Thursday, January 7, 2016

Spending money to save money: a few good & bad investment ideas for your personal life

Not like you have money to throw around. But you know how sometimes you can spend an extra few bucks to save more money down the line. So here's some safe and not so safe bets for leveraging the ridiculously insufficient amount of money you do have, if you do have it.

For all the smokers out there: E-Cigarettes aren't bullshit and they are for poor people too. If you're switching from bootleg smokes (DKs, Natives, BBs etc) then it'll take a couple months for it to start paying for itself, but overall, on a month-to-month basis, including replacing your whole kit maybe once a year, it is cheaper. Much cheaper. And it's so much better. So definitely believe the hype: vaping is here to stay, and you can get started for as cheap as $50.

Don't bother with an electric bike. The cheap end of the market is a total consumer trap right now. Anything below $1000 is going to disappoint you. To put it simply, the battery situation is "not there yet" and the fabrication quality is dangerously low. Some of these bikes have such bad controllers that they'll just jump into motion when you least expect it. They're not road worthy. Whether you're talking about a power-assisted bicycle (they want us to call them "ped-elecs," as if that's going to happen), or an electric scooter (they want us to call them that instead of mopeds), you're better with a good bike than a shitty ebike.

TTC passes are only getting more expensive, and there is still no low-income pass in sight. So don't bother with a TTC pass, unless you need to use it at least ten times a week. That's the rule of thumb.

For a transportation upgrade that really pulls its weight, go for an old road bike. Toronto's bike network and roads in general are finally smooth enough that you don't need a mountain bike on them anymore. Switching from a mountain bike to a road bike will make every single trip easier. It just doesn't take nearly as much effort to make the same trips. And of course your range is increased. And your speed is increased. You're looking for a 70s or 80s 10-speed... you know, the ones with the curly handlebars that everybody's avoiding. There's no real reason to avoid them. They're great. Spend your helmet money on lights... they'll have a bigger effect on your safety. Get lights that take standard AA and AAA batteries so they're convenient to replace.

Become a smoothie person. There's no other way to actually enjoy getting beans and veggies into you. You end up having to cook less of them, and cook them less. You end up being able to eat stuff you normally wouldn't eat. Dumpster diving becomes easier. You can blend stuff you'd never throw on a plate. So grab yourself a blender or a magic bullet or something. There are these smoothie blenders that Loblaws and other places are selling for like $15... the trick with the Loblaws ones is, just keep your receipt and you can keep bringing them back for replacement when they break. They will break. With these cheap machines, you have to be all sorts of careful not to overload them and stuff. This is worth getting on top of. Less boiling, less chopping, more eating, more portability... the only problem is, the machines are fucking loud. Put it in a closet or an insulated box while it's blending! They're seriously loud. And hey, don't underestimate a regular blender.

Seems unimportant, but really good containers make a big difference. Upgrade yours to the glass ones with the plastic-and-rubber lids that clip on, and you'll notice yourself using them a lot more, and having more success when you do. Lots of people are paranoid about putting food, especially warm food, in plastic containers, especially stuff from the dollar store or re-used yogurt things and stuff. That paranoia is well-founded: plastics do leech into foods and they are damaging to your health. And having things break open in your bag is the last thing you need. The really good versions of these cost like $6 apiece, but they'll pay for themselves quickly, in terms of you being able to save more food.

Put together a go bag and a bug-out spot, so you can always safety get out of wherever you are. As a poor person, you never know when your place of residence, whether it's an apartment or a parking garage ventilation exhaust, is going to become unavailable to you. And when it does, you probably don't have any emergency options. Having a place to go to, where you can sleep, change, prepare food, and have privacy, and having a few days' worth of clothes and basic essentials, can provide you with a big measure of security. Even if you never have to use this stuff, that security translates into less anxiety when things are going fine, and less disruption in your life when bad things happen. Most of these weird, half-baked campsites you find in the Toronto wilderness are bug-out spots, created by people who are precariously-housed. That's why you rarely find them to be occupied. A bug-out bag contains fresh clothes, underwear, socks, first aid kit... and everything you'd want to have with you if you're suddenly out on the street without anything else. Anything that you regularly use that you'd like to have in this bag as well, don't put it in the bag, but keep it all in one spot in your place, so you can quickly load it into the bag and get the fuck out. You need to be able to pack up and leave while your roommate is flipping out, before he finds the knives. Or while your parents are flipping out, before they call the cops. Or while your landlord is flipping out, before he calls his cousins. People who've suffered domestic abuse know exactly what this is about.

Instead of getting a cheap smartphone, get a good dumb phone. Like a basic phone that's not shitty. And then spend the rest of your money on an ok tablet. So much better to have an ok basic phone, and an ok tablet, than a shitty smartphone for the same price. And that seems to be your options.

Most poor people are still choosing phone over internet, because we can't afford both. For a lot of people, it'd be better to switch to being an internet user, even if it means giving up on having a phone and a phone number. For the same price as a typical cellphone plan, you can get internet and a home phone. It's really a much better option. If you have internet, you basically don't need TV. You can get your sports, gaming, news, all that stuff on the 'net, and you can use it to publish things, learn things, stay in touch... you know, actually develop your life. Canada has the most expensive cellphone service in the world, so it's not even cheap enough for people who aren't poor, but like bank accounts, there is no cellphone plan that's meant for us.

1 comment:

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