Can toilet paper spark joy?

Pretty much everyone has heard of the Konmari book about minimalism and cleaning and only keeping things that “spark joy.”

Detractors often say that some utilitarian things are just not going to ever spark joy.  Now, we believe in small well-made tools to the extent that we’ve recommended people give tweezers and pencil sharpeners for Christmas.  These little luxuries really do spark joy for me whenever I have to sharpen a pencil or tweeze an errant hair or open a jar or what have you.

What, of course, makes them spark joy, is the memories of using pencil sharpeners that don’t sharpen right, or tweezers that take a lot of effort.  Or jar openers that take too much hand strength.  And on and on and on.

Often people will say, “Toilet paper will never spark joy.”  And I submit that those people did not grow up with crappy toilet paper.  One of my guilty pleasures in life is buying really nice quality toilet paper.  Toilet paper that doesn’t melt upon contact with water.  That doesn’t scratch.  That doesn’t take handfuls and handfuls per use.  (It’s a guilty pleasure because I know it’s not the best choice for the environment, but I buy it still!)

So… how to make sure even your mundane objects spark joy?

  1. Use crappy cheap versions of the object
  2. Find the best version of the object
  3. Use that instead
  4. (dispense with the crappy versions if you’re Konmari-ing)

Joy sparked!

Of course, if you haven’t suffered, you’ll never know the joy.  I suppose that if you do get rid of everything that doesn’t spark joy then you’ll have a lot of unsharpened pencils until you get a new sharpener, at which point, its eliminated absence will cause new joy to be sparked.  So…

Ah, the cirrrrrcle of hedonic adaptation.

Do mundane objects spark joy for you?  Which ones?

Selfish reasons white men should be interested in equal pay

So I was reading an economic history book by Claudia Goldin (again), and in her chapter on Political Economy of Gender, she talks about why unions have traditionally endorsed equal pay for women (and minorities).

Essentially, the idea is that if employers are allowed to offer women and minorities lower wages, then that is what they will do.  The wages will drop and white men will be unable to find employment or will have to accept the lower wage.  The underlying assumption is that women and minorities are doing the same work as the white men, but are willing to accept lower wages for it.

If men’s rights activists really believe that the world is a meritocracy, and white men are actually the best, then insisting that women be paid the same as men makes perfect sense.  If wages are the same for all workers doing the same work, then, under those assumptions, employers will only hire white men and their wages will stay high.  Women will work at less productive jobs at lower wages.  (Of course, there’s a bunch of new experimental research out that shows that low wages decrease productivity in spot markets– folks are rediscovering the efficiency wage argument!)

These arguments are a bit simplistic and mostly ignore general equilibrium effects, but it is very interesting how the rhetoric around equal pay for equal work has changed.  And how blue-collar white men supported equal pay for their own selfish interests, but now they no longer seem to.

Who benefits from paying women less?  Not the men married to them who would benefit from higher incomes (except, maybe, in terms of balance of power in the household).  Not the men working along-side them.  Employers benefit.

Where Chacha’s donation went and why you should donate too

Chacha won our “most commenting of 2015″ contest (even though she wasn’t aware she’d entered, she had, oh, she had).  That means she got to pick where we donated our last month’s blog earnings to.  How much did we donate?  Well, we topped it up so that we could give $100.  That seems like a nice number.

Where did she pick?  Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is a non-profit that provides women’s health care and reproductive information world-wide.  They do cancer screenings and reproductive health for men and women, as well as pre-natal care and access to family planning.  They are a force for good in this world, allowing women control over their own bodies, helping families (including low income families who don’t have other options) plan the family size that is best for them, and providing health care to those who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

Unfortunately they are under attack in the US.  The only reason that we can think of is that the Patriarchy wants to keep women down.  They want poor people to remain poor.  They want women to remain permanently pregnant.  The want rich white men in control always and forever.  It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but is there any other explanation about why there’s so much push to cut government funding for non-abortion services?  (Abortion services already do not receive government funding.)

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Because of this lack of government funding, Planned Parenthood has had to scale back considerably.  In much of the country, women now have to drive hours, possibly across states, to use their services.  That means that a lot of women are no longer able to get access to safe, affordable birth control, cancer screenings, or, yes, abortions.  That means more unwanted babies being born in bad circumstances.  More women dying of preventable diseases.  More back-alley abortions.  Real people are being hurt.

What can you do?  Well, your donations won’t make up for the government cut-backs, but every dollar still helps.  Donate.

And write your government officials.  Tell them you want funding restored.  Healthcare for women is important for everyone.  It’s important for this country.

Join ChaCha in helping this important organization.  And thank you.

Dear “broke” person on the internet,

[Ed note:  This somewhat mean-spirited post is from an embarrassing number of years back and has been hanging out in drafts waiting for it to no longer be connectable to any specific person and for us to be out of money Monday posts.  Did the person in question ever turn things around?  We have no idea!]

You make a lot of money.  I know this because you keep telling people how much you and your spouse make.  I was shocked the first time I saw it because you are always complaining about your debt (and how the world has been out to get you).  Until very recently, your family made more money than either of ours and lives in a lower cost living area.

But you also have spent a lot of money and you keep spending money.  For example, you bought a house that you should not have bought when you had major debt that you should have attacked first.  You got upset when your readers told you not to buy the house, and you bought it anyway.  Same thing with replacing your car with a fancy new model because cars get old after 6 years.

You need to pay down that debt so you stop wasting money on the interest so that you can actually life the lifestyle for your income-level.  You can’t live that 100K+/year income life until you get rid of that debt.  You have to live on less than that.  I’m not saying to give up the private school, but you don’t have to live in as nice a house or as nice a neighborhood or drive as nice cars or replace them so frequently. I imagine there are a lot of other luxuries that you think are necessities and entitlements.  They’re not.

You are probably not going to be able to stop spending so much without help, but I doubt you’re actually going to seek help.  I doubt that because your readers have suggested plenty of places to get help, from books to Dave Ramsey classes to certified financial planners, and you’ve done nothing.  You’re probably just going to keep complaining about your debt, bragging about your high income, and complaining about how the world is out to get you.

There’s probably something psychological going on.  And I should feel sorry for you, but seriously, you make @$@#$@ing lot of money.  A lot of people would pay down their @#$#ing debt and not feel so entitled to the house they couldn’t afford and whatever else it is that you’re wasting your high income on.  Then they’d have paid down their debt by now and would be able to live the life you’re living while saving for retirement!  But you’re going to have to make sacrifices at some point, and the longer you keep this high interest debt the more it’s going to keep dragging down your finances.

Which is why, of course, we’ve stopped reading you.

Favorite Christmas presents

#1:  DH fixed the toilet (more on why the landlord didn’t fix it next week…) so it no longer occasionally just slowly drains, and also so the chain doesn’t get caught on the other thingy leading to constant flushing.  Wooo!  DH gives me the best presents.

DC1 loved this book of brain teasers and this set of really cool magnetic blocks from Tegu.  Oh, and also a sleeping bag from my sister that came early so that zie could use it to go on a class field trip.

DC2 is over the moon with hir batman slippers which will scare bad guys while keeping hir feet warm.  Zie also really loves the Tegu blocks.  Also a pretty nice winter coat and hat.  Oh, and DC2 was super happy with the alphabet gummies that DC1 got for hir.

DH is happy with Terra Mystica and Sky Rim.  He’s also really happy about new slippers.  We didn’t realize Paradise would still sometimes get cold in the morning, or perhaps we didn’t realize that wooden floors are colder than carpet.

Also, I have a confession to make.  This year we took a bunch of the gifts DH’s mom got for DC2 and took them to Toys for Tots before Christmas.  It was weird because she had already gotten them a lot of stuff, and then she visited before Christmas and got a lot more because she hadn’t realized we’d left some toys (that frankly, DC2 played with once last year and then never again) back home, so she went to Walmart and replaced the toys we’d left so the new things she bought would work with them.  When we demurred, she said that we could just throw them out at the end of the year, which seemed horribly wasteful to us.  DC2 has a slightly older same-gendered cousin who is really into something that DC2 could not care less about, but my MIL doesn’t realize that DC2 isn’t into it at all and continues to add to the collection like she does for the cousin.  It’s not cheap stuff either– some of the figures go for $20-$40 (though she also sent several cheaper versions), but not worth if it it’s going to be played with once and then just take up closet/floor space.  Hopefully another child will get more joy from them.

Next year we’re going to make a wish-list for DC2.  It’s a shame because MIL does a really great job picking out things we’d never think of for DC1 (see: Tegu blocks), but for DC2 it’s mostly boring gender stereotyped corporate stuff for shows that we don’t let DC2 watch (because that’s what the slightly older cousin is into).

#2:  Octopus Hat.  ‘Nuff said.

What were some of your standouts this year, Grumpy Nation?

Annual Charitable Giving

Aiee!  We’re running out of time to do a charitable giving post!  Aiee!

So:

Planned Parenthood: Really what is needed is to get back government funding, so if you can’t give but can write a letter to your local politicians, then do that!  Heck, do both!

 

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sweet nourishment from someone’s facebook post

 

Southern Poverty Law Center: Has been doing a lot of good advocacy and illumination of racism and other hate-crimes recently.

We need diverse books:  has made a difference this past year.

Moms demand action:  I get a lot of mail from the Brady Center, but I hear a lot more from other places about Moms demand action.  I don’t know where your sensible gun legislation dollars should go, but this year I’m trying a new advocacy group instead.

Child’s Play.   Who doesn’t want to make life easier for sick kids in hospitals?

Your local library/cat shelter/food pantry– clean out your towels, etc.  also they need your volunteer time.

What are your donation recommendations this year?

A super-late update on my super-boring finances, how fun is that

I last talked about my boring finances waaay back in 2010.  Since then I have:  gotten tenure, quit my job, gotten engaged, moved across the country from Hell to Paradise, planned a wedding, gotten married, and gotten a new job… and gosh, a lot has happened in five years.

So, you may be wondering, how has all of this affected my boring finances?

student loans:  These were due to be paid off in 2018.  I got rid of them in 2013 mostly because of the loan servicer changing to one whose interface SUXXORED.

Wedding/Honeymoon: Thank every one of the gods and goddesses that the planning is over.  The wedding was a blast!  Everything was great.  The pictures came out wonderfully, the food was tasty, there was some laughter, nobody killed each other [despite the swordplay].  When I look at the photos of that day, all I see is love.

We paid for the honeymoon (and the wedding) ourselves, thanks to our savings and a windfall from my partner’s job.  Thanks also to both sets of parents who gave us cash gifts they could afford, thus freeing anybody from arguing about loans or who got to make decisions.  We <3 you, parents.  Cash is always appropriate.

We went far away on our honeymoon, and because it was our one-and-only honeymoon, we sprang for business class on the long-haul flight (both ways).  We haven’t done this before, and it was really worth it. Business class really cuts down on the amount of pain we’re in after a long flight (although it doesn’t completely eliminate that phase of the flight where every part of your body hurts, but it does make it shorter and less severe!).  By ‘long’ flight I mean over ten hours.

We ate everything, we stayed at nice hotels, we did touristy stuff, we loved it.

Car: I had to buy one when I moved to Hell in 2008.  Paid it all off on my junior professor salary.  It’s slightly the worse for wear at the moment, but still going quite strong.

house down payment:  Nope.  Since we moved to Paradise, we can’t afford a house.  I am just as happy renting in a place that I love, and I’m glad I didn’t try to buy in Blasted Wasteland.  Because now I would own a house in Blasted Wasteland.  Ugh.  Or I would have had to unload it on some other poor sap of a junior faculty person and then they’d be stuck there.

retirement:  After some time off between jobs, my retirement account is a bit anemic for my age.  Yipes!  But now that I’m employed full time with benefits again, I’m going to try to make up for lost time.  (I know that compound interest means I can’t, really, but I can only work on the future.)  Starting in Jan., I’ll be putting THE MAX you can put in each year.  It’s kind of a scary-large amount of money.  But it seems like the right choice.  My overall retirement amount is very small so far….

How our joint finances work:  Big changes here, due to my unemployment and then re-employment, us moving, my partner changing jobs, and getting legally married.

We’ve got a joint account for savings for our next life adventure, whatever that may be.  We’ve already had a wedding and we’re priced out of real estate.  Maybe my partner will make a career change?  We also each have individual checking and savings.  My partner pays all the bills and occasionally I chuck some money his way.  He’s paying more than half, since his salary is about 2.3 times mine.  I’m on his health insurance, which is way nicer than the one at my work, and turns out to be the same price or cheaper for much better service.  We are each other’s beneficiaries on stuff like retirement accounts and life insurance (free through work).

We used to have method one of sharing finances, but these days we have no spreadsheet at all.  One big thing that has changed is that with legally tying the knot, all our finances are legally “ours” instead of his-n-hers.  We still use them mostly as his-n-hers, which is fine, but our thinking is much closer to “enh, it’s your money too” than we used to be.  But now we’ll be doing taxes as married-filing-jointly, and my lower income will help offset his higher tax burden.  Because we had some complex tax things go on, I leave the taxes up to him, because his job had a bunch of wacky tax implications with stock options and things I do not understand.  Maybe in 2016 our taxes will be simpler and I will go back to understanding them.

So, uh, yeah?  How are your finances?  Any changes in the last 5 years or so?

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