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31 Days to Fix Your Finances

Next week, I will begin The Simple Dollar’s 31 Days to Fix Your Finances program.


Hopefully by the end of this, I’ll be like this lady in the picture frolicking in some benjamins!


If you’d like to follow along with me, please click on the link above to purchase your own copy for $2!  I’ll be documenting my progress and reflections for the next 31 days – over the month of September.  So, if you want to see the qualitative changes this makes in my life before you decide to invest, then make sure you come back from time to time to check in with the POVERT series.


But seriously, the book is only $2 on Paypal.  That’s like.  A slice of pizza.  I say just do it.

[VIDEO] Cartoon Explains the Current State of the Economy & Why You’re Poor As Hell.

RF enjoys this trend of Youtube-accessible animation being used to explain scary (and very adult) economic situations.   This video covers inflation, stagflation, the recession, and answers why the U.S. Treasury can’t just keep on printing dolla-dolla bills, y’all!  ALSO, this is the first time we’ve heard the current state of the economy called “a global economic collapse.”  So, this animation ends on a bit of a dark note: “The only thing we can do is to prepare for very. EXTRAORDINARY. CIRCUMSTANCES!”  OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG!  LXD - Save us from impending doom with your impeccable dance steelo.  kthx!   Now that we better understand this situation, we  just hope the US didn’t borrow from Sallie Mae.  Because they be blowin up phones allldatime like cray, OHkayyyyy?  (…and we don’t even owe close to $14 trillion…)   Please take the 5 minutes to watch:

UPDATE: Adam Baker, a favorite blogger of ours, of Man Vs. Debt recently blogged about this video, too!  In his post, he covers the way these larger systems affect the average American family.  If you don’t follow the blog, Adam is a father to an adorable toddler, and currently lives with his wife in New Zealand.  They’re originally from Indiana, and sold all their belongings after a round of several debts to travel the world.  RF loves the blog, but you should check out what other people are writing in response in his comments section, too!   *Featured image source:

When There Are No More Texts, I’ll Be Forced to Have an Actual Conversation With You

In the next year, there seems to be a push for major cell provider networks to kill texting. According to CNNMoney , the popularity of Smartphone data packages and free text providers (like RIMM’s Blackberry messenger) are convincing major service providers to label text messaging “passé.”


Text is a primary form of communication in my life.  I, as a po’ folk, cannot afford to pay for a data plan.  I do not have a smartphone, not because I don’t enjoy convenience, but because it is an incredible luxury to someone without income.  Anything  $100 or more for a phone bill is ridiculous to me.  I’m positive that there are millions of other Americans, just like me, who can’t afford that kind of expense.  My cell phone has taken the place of a landline, like many other households in the US.


I can no longer picture life  without a phone.  When you’re unemployed and waiting for employers to call, or need identity verification for various security things, it’s vital to have a means of contact.


Recently, when I asked T-Mobile about the options available to reduce my bill (which is now round $87.00/mo) they simply had no options that made sense.  The most inexpensive package they had was more expensive than the unlimited call and text plan I currently use.  Because they’re dumb (and because I still am under their contract for 3 more months) in my defeat, the only thing I channeled my rage into was the VERY STRONGLY WORDED EMAIL I’d write some time I’m free.


The article linked above states:


 Texting may sound cheap, but it’s actually an incredibly expensive way for consumers to send data. Text messages max out at just 160 bytes, which means 20-cents-per-message plans cost wireless customers an astounding $1,250 per megabyte.


While I was abroad in the Philippines this summer, I spent a lot of time with my local Nokia cell phone.  It was the ugly kind.  The kind you had in the year 2000.  Though there were some battles lost to predictive text, my Nokia was pretty reliable.  You know what else?  My phone was pre-loaded.  I would buy the equivalent to a $12 phone card/load and that would last me one month with about 350 texts, and some minutes for some quick conversations.


It costs about $0.02 USD to send ONE text in a developing nation.  So that $0.20 / message quoted above for US-based providers is actually $0.18 going to the pockets of middlemen, and other ridiculous inefficiencies that have absolutely nothing to do with the mechanics of sending your text.  So, again, this is just some bullsh*t about profits, and people changing things up so that it becomes compulsory to purchase a smartphone and its accompanying data plan, since there are practically no data-less packages at this point.  STOP OVERCHARGING.


If you think that there’s some tomfoolery a-happening on your cell phone bill, the FCC has put together tips on what to look for in the event you wanna hang out and take part in a larger class action lawsuit against your provider eventually.


Please visit MyRatePlan for a very straightforward listing of the rates available in your zip code by major service providers (AT&T, T-mobile, Sprint, Verizon, etc.), and a peek at web design back in 2001.  However, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your bill, and a more personalized assessment of your needs (requires your login info with your current cell phone provider to analyze data) try Bill Shrink.  The listing will then be emailed to you so that it can sit in your inbox archives 4evs.


(Also, let’s not forget how some of these corporations are absolute dbags.  LOOKINATCHU, VERIZON!)

Selling Out Online: Parting With Your Things on the Internet

When times are tough, the internet is always a good place to sell your crap. source:


It is crunch time.  In a mad dash to make some money, I collected all the things that might possibly have value, sorted through the piles, and now listings are alive and well all over the internet consumer-sphere!  Whatever doesn’t sell will be donated immediately.  This seemed like the best option for me right now because:


    • My younger sister was really adamant that I finally get rid of all the things I’d been promising to sell for years.


    • I really need to reduce a lot of my belongings to prepare for the big move.


    • Turns out, reducing all the clutter in my home is helping with my anxiety!


    • Might as well try to see how much cash I can get for things before I throw them out/ donate them.


    • It’s a decent (and lucrative) way to whittle away the time while I wait to hear from various employers about my resume. (ugh.)


So, here I am, AMAZED at all the things I’ve accumulated – papers, containers, crap – as I haven’t moved in a while.  There are a couple of items I don’t really know what to do with, but insist they are collectible.  Old limited edition Barbie dolls, unopened perfume bottles, and the biggest downers: the  CDs and DVDs I own.  After some research and price comparisons, disc-media jsut don’t make a lot of money at all now that Netflix and iTunes are all the rave with the young folks.  Who wants my Floetry CD or my Family Guy Season 2 boxed set in the middle of a recession?   I’ll tell you:  NO ONE.


Anyway, I wanted to share some of the sites that have shown some kind of tacit specialization in the art of reselling:


eBay – of course is good for your random, big ticket, used things.  I’ve been selling some clothing and costume jewelry on it.  Basically, if it’s in the way of my cleaning streak, it’ll end up being on sale.  I have way too much clothing and accessories anyway… –   There is  2-week wait for funds to clear into your Paypal, so it’s money, but not very quick.  I say good for books (especially for textbooks right now, as the school year begins!) but their commission is SO HIGH, that I actually asked for a more transparent breakdown of the deduction they take.    On a recent textbook sale, this is the breakdown that was provided:
Order date: 08/18/2011

Buyer’s price: $64.25

Amazon commission: -$11.98

Shipping credit: $3.99

Your earnings: $56.26
Close to $12 for a commission!  that’s like 3 days of food! , I’m madatchoo!  BUT I NEED YOUR SERVICES RIGHT NOW, UUUUGHHHHNNNN!  (na na na naaaaaa) is great for books, but the selling prices for books seem a bit low right now.  The commission they charge is fairly straightforward, and the disbursement of funding is fairly quick.  They seem to be on top of seller accounts, too, to limit fraud and other scams.  Turns out I had about $125.00+ from previous sales that went unclaimed, and they put my account on the “vacation setting.”  There are some simple steps required to reinstate my account, all involving the verification of my identity, so I plan to go back to like a guilty lover as soon as I do.  &  – For those CDs and DVDs, there are tons of sites that basically buy  your used things, check if they’re in decent condition, then resell those items at 200x their buyback price (yes, totally possible if they offer you $0.05 from the jump.)  There are some sites like that offers website credit to choose from pre-owned media they carry on their site – buybacks just like yours.  Other sites like offer cold, hard cash and free shipping for your items (but only if you have more than 15 pieces approved by them.)  I’ll try the and post a review later, but there are tons of sites to choose from if you just Google “where to sell dvds.”
Selling it yourself – For other craftier things I find around the house, I’m thinking about , but I know they have listing fees for storefronts.  Since I want to avoid that charge, I’m thinking of taking the lead from my friend’s online, and just use a combo of Tumblr, Paypal, and Facebook to get rid of more specialized junk.  Look at Kristia’s site, Salaamat Jewelry & Adornment , the model for the site I’m to build to see what I mean.


We’re looking to expand this list, so do you know any more sites where people can make a quick dollar? Do you have any other creative leads for selling online?  What are some interesting things you’ve sold online?  Please leave a comment below! 








ps:  in case you’re interested, my sister has some Murad products for sale. Help her, and clear up your acne SIMULTANEOUSLY.  It’s a win-win!

The New York Times Paywall Might Make Americans Dumber.

I remember when Le Monde was unavailable as an online version while I was an undergraduate in college some years ago.  If you tried to search for it, you were met with a splash page containing its logo and the subscription rate for its paper delivery.  Though I still don’t know a lick of French, I’m glad I have the option to access its fine reporting after a series of speedy clicks.


What’s no longer free: The New York Times.   I know we’ve had a good season or so to really get used to all the paywall features on the site, but I’m thinking about the impact this may have on the new generation of scrubs that live out here in this jobless world.


I remember in the mighty heyday of AOL 7.0, prior to the onslaught of accessible internet information, the NYT already had a paywall version in place.  However, it affected readership, and by the early 2000s, accessing articles online was free.  Now, I know there are entire sites dedicated to skirting around the 20 article/monthly limit on the site, and others which just point you to BBC and Al-Jazeera.  I just doubt the less Google-y inclined…well, let’s just say they won’t be reading Bittman anytime soon.


No, I don’t have any hard facts for you.  It’s just a guess: asking for money to read online news during a recession will lead to a decline in readership.  I’m on tumblr, I know how many of these hipsters rely on their NYT:Lifestyles newsfeed for quote posts in between some Funny or Die videos.


All I can say is that folks have strayed from the Sunday paper in bed – that’s for stable 30somethings with open-brick facade bedroom walls, and cushioned headboards.  We are not of that clan.


Paywalls are particularly heartbreaking once I see them pop up at sites I frequent.  (I remember feeling a bit forlorn when HULU decided it needed one in 2010…) Particularly around reporting, online information should be free.  The truth should be free.  The least number of obstacles should be presented toward the truth.  Hypervocal cites this entry from the Pulitzer Center blog, and poses a very good question:  ” ‘Anything that can safeguard the quality of journalism is welcome.’ But what exactly are we safeguarding?


Yeah, NYT.  Are y’all hard up and RecessionFRESH, too?


UPDATE: Some hard facts from our friends at GIGAOM.  (but don’t click around too too much.  GIGAOM has a paywall, too.)

Flashback: Potted meat is a real thing



Photo source: Wikipedia

Flashback is a feature of which talks about our experiences of poverty and explores our emotional connection to money.  If you would like to submit for this feature, please email us at .

While there are tons of  humorous accounts of people’s experiences with potted meat, many of them trigger my own childhood traumas and my understanding of poverty.
Isn’t that pate, you ask?  No, it is not pate.  Potted meat is what fills the casings of vienna sausages. Stuffed into an aluminum can, with a little soda can tab.  My father used to make sandwiches with potted meat and white bread while he was living out of a motor home.  The custody hearing determined we’d spend every other weekend with him.  I can still see him:  after peeling back the lid, my father would use it to spread out the filling between and across corners of the future sandwich.  It was admirably efficient, but I could feel myself doubling over inside.
Potted meat was my father’s favorite “cold cut,” though it was neither cold, nor cut.  He would argue that potted meat was better than anything at the deli, since it keeps well and you could never really complain that it was too hot or cold since it challenging to figure out the temperature of a thin paste. Potted meat was also always ready: a meal as soon as you opened the can.  Because these would be in my packed lunch, I never had the kind of meals or snacks that would interest my classmates in a trade.  I didn’t meet string cheese or fruit snacks or oven roasted turkey for another couple of years.
I write this because we all have our triggers – things that take us back to the time where we felt the shame of our poverty.  For one of my sisters, that trigger is wearing ugly socks whenever she has to take off her shoes before entering someone else’s home.  For some, it’s forgetting their wallet after ordering a cup of coffee.  For others, it’s lining up at the welfare office at 630 in the morning.  For me, it’s potted meat.


Is there a thing/event that still triggers you, and makes you “feel” poor?  Please leave a comment in the box below!