Posts Tagged ‘the compact’

My family and I will be officially below the poverty line starting next week. My job hours (and hence, pay) were cut in half this morning. This comes as a surprise to me because this morning, I was full-time, salary, with benefits (medical/dental, 401K, 3 weeks vacation) and almost 10 years with the organization. I suppose this is how it feels to most people. They say, “Well, the economy is bad but I still have a good job. It won’t affect me. I can still pay my mortgage every month.” Now it’s time to re-evaluate. The good news is, I still have a job. I did a little figuring and I think I can still pay my bills every month. Maybe. Now that we are officially “poor,” we qualify for food stamps and other things. My wife and I might not have health insurance, but we are usually healthy anyway. We eat well and mostly organic. (that might change though…too expensive) Now we have an incentive to start that Victory Garden in the backyard. Our 9 month old will now qualify for Medicaid too. Maybe we will as well, I’m not sure. My wife was a little shocked when I told her I was going to look at buying an army surplus field suture kit so I wouldn’t have to go to the Emergency Room.

Our situation isn’t as bad as I make it sound. I know that compared to most of the world, we are still very rich. Our car is paid off and I can bike to work if I want to, which most days, I do. We have some debt (house $52,000/student loans $10,000) but we also have some savings, but that has been shrinking by $1,000 every month since my wife stopped working last year to stay home with our new baby. We only have to survive until September when she will start her teaching job again. Our new roof will have to wait.

This is also good timing on God’s part for several reasons:

1) It’s almost spring time so our heating bills will drop from $200 to $40.

2) We only need to hold on for 6 months.

3) Better weather means we can grow our own food. We’ve never done this, and my wife has a notoriously black thumb (meaning she kills plants, no offense to my African American readers) but I think our motivation is high enough that we will see success.

4) We had already decided to join The Compact this year (you can’t buy anything new, except food, health/toiletries etc. You’d be surprised how excited you become when you visit a second-hand bookstore, architectural salvage store, or Thrift store where everything is allowed.) So this won’t be a stretch as far as deprivation is concerned. We already consigned ourselves to not buying much this year. Entertainment is cheap too. It’s called a LIBRARY. you can get books and movies (even recent releases) there for FREE.

So here are my options. I can try and get a second job and struggle with that whole hassle of driving twice as much and being away from my family even more than I am now. This might be cool because I have a chance to start fresh so to speak. For instance, I’ve always thought I would be a good security guard, landscape architect, ninja, or something else. OR

I can stay home. Enjoy this new turn of events, spend more time with my wife and son, finish my novel-get an agent- become a best selling author, have perpetual 3 or even 4 day weekends, etc. We may even qualify for getting our house painted because of the lead program. We always made too much before. We could even get new windows! The thing with this plan is that we really need to focus on saving money. See Compact above. Not too hard. So that’s where I am right now. Poor, but optimistic.

2009 Federal Poverty Guidelines

The 48 Contiguous States and DC
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $10,830
2 14,570
3 18,310
4 22,050
5 25,790
6 29,530
7 33,270
8 37,010
For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.

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Well, after a  month of doing the Compact (that is, not buying anything new) we have been doing pretty well. I did buy two new albums on i-tunes, but since they are electronic files and not actual plastic CDs, and the whole point of this is to reduce materialism, I think that can be forgiven. They’re not taking up any space in my house besides hard drive space. My wife and I have both been tempted by things, but so far, have resisted. I bought some hardware at the Re-Store which is a reclaimed architectural salvage place run by Habitat for Humanity. But this is ok for two reasons: 1) it’s used, and 2) it was for a baby gate, which would fall under one of the exception categories, ie: safety.

I really wanted to buy a book by an author I like that had just come out and I was pretty bummed I would have to wait to read it. But I asked at the library anyway. It had only come out three weeks prior to that so I didn’t have my hopes up. When the librarian looked it up, she said, “Oh, we have four copies.” Oh yay. I asked to be put on the list immediatley and a week later, I had the book in my hands. This has definitley helped our bank account too. Hopefully, we’ll keep it up.

So my wife and I are thinking about joining “The Compact.” When I told my parents, they asked if that it was some kind of cult.  I explained that it’s just a group of people who agree to not buy anything new for a whole year. Food excluded of course. My Mom said “Oh, well that was the first few years of our marriage anyway.” I think it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for us. We rarely buy lots of things anyway. We’re not big Mall shoppers. I like to pick up the occasional CD but the only difference is that I would have to find it used. That’s no problem. I just got three used PS2 games for myself as a birthday present and I like them just fine. Who cares if they’re a few years old. One was $2.99. Can’t beat that. Unless it’s free. Yes we’re joining Freecycle as well. The site that facilitates giving things away to people who want what you don’t anymore.

The whole idea of this is to be less of a consumer. Less materialistic, if you will. Let’s see if we can stick with it for a whole year. What do you think?