Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday links - Budget edition aka "How to Get Rich Quick"

The Australian Government announced its 2013-2014 Budget this week, which led to the usual flood of analyses in the mainstream and social media. With inevitable spending cuts announced, there were a lot of cries of "poor me". There are certainly many Australians living under the poverty line, but the ones that cry poor the loudest always seem to be those with large incomes - large incomes but large expenses. These stories from my local paper are just two examples. (Blogger Nathan Lee has a term for these types of complainers - the "Plasma Proletariat".)

This article gives a good idea of where your income sits compared to other Australians, based on income and household size (and both families mentioned in the articles above are in the top 20%) - We Are All Dead, via @kylie_pc

We tend to live nearby and socialise with people who earn the same amount as us and, increasingly, high earners marry other high earners. This gives us a skewed perception as to what classifies as an "average" income. - Peter Martin

Want to see where your income sits on a global scale? An Australian earning $100 000 net pa is in the top 0.14% of earners in the world. An Australian earning $21 000 net is still earning more than 90% of the world's population. - Giving What We Can, Care Global Rich List

Meanwhile, some of the world's poorest people will be affected by the Australian budget. - Oxfam

Rachel Hills writes about The Privileged Poor this week - "When you're declaring social bankruptcy over drinking cleanskin wine instead of $17 cocktails... there is a little less room in your heart for those for whom poverty means having no choice at all..." "The result is a false dichotomy: either you are 'poor' and poised on the edge of bankruptcy, or you are 'comfortable' and you never have to think about money at all. But being middle-class doesn’t mean never needing to make a choice about what you spend your money on. It means having the wiggle room to choose in the first place." - The Daily Life

So, now that we've established that we're rich (based on the fact that most of the traffic to this blog comes from my Facebook page, which means we're Facebook friends, which means we probably have similar incomes and standards of living - see the Peter Martin article above) how can we feel rich?

I have a few ideas that I'm trying.

Not trying to keep up with the Joneses is a start. As Roosevelt said, "comparison is the thief of joy." If your salary increases, do not feel compelled to buy a bigger house, drive a flashier car and accumulate more gadgets (and more debt). Think of government benefits (eg the baby bonus) and tax cuts (eg private health insurance rebates) as privileges, not entitlements. Measure richness in concepts other than income, possessions and status - like friendships, health and freedom (including the freedom to make poor financial decisions). Spend time with people out of your income bracket - volunteer with newly arrived refugees, or old age pensioners.

I was reminded of this video today, the High Price of Materialism, which is relevant to this theme. - Center for a New American Dream

I hope you feel rich now.

Disclaimer: I am a rich single, employed home-owner with no dependents and I have never been poor.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

March - April update

This is a regular update where I summarise my progress with my 2013 ethical resolutions.

I'm doing pretty well with some of my resolutions. I've kept up regular charitable donations and made additional one-off donations, I'm doing my best with Michael Pollan's food rules and my meat free days, and I only buy free-range or organic meat. I don't always stick to this when I'm dining out and someone else orders - this is somewhere I can improve. I continue to use my Shop Ethical! app whenever I am buying an unfamiliar grocery item or brand.

However, I definitely need to eat at home more often (and I'm hoping for some inspiration from the new Michael Pollan book, Cooked). I am yet to host a clothes swap party or have another self-inflicted "Buy Nothing New Month". I still need to buy a bicycle (which my parents are giving me as a birthday gift). I haven't tried growing anything on the balcony and I obviously haven't been blogging here once a fortnight. I have had a guest staying with me the last couple of months so my electricity use has actually doubled and presumably my water consumption has also increased. My exercise levels have stayed pretty stable and I continue to suck at getting enough sleep.

I still have piles of things to give away but I haven't managed to move them out of my apartment. A friend has asked me to join her in a garage sale so I might try to sell some of the more valuable items and donate the proceeds to charity.

I feel as though I have been buying less but it still looks like a lot when I list everything I bought in the last two months. My (non-food, non-medication/-hygiene) purchases for March and April include:
  • scarf by Otto and Spike (on sale, from one of my favourite local stores, William Topp).  Otto and Spike use surplus yarn and wool from industry to make gorgeous knitted accessories in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. They have a wonderful story that you can read here.
  • cut flowers from the farmers market. I love having cut flowers in the house but in the hot Perth weather they don't last very long. Native flowers are the best, especially when from my mum's garden.
  • a new ball point pen. My other pens had all disappeared and I need a pen for work. Mainly to write prescriptions, it would seem. It's probably made in China but I didn't have time to shop around for an ethically sound pen. My consolation with this one is that it takes refills and that it's from an Australian company.
  • cleanser and eye serum from Aesop. I've written before about my love of Aesop. The cleanser I use every day and will probably last me a year. The eye serum was a more questionable purchase - I didn't check the price before I bought it and I have only used it a few times (due to my sucky sleeping habits). I will try to use it more often and justify the expense. I will write about the beauty industry and anti-ageing products in future.
  • Aussie-owned, Aussie-made organic laundry detergent and some NZ-owned, NZ-made stain remover. The former unfortunately has an overpowering lavender scent. Again, I must take the time to learn how to make my own cleaning products.
  • Aussie-owned, Aussie-made products to combat silverfish that I have been finding around my bathroom (not the wardrobe, strangely). Obviously, I don't want silverfish to shorten the lifespan of my clothing. The Hovex products are not nearly as nice as my clothing protectors from Thurlby Herb Farm, which is a Western Australian company that supports its local community in South West WA.
I also bought a few gifts in April but as I have been too slack to wrap and send them, I had better not list them here in case the recipients read this blog post.