Felines for Hire, Inquire Within

I just read this AP article that says Americans spent over $53 billion on their pets last year. That’s a lot of Alpo and Meow Mix. What’s stunning is that this amount isn’t radically higher than what Americans spent in 2011 for their furry companions.


That’s up 5 percent from 2011, when spending first broke the $50 billion barrier, says the American Pet Products Association, a trade group based in Greenwich, Conn. And APPA President and CEO Bob Vetere predicts another 4 percent gain this year.

At about $34.3 billion, food and vet care represented about two-thirds of total spending, with money spent on supplies and over-the-counter medications rising by more than 7 percent.

Since I use Mint.com to track my spending, I decided to see how much I contributed to that $53 billion.

Less than 20% of my total pet spending in 2012 was on vet bills. The rest was food and cat litter.
Sounds like two cats I know need to find gainful employment.

Enjoy yourselves now, but tomorrow, you’re gonna be getting jobs.

How Many Loads of Laundry Can You Do for $307 Million?

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As you can see, I have my lottery ticket for tonight’s big honkin’ Mega Millions drawing. I went with three QuickPicks because three is the magic number.

In case you didn’t already know, tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot is $640 million. That’s $640,000,000.00 in case you were wondering. And if you go with the cash option, you’d get $462,000,000.oo, otherwise known as $462 million. According to one site I read, you’d wind up with approximately $307 million after taxes.

It’s hard to conceptualize a million dollars, much less $307 million. ¬†For me, it’s easier to think about how much money it is if I break it down into loads of laundry. I don’t mind doing laundry, but I do mind having to share a washer and dryer with ten other people who don’t know how to take Kleenex out of their pockets before washing them and then my clothes end up coated in fine Kleenex dust. That is just wrong.

Back to my point: at my building, it costs $1.25 for a load of wash, $1 for 45 minutes in the dryer. If I’m doing the math right, that means I could do 136,444,444 loads of laundry.

I think my brain just exploded.

Declaring My Independence, The 2011 Edition

Read the history of my personal declarations of independence here. This year, as in past years, I’ve taken the original text from the Declaration of Independence and modified or paraphrased it to suit my purposes.

There are moments, in the course of human events, when it becomes necessary for a person to dissolve the real and imagined bonds tying them down. In an attempt to recognize and allow for the opinions of others, a person should declare the reasons why they need to break these ties.

Some truths are self-evident: everyone is created equal, and everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We set up governments to secure these rights, and we allow our governments to wield certain powers. But no government can force its citizens to alter or abolish their individual attitudes, beliefs, or ideals. Inasmuch as we have the right to pursue happiness, we also have the right to pursue unhappiness. Experience has shown that humans are more disposed to suffer than to change their core attitudes, beliefs, or ideals. But when a long period of self-sabotage results in nothing but misery, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such attitudes and beliefs, and to create new ones that promote our happiness and well-being.

Such has been the case for me, Corinne, and such is now the necessity which requires me to alter my attitude. To prove this, I submit these facts to the World Wide Web.

  • I have spent too much time in the last five years chasing after checks, payments, and promises of money.
  • I have grown anxious and frustrated over money or the lack thereof.
  • I have avoided activities and events I would otherwise enjoy due to my financial anxiety.

Therefore, I, Corinne, solemnly publish and declare, that I am and of right will stop chasing checks; that I am absolved from all allegiance to the almighty dollar, and that all connection between my state of mind and my bank account balance ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a free and independent woman, I have full power to live a prosperous existence without needing to chase checks, and to do all other acts and things which anyone can do.

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, I pledge to myself and the world my renewed commitment to be my most abundant, prosperous self.

Signed,

Corinne

What are you declaring your independence from this year?

Friday’s Hot Tip: 5 Ways to Help Your Unemployed Buddies

I decided to follow up on Sunday’s post about dealing with the unemployed with some good tips on helping out friends and family members who find themselves without work. These tips are based on what I’ve experienced being unemployed/underemployed, and what I wanted from my friends and loved ones during that time.

1. Start with asking, “How can I support you?”

These five little words should become a mantra for you, as this phrase works beautifully in many situations when someone is experiencing difficulty in their life. In an unemployment scenario, it gives the other person the power to decide what they want or need as they process the loss of their job. Pro tip: don’t ask this question just once, either. Whenever they need to vent about their job search, interviews that went nowhere, or their struggles to stay afloat, it’s your opportunity to ask what, if anything, they need from you.

2. Don’t assume you know their master plan post-layoff.

As I briefly mentioned in Sunday’s post, unemployment can give someone the opportunity to pursue life-long dreams. It opens the door to write, start a business, make a career change, travel, or volunteer. And believe it or not, they might not want a full-time job again. Everyone’s situation is different – give them space to figure out what’s next, and if you remember Tip #1, then they might just let you in on what they are dreaming up.

3. Keep your comments about money to yourself.

Trust me when I say someone who is unemployed (or even underemployed) does not want to hear you complain about the state of your bank account. Nor do they want to hear your comments about what they are doing or not doing with their money. Like politics, sex, and religion, discussions about money can kill a conversation, and in some instances it can kill a relationship. Do yourself and your friend a favor and hold your tongue.

4. Don’t radically alter your communication style or forget about them altogether.

Just because someone loses their job doesn’t mean they are a social pariah and you need to leave them alone. By the same token, if you were having phone conversations with them every couple of weeks, don’t suddenly start calling every other day. Be sensitive to their situation and let them guide the conversation when it comes to work or career topics, but feel free to talk about current movies, TV shows, books, music, local news or happenings. Or you could even talk about your pet’s antics or the latest celebrity scandal. The key is to keep things normal.

5. Let them mourn the loss of their job.

Momcat always told me, “When a relationship ends, it’s a death and it needs to be mourned.” She was talking about romantic relationships, but this also holds true for the relationships we have with our jobs, which are just as complex and layered as any love relationship. Give them space and time to grieve, and allow them to dictate when they are ready to move on in their career.

Have your own tips to add to this list? Leave them in the comments section.


Found Money

This summer I read a blog post on The Simple Dollar that asked the question: What would you do if you found a large amount of cash?

The writer of the post has a straightforward approach to dealing with found cash: if returning the money is fairly simple, he returns it. Makes sense, right?

But just because it’s simple, would you do it? Or would you keep the cash?

I have had several instances when I’ve found money. When I was about 11 or 12, there was a wallet lying on the street in my old neighborhood. My friend Deena and I spotted it as we walked by, and immediately looked for identification. Turned out it belonged to the man who lived in the house directly across from where we were standing – his back pocket had a hole in it and the wallet had slipped right out. No reward for handing it back, which disappointed us a little, but we did the right thing.

A few years later I was at Camden Yards attending an Orioles game with my parents. I was in line at the concession stand and I found $20 lying on the ground in front of me. I assumed it belonged to the couple standing in front of me, so I picked up the bill and asked, “Did you drop this?” The woman shook her head no but the man took it anyway. I was so pissed that he took it, even though he knew it wasn’t his money. (And as you can see I’m still annoyed – blame it on my moral compass.)

Back in 2005 I found $60 on the sidewalk in West L.A. It still strikes me as odd that the money was lying on the sidewalk, right around lunchtime in a busy neighborhood, and yet no one was around at the moment I actually found the money. I picked it up, noted the odd way it was folded, and stuck it in my pocket. Once I returned to my desk I went on Craigslist and posted an item in the Lost & Found section, saying I’d found cash and if the person who lost it could tell me how much it was and how they had folded it, I’d get it back to them. I had a couple of people email me to say my post had restored their faith in humanity, which is sweet, but my motivation was that I knew a lot of low-income folks lived in the area and $60 was probably a considerable amount of money for them. I wanted to give them a chance to get the money back; plus, that damn moral compass of mine didn’t want me to spend it without making a conscious effort to return the money to its owner. After ten days or so, I didn’t hear from anyone, so I used part of the money to do something charitable (I don’t remember what) and part to get something fun for myself (I don’t remember that part, either).

We’re now at a time of year when people are quite possibly wandering around with lots of cash, planning on making a major purchase for themselves or their family or friends. Knowing this, would you be more inclined to find the rightful owner? Or would you keep the money for your own shopping excursions?

What would you do if you found cash?

Two Ways to Make a Lot of Money

1. Build a parking garage in a metropolitan area that has limited parking. Even better, build the garage near a convention center, concert hall or stadium. Charge people $10 to park for an hour. Raise the rate every 3 months.

2. Develop an inkjet printer that goes through one ink cartridge every 10 pages. Be sure your designers make the printer so that it cannot be used unless the inkjet cartridge is replaced, regardless of whether the magenta, chartreuse, puke green or black cartridge is empty.

Any other ways to make ridiculous amounts of cash money?*

*I can guarantee my spam filter will be full to bursting because of this post’s subject line and keywords.

All about the Benjamins

I just read a post at Barista Brat about an experience she had with a customer, who cursed out Brat & her coworker for not being able to change a $100 bill.

My first retail job was at a video store chain in the D.C. area. This company would charge rentals by the day, so you’d pay when you returned the movie. We had one customer who would come in first thing on Sunday morning. He had one video to return that he’d checked out on Saturday. The total would be about $3.16 and he would pull out a $100 bill to pay. It made my head explode every time, because I had to scramble to get his change together from the manager and from my drawer. I feel nervous again just thinking about it. I seem to recall that the customer was fairly nice & patient about it, but every time he did it, I would think, Why must you do this early in the morning, and on a Sunday, no less?

Now I understand things a bit differently. Some people operate on a purely cash basis: they get paid in cash, they don’t have a checking account, they don’t use credit cards. S., my best friend growing up, had parents that were like this. My folks were big fans of credit cards and checking accounts. I rarely saw them with bills larger than $20. Pops always used a money clip to hold his paper bills, keeping the smaller denominations on the outside where they would be visible. Mr. Ex-Moxie liked the money clip idea and started doing it too. I think there is something soothing to see all your money in one place, all nicely folded and facing the same direction. It’s a symbol of great prosperity and abundance.

As I’m struggling right now with my own issues of prosperity and abundance, I’m curious about the angry Starbucks customer with the $100 bill. Did she feel wrong for carrying such a large bill? Did she hate money? If she felt good about having that $100 bill, would she have had no problem getting change? My guess is that she felt terrible about having it. Why else would she have a meltdown over not being able to get change? She could have easily taken the $100 to a local bank and gotten it changed for smaller bills.

We ask someone to “break” a bill when we need change: “Can you break a $20 for me? Can you break a dollar?” For that matter, we call ourselves “broke” when we feel we don’t have any money. The truth is that neither we nor our money are broken. But our beliefs about money often appear to be.

I’ve found over and over again that when I take all my emotional response out of money and just see it as a form of energy that renews itself, I don’t have problems making it, spending it, or saving it. That being said, it’s hard to get to this state of mind and stay there, especially when the world isn’t very supportive or understanding of this ideology. But I know it can be done.

So here’s my challenge to you: for one week only, every time you have a negative thought about money, follow it up by saying “I have all the money I need.” Every time you go to pay for something, whether it’s a latte or a laptop, say a little thank you to the powers that be for the money to buy what you need. Accept what you receive for your money with love and compassion. Let me know what happens.