The Cost of Things

Kima Jones on ‘The Wrath of The Math’

The newest quarterly edition of Scratch Magazine just released, and this quarter’s Scratch is on the theme of “security,” both financially and in other ways. The entire issue is fantastic, but one of the pieces that stuck out was Kima Jones’ five-part “Baby Gotta Eat” piece. (Although Scratch is subscription-based, you can read all of “Baby Gotta Eat” for free.)

Kima Jones is a poet and a writer, but that is only one of her many jobs—she also has a full-time job and a part-time weekend job. As she writes in “Part I: For Further Consideration:”

I have always worked two jobs, my whole life. Two jobs and school. Two jobs and relationships. Two jobs and family. At the end of the summer I am leaving my second job so that I can write more and read more and sleep. I will make less money, but I will have more time for me. I think, Am I worth it? Am I worth it? Is my work worth my own time?

She also writes about the financial mathematics that dominate adult lives:

Mostly my lists look like this: a list of my dream items, a list of my outstanding debts, a list of my recurring bills, a list of household items to buy, a list of groceries. I feel like an adult and responsible and on top of things when I cross items off of my list, but the crossing is slow. There are things I won’t spend money on anymore—namely, manicures, pedicures, or the salon. Luxuries have long gone out of the window. Instead, I remember having health insurance is a luxury, being employed is a luxury, having an apartment that is mine all mine and being able to keep the rest of the world out is a luxury. There are days when I come in this house and take a nap because I don’t have the answers or the funds or the energy to think about it anymore.

And then, in Part V, she gives us a chart of her writing income and expenses. I love charts. I was so glad to see this chart. It puts her perspective literally into perspective.

So read Kima Jones’ story and then, if you want, we could start a comment discussion about our own “wrath of the math.” Or, we could take our lead from Kima Jones’ “Part III: The Real Question” and talk about how we manage money and food, and whether we have a bag of rice hiding in our cupboards waiting for the truly lean days.

 

Photo: Mario

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Life in the Desert: The Troubling Need for Cars

We’ve read lately that Americans are driving less than ever. Apparently, this cannot be explained simply by economics, but still: driving is expensive! AAA exhaustively details the costs of driving in this pdf. TL;DR: when you take into account gas, maintenance, financing, insurance, and registration, even a small sedan driven 20,000 miles a year (it gets cheaper the more you drive) costs $0.398/mile to operate. Does that seem maybe like not so much? Consider this: my old commute from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to midtown Manhattan would have cost $6.76 (plus unimaginable aggravation, plus parking).

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Expenses Relating to My Wedding That I Couldn’t Possibly Have Anticipated

“This is your dress?” she asked from behind a wall, around the corner of which I could see a huge wooden table covered in lace and pins. “Oh, good. It’ll be ready tomorrow.”

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Got an Extra $500? Buy Jibo, the Family Robot

Jibo just launched. This robot is essentially a smartphone on a stick, but with the addition of an Uncanny Valley voice and a few “facial features,” Jibo becomes a fully-fledged, fully-creepy member of your family. (Watch the YouTube video above to see exactly what Jibo can do.)

The strangest and most interesting part about Jibo is that Jibo only costs $500. It’s a price point that makes Jibo feel extremely accessible — something that’s probably less money than a lot of other family or personal expenses. Some people might save up for a Jibo, but for a lot of families (as well as, say, people living in studio apartments who have dreamed about the robot future for years), Jibo can be an impulse buy.

And that “impulse buy” feeling was exactly what I had after watching to the end of the commercial. Jibo is hilariously unnerving, but I have an extra $500 and I really want to blow it on a Jibo.

The first thing I would do would be to tell it to answer to “Pintsize.”

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Weed Sells Like Hotcakes! Who Knew?

It’s high time that potheads get some respect. Turns out, when you make their vice of choice legal, they will indeed turn out to buy it on the open market, even for a higher price, instead of working the old, familiar backchannels. According to Mic.com:

When Washington became the second state to allow legal sales of recreational marijuana last week, Seattle only had a single store, Cannabis City, open for business. It ran out of weed in three days. Cannabis City opened its doors for the first time on Tuesday with 4.5 kg of marijuana ready to be purchased. By the end of Thursday, it had all been bought. It’s even more impressive when you realize that customers were only allowed to buy a maximum of 6 grams each, which means the store made at least 750 individual sales. …

Seattle wasn’t the only city whose store was a (limited) success. Top Shelf in Bellingham, which made the state’s first ever legal sale, set a new record with first-day sales of more than $30,000 thanks to serving more than 1,200 customers. It may be a surprise given how well stores did with their limited product, but not everyone is totally sold on the future of recreational marijuana in Washington. Retailers like Cannabis City have competition, both from medical marijuana (which is cheaper and often relatively easy to obtain) and old fashioned illegal marijuana (which is just cheaper). In addition to the in-state growing restriction, Washington applies a 25% sales tax on recreational weed, making it pretty pricey when compared to those other options.

The Western states aren’t the only ones making news on the subject of recreational drugs.

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As New Hosts on AirBnB, My Husband and I Sort of Break Even

My husband’s dream of moving his band’s weekly practices from a high-rent industrial building to the cottage crumpled, and we realized that in order to avoid financial ruin we would have to use it as a source of extra income. Since we still wanted to banish certain out-of-town company to the cottage, we decided to furnish the space and offer it for short-term rental on AirBnB.

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Concerning Inflation, Pants, and Getting Old

This is how it starts. This is the feeling of turning into an old person.

I am aware, and have made my peace with, the much remarked-upon phenomenon of musical tastes frozen at the time of adolescence. While I try to make forays into This Noisy Music All The Kids Are Listening To, I always come back to Big Daddy Kane, KRS-1, EPMD, and the like. I will be this way until I die, and it’s OK. But there is another way I am stuck: in my conception of What Pants Should Cost. This is much more problematic.

I moved out of my father’s house when I was 17, and I have been solely in charge of pants acquisition during the 20 years since (with some periodic, half-hearted intervention from romantic partners). In those two decades, I have become appreciably better at many of the things I started doing at 17, but not buying pants. I am irrevocably stuck with the notion that I should be able to acquire a decent pair of khakis or other office-worthy slacks for $25.

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My 1st Job: Magazines in the ’60s

It was a dream of mine back then to make $10,000 a year, something I did not achieve until after I married; my husband, also in publishing, had just hit $12,000 a year then: 1970.

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The Average Affair Will Cost You $2600 Apparently?

According to a press release sent to Mike by a concerned tipster and loyal reader — haha, JK, by Edith — “The Average Affair Begins 2 Years into Marriage, Lasts Six Months and Costs Over $2,600.” Are you ready for this?

In addition to potentially costing a person their happy home and marriage, a leading coupon brand has revealed that the average affair costs the cheating party over $2,600, including dollars spent on expensive dinners, hotel check and gifts while sneaking around behind their spouse’s back. The survey, conducted by www.vouchercloud.net, was part of the company’s wider research into the leisure spending of American citizens, after an increase in searches for dating discounts. 2,645 US citizens took part in the study, all of whom were aged 25 and over and had been married to their current partner for a minimum of 5 years.

Aged 25+, married 5+ years … holy god, they’re talking about me! So what do I have to look forward to?

The following list reveals the average spend per item per month:

Hotel Bills – $123 Dinner & Drink Tabs – $162 Gifts – $54 Date activities e.g. cinema tickets – $69 Other – $36

This equates to average expenditure of $444 per month. Considering the average affair lasts for six months, the total cost of an illicit extramarital relationship was revealed to be $2,664. The adulterous respondents were then asked: “Did/Does your spouse ever question your finances or notice any unexplained expenditure, in relation to your affair?” to which only a third (32%) said that ‘yes’, their partner had noticed their extramarital financial commitments.

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The Cost of Dual Citizenship

I successfully applied for Irish citizenship last year. Here’s what it cost me.

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The Cost of Being Exposed to HIV While Uninsured

To spoil the end before the beginning, this is a story about being exposed to HIV while not having health insurance, taking actions to prevent infection, and ending up successfully still HIV negative (several years and counting). Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) (taking a combination of anti-retrovirals (anti-HIV) medications as soon as you know you’ve been exposed to avoid being infected) works in many cases. It worked for me, and I am endlessly thankful that I had access to credit and adequate care to make it happen.

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Stranded at SeaWorld vs Whale Watching

“You know Epcot Center?” a friend asked me yesterday.

“I’m familiar in a general way,” I replied, “but I’ve never been.”

He gave me the same look, an eye-cocktail of surprise, pity, and incomprehension, that I instinctively give people who tell me they haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally or Chinatown. My parents did some mainstream-ish American things: they took my brothers and me to the Southwest, where we gaped at the Grand Canyon, and to New England, where we attempted to go “whale watching” and instead spent an interminable afternoon supine on a wooden bench, moaning as waves lifted and dropped us, lifted and dropped us, and I lost all faith in both whales and God.

They did not, however, take us to Disney, any Disney, or to SeaWorld, where presumably I could see proof that whales, at least, exist, and where, this weekend, visitors got more excitement than they bargained for when the power went out on “the Sky Tower,” stranding 40+ tourists 200+ feet in the air for 4+ hours. To compensate those tourists for their high-altitude suffering, SeaWorld is offering free admission to the park for their next visit, which is kind of hilarious, like the whale watching company saying to me, “So sorry you spent the whole time puking in a nightmare that was equal parts Dante and Melville. Here’s a gift certificate for another go!”

But part of me is kind of jealous of those SeaWorld guests. At least they got a real experience for their $50+, and a story to tell. Have you been “whale watching” – which costs about $30 today – and/or to SeaWorld? Which was more worth the money? Which would you rather subject your children to?

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