Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A bit about consumerism in my household

I an a consumer, a relucant one perhaps, one that does think about the items I purchase and Jeff and I have tracked every cent that goes out the door for over a year. We plan our big purchases, we try to buy everything now with cash, or on credit if we know we can pay it off in one month. We fit 5 people in a 1600 square foot apartment, and the apartment also serves as an office for my work as well as a storage center for the Far Flung Craft business stuff. That being said, I really don't buy lots of stuff cause we don't have any place to put it, OR SO I THOUGHT!

We renegotiated our lease this month and first a few oddities about the Singapore rental market.

1. Contrary to the US market, long term leases are NOT cheaper. We wanted to do a 2 year lease at our current rate, have some work done around the house and in return we would stay for two years. Um, no. Landlord wanted to increase the rent by 15%. We knew they would raise the rent that is why we asked for work to be done (painting mostly) but not 15%... so if we stay only one year, the do all the work and they only increase the rent by 11%. What ever...

2. Even when you try to save money by not getting an agent involved, the cheap landlords who want to increase the rent by 15% still call the agent and end up paying him 900 Sing dollars. Now, because we only signed a one year lease, if we stay they will pay it again. Um, lets see, or you could have let us stay at our current rent, paid to paint the apartment and pocketed 1800. As it pencils out now, you actually LOSE money. I am sure the repairs we asked for are more than the one year delta in rent increase-minus the agent fee. WHAT EVER...

So, back onto consumerism, I really think we try to watch what we buy, the kids have a couple of boxes of toys and that is all. Most of the toys are in the living room, because there is simply not enough room in the shared bedroom they have. My big weakness is craft stuff that I buy and then don't use... but that is an issue for another time and place. The biggest thing is BOOKS... We really only have two bookshelves in the living room, and two in the bedroom, but all of the books have to come off the shelves before they are moved so we can paint. YIKES, I through out my shoulder muscle... and it hurts btw, but cripes, we have a lot of books.

We also have a fair amount of just Junk. Stuff that accumulates over time- grimy build up on the stove- just like the build up of crap. Storage closet filled with stuff we don't use, including Jeff and my backpacks from our travels when we were young. Need to donate this stuff to the salvation army and hope someone else can use it. So, the point of this rant I guess is that being frugal, trying to reduce our footprint is something that takes constant work. It is easy to start gathering more.

I am seriously considering joining the Compact (well I mean taking the pledge). I don't know if Jeff will join me or not, and I will have to carve out a personal exeception as our once a year trip to the States to stock up on Kids clothes, shoes and our own personal items will be in February. But, could I do it? Could I only buy used or do without for a year? I am really thinking about it...

Peace yall.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wired Magazine October 2006

So, Wired has a couple of interesting articles this month. The first is just a one page article on the "green" choices. Now, everything has always taken a toll, but the paper vs. plastic debate has long gone on. So, rather than reproduce the entire page... here are Wired magazines' choices

1. Diapers-Cloth or Disposable? Go cloth if you wash at home, second choice is disposable last choice is a diaper service. Why? Look at not only the landfill use, but energy consumption to produce, dispose and launder diapers. And, draught prone areas should probably consider disposable.

2. Paper or Plastic? Paper takes more energy to produce, but are bio degradable, and take more room in landfills. Choice: Get your own cloth and reuse.

3. Coffee Cups? Ceramic may not be the best choice as it would take the equivalent of 294 paper or 1800 polystyrene cups to make just one ceramic cup. So, don't buy a new ceramic cup, use the one you have.

4. Hand wash dishes or dishwasher? Handwashing almost always uses more water. Go for the dishwasher.

The second big article is on biofuels. I need to finish this one and I will be back to post about it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Chickens and Roads

just a little fun for your reading pleasure (from Tracy Roos' Blog)

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road...
DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on "THIS" side of the road before it goes after the problem on the "OTHER SIDE" of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his "CURRENT" problems before adding "NEW" problems.
OPRAH: Well I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls,which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.
ANDERSON COOPER/CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.
JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am for it now, and will remain against it.
JUDGE JUDY: That chicken crossed the road because he's GUILTY! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.
PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.
MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level.
DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain. Alone.
JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth in front of your face? The chicken was going to the "other side." That's why they call it the "other side. Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media white washes with seemingly harmless phrases like "the other side." That chicken should not be free to cross the road. It's as plain and simple as that!
GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.
BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.
JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together - in peace.
ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.
BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2006,which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check book. Internet explorer is an integral part of eChicken. The Platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@&&^( C \\\\..... reboot.
ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?
BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?
AL GORE: I invented the chicken!
COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Friday, October 06, 2006


Or a riff on why I really need to make this commitment to my choice of lifestyle. Why, even if my DH gets a raise today (which I hope) we continue to live consciously and not spend more because we can, not consume more because we have the money.

The air quality in Singapore over the last week has sucked. The PSI index has been in the 60s daily and upto 73 one day. OF course they tell you it is not unhealthy until it reaches the 100 range, yuk. The air is smoggy, the air smells like smoke-like destruction, like the forest fires and slash burning in Indonesia that is causing the haze. Every year Singapore and Malaysia are plagued with the haze that is blown over from fires in Indonesia. Some of the fires are accidental, but most are slash fires. Fires caused when thousands of acres of forest land are converted into "fields". This bothers me to no end. Why? Because I am a farmer by love. An ag economics major. The granddaughter of a cattle rancher, a dry land wheat farmer, who made his living working land the way it was supposed to be worked. Taking into consideration the seasons, taking into consideration the fact that they did not have irrigation, so you laid half of your land fallow every year, allowed it to rest. You didn't make the land into something it is not intended to be. Of course I am sure he used fertilizer, but not even close to the levels used today. He worked with the land, not against it.

I could go on a whole long riff about the failure of modern agriculture, but not today. Today, it is about why I want to leave the world a better place for my kids. Why I want to live in a society that values the old as well as the new, that values the trees more where they stand, than on the ground as lumber. Why I won't buy teak furniture, even though it is beautiful and inexpensive and traditional to this region, but because it is now over processed and forests are being logged bare for the inexpensive furniture. As much as you may read about sustainable Teak harvest... I can tell you it doesn't exist. The trees are cut without replanting, it is all about the immediate sale, not the future. Not that the logger is entirely to blame. He has been sold a bag of dreams that can only be filled when he has a big screen TV, just like those rich people in the US.

So, for now, I am happy with my 19" TV, without cable. I am happy with my used furniture, I am happy with my microwave free kitchen. I am happy that my kids have some toys but not as many as others and I am happy that my biggest monthly "purchase" is almost always books and not crap. Every day is a step, somedays are better than others. Somedays I buy because it is there, but when the day is done, I KNOW that the purchase was not the best, I learn and I move on.

I still wish I had a food processor though ;-)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Things and consumerism.

I have said it before, this I know, but living in a consumer culture is always hard. Living in Singapore, where the consumerism is not only a way of life it is a hobby, is really hard.

How do you teach children not to expect new things every time a toy breaks. How do you teach them that a houseful of toys is still too many (even if they have less than friends?)

I just saw that the New Dream Org has posted a great brochure for free on their webpage about raising kids in a consumer culture.

You can download the brochure here.

For me it is a matter of reducing the amount of temptation-

1. No cable TV
2. No "Kids" magazines
3. Teaching family members about the types of gifts we want
4. Small family/close friend only birthday parties.

Then it is about teaching responsibility

1. While my kids are too young for allowance, they get "stars" when they do something like put away dishes. When the star sheet is full they get to buy one small present. (usually about 1 time every three months).
2. Teaching the kids that possessions need to be cared for and if it breaks you either fix it or do without.
3. Teaching values and honest money talk when the kids get older. I want to teach them about the time value of money and the ability to save. I wish I had learned this better as a kid-either it wasn't taught or I didn't get it.
4. I want them to save for college as soon as they are old enough to understand it.

This is way more important as we are paying for private school here in Singapore and our ability to save for college for them is well... not very high.

It is about choice. I choose to travel and spend my money on life experience, so when I don't have the big house or even a car, I need to remind myself this was my choice. I don't need to have a 5000 square foot house to be happy, my 1600 SQF 3 bedroom apartment should be enough.

Anyway, just some thoughts on consumerism today.

Now, the goal is to get to the grocery store and back today without buying more than just bacon and dried apricots.
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