Living Expenses

On Saving Money with Solar Panels, Renewable Energy, and Such Like

Maybe solar was too cumbersome. Maybe the start up costs were too high. But at least one person has found workarounds and has been surprisingly satisfied by the results.


In Defense of CT (Again) & Rejecting Traditional Geographic Measures of Success

There are a lot of reasons why we find ourselves living in places. Often, it’s because we have a job or family obligations, or we just can’t afford to leave, or we don’t know where we’d go if we did leave. None of that means that the place we live is good or bad. It simply means we’re there, and for lack of other options, we have to keep living.


Paying to Belong

There’s a religious Jewish movement called Chabad, which is famous for being pretty aggressive about outreach. When my family was visiting Italy one fall, it was members of Chabad that spotted us and welcomed us, inviting us to join them for services and dinner. Their energy can also be alienating: if you so much as walk on the streets of Brooklyn on a holiday like Passover with brown hair, or hey even with hair, period, a Chabadnik will probably approach you and ask if you’re Jewish. But Chabad, unlike other more dour and insular Hasidic groups, puts an emphasis on DIY, populist joy — dancing, singing — and bringing people together. That’s one of the reasons it’s growing. The other reason? It doesn’t charge membership dues.

As their website puts it, “Most often a Chabad House does not charge membership–if you are Jewish, you are a member.”

It’s a nice idea! It’s also the kind of idea that makes most rabbis go, “Oy vey.”

Most synagogues rely on annual membership dues which, for families, are in the four-figures. Most American Jews don’t belong to synagogues. The NYT this week connected the dots and, in the process, started a much needed conversation about paying to belong


Geography Is The Mother Of History, Or, Where You Live Matters, Choose Wisely

Disability is I guess welfare for white people? The kind of social safety net even Republicans are okay with.


One Is the Loneliest Number, So Find a Cell Phone Family Plan

About a week after I graduated from college, I broke the news to my father: I was leaving the family plan. He had been paying my cell phone bill for the previous five years, after giving me my first phone at 17. Before cell phones were standard for teenagers, my father would make me empty my pockets before I went out with friends to show him I had a few quarters for a pay phone—just in case. But as soon as my first boyfriend started hanging around our house, he handed down his old phone without me even asking. Daddy’s little girl was expected to check in on the regular.


The Cost of Living in a Non-Profit Women’s Residence

“Yes, I did it!” I thought, after a successful phone interview for my first full-time job. “I’m moving to New York!” This was followed by another thought: “Oh no, I’m moving back into women’s housing.”


A List of Things I Own That I Can Sell to Pay My Rent

There’s my record player. I wouldn’t mind selling that. It has a speaker connected to it, which means it doesn’t sound as good, which means any serious vinyl head would judge me for having it.


Open Thread: Share Your 2015 Budget

As requested, here is an open thread in which you can share your 2015 budgets.


Planning a 2015 Budget: Revised and Updated

When you ask Billfold readers to critique your budget, they critique your budget. With that in mind, here’s a revised and updated 2015 budget, incorporating your suggestions.