YES, E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E! Even if you’re in a relationship and you have joint savings, you each still need your own Fuck Off Fund. If you haven’t read A Story of a Fuck Off Fund by Paulette Perhach, it’s a must! Perhach refers to the Fuck Off […]
Tag: financial independence
Some people love to squirrel money away and enjoy watching their accounts grow. I’ve never been one of those people. Money available meant money to spend – at one point even credit available meant money to spend! While I’ve worked hard over the past few […]
Today marks the anniversary of one of the worst industrial disasters in history – the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed 1,134 and injured another 2,500 on April 24, 2013.
Severe cracks in the Bangladesh garment building’s walls compelled police to require an evacuation. Disregarding this directive, workers were ordered back to their sewing machines and the eight-storey building collapsed on top of them the following day.
The organization Fashion Revolution developed as a result of this tragedy and encourages us to ask questions about our clothing: Who made my clothes? How much are they paid? What are their lives like?
These questions have unsettling answers. Approximately 75 million people work to make our clothing, 80% of them women ages 18-35. The majority of these garment workers live in poverty and deal with exploitation, verbal and physical abuse, unsafe conditions, and unfair pay.
Fashion Revolution Week takes place every year during the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, to educate consumers and demand change from retailers and manufacturers. In honour of this anniversary, I wanted to share some of the ways that learning about this tragedy, and many others, has impacted my habits as a consumer.
My Shopping Guidelines
In my own purchasing decisions, I try to follow these steps:
- Consume less. Do you even need this item?
- Repurpose. Can you use something you already have?
- Borrow. Do you know someone who can lend this to you temporarily?
- Trade. Could you swap something else you own for this item?
- Thrift. Is there anything available second hand?
- Buy consciously. Can you find an ethical and sustainable retailer?
Start at the top, and consider all of the options in sequence. Buying new has been the default in our culture, but with enough practice you can rewire your thought process so that it becomes the last resort.
The Reality of the True Cost of Clothing
Buying from ethical and sustainable retailers isn’t a financially viable option for everyone, and even when it is, we tend to balk at the sticker price. There’s a reason clothing costs have become so low, and it’s because manufacturers and retailers are cutting corners in everything from wages to workplace safety to environmental responsibility. We’re so detached from the true cost of producing a garment that a fair price seems exorbitant to us. That isn’t to say that a higher price means a fair garment – tags of fashion brands from fast fashion to luxury were all found in the Rana Plaza rubble.
That being said, it’s important to let go of perfection and do what you can. Sometimes you won’t be able to find something you need from a responsible company, at a price you can afford. Recognize that doing your best is enough, and that doing something imperfectly is better than pushing yourself to the point that you feel discouraged and give up.
Actions You Can Take Right Now
I’ve put together some of the ways I try to lower my impact on the lives of others and on our planet. They range from awareness to lowering consumption to lobbying for change. These are only a few so please add your own ideas in the comments!
- Watch the documentary The True Cost for a great overview of the many issues in the fashion industry – and share it with others!
- Try Project 333, the minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. You’re probably already wearing the same stuff on rotation anyway.
- Commit to a 30 wears campaign by asking yourself if you would wear an item at least 30 times before you buy it. Many of my items are 100+ wears now!
- Or better yet, while you’re testing out a capsule wardrobe for Project 333, why not commit to a year of not buying clothing at all?
- Increase your awareness of marketing practices, particularly the shift from promoting a product’s features to selling an emotion – check out the documentary The Century of the Self. You’ll never look at an ad the same way again.
- Look up your local Buy Nothing group. The Buy Nothing Project is a local gift economy – you post things that you need, or things that you want to give, and build community with your neighbours while you decrease your environmental impact.
- Visit workerdiaries.org to learn more about a yearlong research project focused on garment workers in Cambodia, Bangladesh and India.
- Check out the sustainable and ethical fashion directory from My Green Closet if you do need to buy something new.
- Visit fashionrevolution.org to learn more about the impact of the fast fashion industry, and how you can contribute.
- Contact your favourite retailers and ask about their practices. Use the hashtag #whomademyclothes to connect with others and advocate for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.
The bottom line? I believe that nobody should die for what I wear.
Have you ever received one of these letters from a bank? “Congratulations on being a responsible credit user! We’d like to offer you an increase on your credit limit. We appreciate your business and hope you enjoy this extra purchasing power!” Now, to me that […]
The novelty of trends and designs The time between unwrapping a perfect object and its first sign of wear, entropy in action The marking of occasions and milestones The feel of soft fabrics running through my fingers The thrill of completing a task that only […]
One of the opinion pieces that fascinates me every year is the minimum amount it costs millennials to live in my city – Vancouver, Canada.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Housing: $1,929.67
- Phone and Internet: $105
- Transportation: $133
- Groceries: $211.97
- Entertainment: $321
- Fitness: $75
- Insurance: $20
Total: $2,795.64/month, or $33,547.68 annually
For most of these numbers I nodded along, but housing stuck out to me – until I read the fine print:
Basically, if you want to live roommate-free near downtown Vancouver in your 20s and 30s, this is the minimum amount of money you’re going to have to spend to cover your cost of living and still have somewhat of a life.
The Minimum Cost of Living
How can we talk about “the minimum” cost of living in a city and in the same moment reference living roommate-free? Even though singles account for 28% of Canadian households, surpassing all other types for the first time in our history, they’re certainly not living a minimum lifestyle.
I’ve never lived alone. Not once. For the first 18 years I lived with my parents, then a few years in a dorm at university, then in apartments shared with either roommates or boyfriends.
Sure, it would have been nice to have a place to myself. The space! The quiet! The lack of clutter! No walking on eggshells or passive aggressive notes about washing the dishes. I wouldn’t have had to worry about mismatched standards of cleanliness or opposite schedules. (Shout out to a former roommate who invited an entire hockey team over for a party on a Wednesday night before one of my exams. The best.)
I would also be living paycheque to paycheque and struggling to make my minimum student loan payments.
Obviously there are valid reasons why someone might want or need to live alone, but setting it out as a minimum standard of living promotes a mindset that most of us can’t afford to have – especially if we want to prepare for our future rather than living month to month.
Housing is one of the fundamental problems of our generation. In Vancouver in particular, investors leave properties unoccupied while the homeless population continues to grow – up 30% over the past three years. Costs are soaring and Vancouver has been ranked as the third least-affordable housing market in the world – with only Sydney and Hong Kong above us. Yes, even more unaffordable than LA or San Francisco or NYC. Our rental vacancy rates are less than 1%. Income, adjusted to inflation, has risen only 5.2% since 2010 while housing prices are up 78%. Efforts to cool the housing market, like new taxes on property speculators and foreign buyers, haven’t had a chance to make an impact yet.
I’m hopeful that the tide of the affordability crisis will turn, but until then articles like this are normalizing a lifestyle that is financially out of reach for most of us. When I first moved to Vancouver, my income was above average and I still couldn’t afford to live alone. After years of paying down my student loan balances and increasing my income, I could make it work but just barely.. and that’s with dropping my student loan payments back to the minimum.
Unless you’re frequenting coffee shops six times a day, no amount of skipping frappuccinos will save you more money than having a roommate will. Housing is often our largest expense (aside from taxes, of course – and in my case student loan payments). Sometimes you need to do things that you don’t necessarily like now in order to give your future self an edge.
Not living alone will save me more than $50,000 over my five year student loan repayment timeline, leaving me debt free six years sooner than I would be otherwise.
Try calculating what you’d save by living with a roommate and how much sooner it would let you reach your goals. Imagine all of the things that money could do for you instead – buy back your freedom from lenders, give you peace of mind that your retirement will be funded, save for travel or children or buying your own home (maybe, at some point). It can be tempting to justify standard expenses like rent, especially when they’re normalized in the media and especially when they deal with as emotional a topic as housing, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t explore all of your options.
Same goes for the location of your place and the size and number of bedrooms you choose. Is living downtown essential or could you commute? Do you really need a guest room or an office, or would it be more cost-effective to pay for a hotel room or co-working space when you really need it?
If you do choose to prioritize living alone or in a certain location or having more space, that’s okay too! We all spend our money differently, and I don’t think anyone should be shamed for that. The important piece is to consider the actual minimum and then decide if it aligns with your priorities.
We can’t afford all of the things that we might want. Sometimes we’ll choose to live downtown but take public transportation instead of owning a vehicle. Sometimes we’ll choose to live with roommates so that we can increase our retirement savings. Sometimes we’ll live alone and spend less on travel or entertainment.
All of these choices are valid – just make sure they’re yours.
On Monday last week I decided that I would be going to the gym at 6AM. It wasn’t something I’d extensively planned. It wasn’t a ‘new year, new me’ move. It wasn’t even a habit I intended on creating. I just wanted to go to […]
Some recommend avoiding all luxuries while paying off non-mortgage debt – no travel, no meals out, no purchases other than necessities. I’m not one of those people. A few of my friends and family members have passed away at young ages, and I know that […]
Being transparent with your finances online is interesting. I know it helps to see real numbers which is why I share everything, but there are obvious downsides. Like, all of the times people tell me that they wish they had my income.
I can’t help but think that if they knew the full story, they might not be so quick to take the positives weighed down with their accompanying negatives.
Sure, my starting salary at my first full-time job was $65,000 – after I negotiated it up from $58,000! I’m earning 30% higher than the average in my area, which is substantial. That’s in Canadian dollars – make sure you find your currency conversion before you get too excited.
The number on its own can be misleading, so let’s look into the details.
For nearly all of the first ten years of my working life I was also attending university full-time, with several casual and part-time jobs wherever they would fit. Over that decade, I earned roughly $130,000 – an average of $13,000 per year which is well below the poverty line in Canada.
Still wishing for that income?
Friends who started out earning $20,000 in a minimum wage job would have made over $200,000 by that point – assuming they stayed in the same position for a decade and were never given a single raise or promotion.
Even now, after two years of full-time work with my shiny new salary, I’ve just reached the $20,000, on average, that my friends started making 12 years ago. I estimate that I won’t hit a $65,000 average until I’ve been in the working world for at least 20 years.
Adding in my $130,000 of student loan debt to that total, I’m actually at a net of $0 over ten years.
It will take me almost five years to pay off my student loan debt, which requires minimum payments of $1,300/month – 1/3 of my net income. I won’t be finished until I’m 32, a full 14 years after I started university but six years earlier than if I would have followed my original repayment plan.
Not to mention the years of compound interest I missed out on by delaying retirement savings! Ouch.
I feel behind in many ways, and it will be a while before I’ve caught up. That’s not something I focus on, but I think outlining these factors is important to understand the full picture.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful for my opportunities. I’m very privileged to have the education and experiences I did. When I do catch up, I’ll have much more financial stability than most. I just want to put my current earnings in context, and hopefully encourage others to ditch the unhealthy comparison habits that we all seem to fall into. It’s pretty freeing, actually. I know this because I used to envy the salaries of some of my friends too – until I stopped to think that they were often putting in longer hours in higher pressure situations, traveling away from their families for extended periods of time, or working in dangerous conditions.
There’s always more to the story than a number.