recently saw the opening of a Walmart. Smart Centres fought like H-E-double hockey sticks to get what they wanted and they won. As they usually do. But we got a few good left hooks in. Pun intended. So it’s fitting on this US Thanksgiving that I do a little WM bashing. It breaks my heart to know that “associates” in the US , most of whom live below the poverty line while working for the richest corporation in America, missed Thanksgiving with their families to usher in an early arrival of Black Friday. Ugh. There’s something seriously wrong with us.

All the same, there’s not much I can do about it now, except to shop local as often as I can. On two separate occasions this week, I found what I needed at a price I could well afford at small, teeny tiny locally owned specialty shops.

Case one – olive oil. I considered buying a 3 litre tin at a big grocery store. We go through quite a bit of olive oil in my house. Then, as fate would have it, I stopped into my favourite gourmet grocers. Better oil. Cheaper. And a much more meaningful purchasing experience.

Case two – running shoes. My kids won’t stop growing. My eldest is now in bigger shoes than my own which means he gets my rarely used court shoes for gym and my skidoo boots for winter. My youngest informed me today that he has holes in his shoes. So off we went to their  local skateboard shop. The owner recognizes us when we came in. She tells me the DCs are half price and they have plenty available in his size. He’s delighted. And I won’t lie, I’m pretty pumped too.

Had I purchased either of these items at a big box  store, I would have paid more for less. Less concern, less care, less meaning and less economic impact on my local economy.

Please remember that local business owners punch above their weight in regards to the health of your community. They employ, they donate, they risk, they care. While big corporate entities come in to earn, to compete and to add coin to their already inflated bank accounts and value to their shareholders’ portfolio. It’s time we started asking what all the profit is really for. Really, it is.

The most important share you will EVER own is a share of the trust of your family and friends and the share you OWN in your own community.

So tomorrow. Buy local and BUY NOTHING at a large big box retailer. Just for a day. I will be eternally thankful for your sacrifice. But if it really does feel like a sacrifice, scroll back to the top and read again until it doesn’t. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s a contribution. It’s an act of economic practivism. And it only works if we all do it. Even if only for a day for which I give thanks.

Act 314

Spend your Canadian Tire Money

I do enjoy Canadian Tire Money. No sign up. No cards. No points. Nothing complicated. Just money. I especially like using it on discounted items (another thing I like about Canadian Tire). And they reward you for spending cash (not credit). I like that too. And to top it off, they’re Canadian.

I have a feeling that Sandy McTire (the Scottish looking character depicted on the currency), wouldn’t approve of debt of any kind or any nonsense whatsoever when it comes to money. I could probably learn a thing or two from old Sandy. I bet many of us could. Maybe Canadian Tire should re-incarnate him in as a financial planner.

Canadian Tire money is the original loyalty program and still the best, in my view. More interesting facts on the much-loved currency here. So don’t just collect it, spend it. Enjoy it. That’s what Sandy would want.

Act 309

Talk to the big kids

I had a tough day at the office. Nothing major. Just the weight of some deadlines and some budget constraints and that nagging feeling that some days I would be better off working at Tim Horton’s if my work was only about making money.

I suspect, in fact, I know, that many business owners have days like this. Owning a business is very rewarding, very challenging, very motivating but not always very profitable. Small business is the biggest business we have as an economy and business owners take a great deal of risk to ensure their own employment as well as the employment of their employees, their contractors and their suppliers. It’s a team effort. But when you own it, you’re the captain. Which means, when the ship goes off course, even slightly, it’s your responsibility and your dime.

Anyway, that aside (I would write about owning a business for a living if I could make a living at it, truth be told) toward the end of the day, I met with a prospective client who is an inspiration. I’ve watched on the sideline as she’s expanded her business to our area. We got to talking and I realized that it’s really all about perspective. Our numbers are proportionately the same – hers just have more zeros than mine. It doesn’t matter how big you are, if you’re small, and not backed by a giant money, well, you’re small and not backed by giant money, so you have to make it work sans excuses or drama or pity. Just make it work.

Which is what I’ll do tomorrow when I head back to the office to face the day. I just might do it with a bit more perspective.

Act 293

Restore

Ok – quick story. Two years ago I worked on a bike exhibit for our local public gallery. Part of our challenge was to find old bikes we could convert into art for the show. Our friends at the regional district let us pick through a pile of metal recycling with literally, hundreds of old bikes. Oh what fun, for a day at the dump, that is. We found what we needed. If you’re into that sort of thing, there’s a link here about the bike show called Pedal Power.

We also found a few things we didn’t need but couldn’t pass up including a BMX bike and a scooter, both in need of repair.

My youngest happen to dig out the scooter, which was never fixed, just this weekend. He fixed the front wheel and asked me to go online to find a back wheel. We found what we needed at a sports store nearby. Tonight, he has a brand new to him scooter. And judging by the number of tail whips happening in my living room, that $16 was well worth while considering a new scooter is worth a cool hundred bucks.

Act 281

Design is fine. But thrifty is nifty.

In between my mom shuttle duties today, I had a 1/2 hour to spend. Decided to go to the local thrift store for a look see. Sometimes there’s nothing. But on occasion you luck out if you’re willing to dig in.

I found a great hoodie for one son and two skookum t-shirts for the other. I also found a fetching wallace tartan handbag. Did I need another handbag? No. at at a grand price of $2.75, it was a fancy I could afford.

I’m beginning to think I’ll never buy anything for full price again.

Thought this t-shirt was the perfect find for this blog. The universe unfolds in funny and ironic ways some days…

Photo 249

Act 261

Improvise

My kids wanted cookies. One likes chocolate chip, the other oatmeal raisin, I hadn’t enough of either on hand to get the job done. So I improvised. And now we have some sort of cookie bar with some chocolate chips, some raisins and a bit of dried cereal to fill in the difference. Pretty yummy actually. I’ve said it before – it’s not about doing without – it’s about doing what you can with what you have. And therein lies the fun. When a problem becomes a challenge and a chore becomes an adventure, there are plenty of delightful surprises in store.

Act 234

Unplug

I’ve been forced in a way to unplug because I’m staying somewhere that has no cell or wifi coverage. At first, it was a worry. Now it’s a blessing. I’m happy to have the occasional day where I have no contact with the wired world. We need to do more of that.

So if I’m not in regular touch, you’ll know why. And I’m loving it. Back to the grind next week but I’ll try and make it a habit of unplugging from time to time if only to reconnect to what really matters.