Thursday, April 29, 2010

Annie Leonard The Story of Stuff on The Colbert Report

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Coming Out of the Broke Closet

Thank you to Susan Tompor for taking the time to speak to me at length about Broke is Beautiful. I talked to the Detroit Free Press reporter for about two hours while working on my community rummage sale.

"I wish that more people would come out of the closet as broke people," said Laura Lee, 40, who lives in Rochester Hills and wrote a new book called "Broke Is Beautiful: Living and Loving the Cash-Strapped Life." ($12.99, Running Press.)

"A lot of people are feeling broke."...

Many people, Lee maintains, suffer delusions of wealth. But she doesn't put herself in that category. She says, for example, that she mainly buys her clothes twice a year at that church rummage sale where women's sweaters start at $4, jackets at $7 and slacks at $5. Prices are lower on Friday and Saturday.

Interestingly, most of the quotes in the piece came from the book. I must not have been as quotable as I hoped!

Remember that you can order your copy of Broke is Beautiful via the link on the right. (Click the book cover). I will send you a personally autographed copy. You support starving artists (or at least one) when you order this way.

Via that link you can also get a number of my books that are no longer available elsewhere. As a rummage special, now through the end of the month, when you order I'll throw in a free copy of my ultra-rare 2000 book Bad Predictions. Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Real Detroit Weekly Features "Broke is Beautiful"

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

We should all pause for a moment in grateful recognition of how fortunate we are to live in a time and place where we can believe being broke is abnormal. For most of history, and in most of the world still, life is taken up with the struggle to survive, to find food and shelter. The idea that we, modern American folk, should be immune to such concerns is a tremendous luxury.

I would like more broke people to come out of the closet. I’d like to see a token broke friend on every TV show.

Right now we spend so much energy trying to hide the fact that we’re not making as much as we’d like to, or that we’re having trouble paying the bills. The problem is that this PR smoke screen leaves people who have a lot of company feeling very isolated. We close out the very large community of fellow broke people who could be a support to us. It’s human nature to try to keep up with the neighbors, but the neighbors are probably not leveling with you about how hard it is for them to make ends meet. So we drive each other to over-consume, and we fail to stand up for the things we really need because we don’t want to reveal how skint we all feel.

Read the full article at Real Detroit Weekly.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You Don't Need a Safety Net: An Interview with Christine Gilbert

Two years ago Christine Gilbert decided to leave the rat race*. She writes on Almost Fearless that one day working for a Fortune 500 company she realized "...somehow I ended up trading in my 20’s for a job I didn’t love, money I didn’t need (but happily spent on things I didn’t need)." So she quit the job and became a world-traveling freelance writer. She writes about her experiences in a ebook "30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World."

Now she believes "You don’t need a safety net. You can figure this out. The idea of being out there, with nothing to catch you if everything goes wrong may make your stomach do little flips, but really, you’ll be just fine."

Christine took some time to talk to me about world travel, true security and vagabonding family style.

Q. You talk about leaving a job as a manager at a Fortune 500 company to become a traveling freelance writer. What type of work did you do, and why did you decide to go into the corporate world initially?

A. I worked in health care software, something that I had never intended to do. In 2002, my husband and I were both laid off from our jobs. He was an animator and I was a marketing manager at a small publishing house and we woke up the next morning in Seattle and quickly realized that there were an awful lot of creative types like us, desperate for work. Everyone had moved out to Seattle to be a part of the big dot com craze (we moved there in 2000 when just knowing HTML made you a rock star) and suddenly there were no jobs and thousands of people competing against you.

To make ends meet, I took a short term job building a database for a local medical center. The next thing I knew, I was learning interface coding and digging into their ancient medical software. From there, corporate made sense. It paid well, it was well established and it allowed me to travel around the country, doing installations and working with smart, well-educated people. It wasn't what I wanted, but it's not a bad gig if you can get it.

Q. I assume (based on mentions of student loans) that you have a college education. I’m interested to know if you pursued an education because of family tradition/expectations, a desire for knowledge, the promise of a better income or something else?

A. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I had every expectation that college would be my ticket to financial freedom.

Q. Was there an epiphany or an event that made you decide to change your line of work?

A. Yes. I was sitting on the 13th floor of a building across the street from the Prudential in Boston. Everything was gray. My office walls, the building next to me, the sky, the wet sidewalk below, even my suit. In that moment, I had this feeling I couldn't shake. It was impossible to ignore it and continue on like nothing happened. I stopped caring about the work. I felt a little reckless. I knew I had to get out.

Q. What is it about travel that appeals to you?

A. I'm addicted to change. I love finding new places. People who travel to the same place every year confuse me. What's the point of that? The places that get me excited are as far away both geographically and culturally as possible. I love culture shock.

Q. Many people like the idea of trying couch surfing or backpacking and staying at hostels, but worry about security. Did you worry about safety when traveling and how did you overcome that?

A. I think being a little afraid about security is a good thing. I'm always aware of where my wallet is, where my camera is, whether someone can snag my bag without my noticing and so on. Petty theft is a problem where ever you go (in the States as well). As far as other kinds of crime, I'm not as worried. Statistically, it's incredibly rare. Someone hurting you while couch surfing isn't exactly the perfect crime. If there was a psycho out there, he's more likely to drug women at bars (watch your drinks, ladies) than to go online and leave a big fat electronic trail to his front door. As far as hostels go, the biggest problem is cleanliness. There are fantastic places, and some sketchy ones, so if you run into the latter, just get up and walk to the next place.

Q. You write that “you don’t need a safety net.” Were you ever in a challenging situation where you ran short on funds and weren’t sure you’d find a place to stay or something to eat? What happened?

A. It's funny because when you're living in the states and you have $5 in your checking account and ramen in your cabinets, it's called being a college student. Do that while living in Prague and people think you're taking your life in your hands. I have had challenging situations before.

While I was in Panama last year, I decided to go to Las Tablas for Carnival. When I arrived at the town, I had no reservation, no guidebook and no clue. It was midnight and every hotel had been booked since three months prior. I realized that I was going to have to take the 6 am bus back to the city, so I bought a coke, found a picnic table and sat down to read my book for a few hours.

This kid, Kris from Panama approached me and we chatted in Spanish for a while. He and his 8 gay friends (do you know how rare it is to find gay men in Central America?) had rented a house and offered to let me stay with them. I took him up on it and had the most amazing week at Carnival, dancing, drinking and hanging out with these kids.

Q. How would you describe your views on money and material stuff?

A. I used to view money as a sort of security blanket, something that would keep me safe. These days, it's a method of exchange for my time. I'm much more aware of the costs of earning money... I don't give away my time anymore without consideration. As far as material things, when you travel it becomes easy to keep it minimal. Everything you buy, you have to carry!

Q. How much time do you spend traveling in a year and what is your home base like?

A. This past year, I traveled about 9 out of 12 months in the year. I was pregnant, so I took it slower than normal. We did a two month roadtrip across the US and up to Alaska via the Canadian Yukon while I was in my first trimester. However, we usually have a home base in another country, and I travel from there. That means renting an apartment or a small house so that the dogs have some semblance of a normal life. (Although I think they love camping even more than us).

Q. A lot of the people blogging about vagabonding seem to be single and unattached, which must make it easier to just “take off” somewhere. You are married with a family. I am wondering if you could tell me a bit about how that works. Do you travel together? Were you both on the same page on the decision to leave corporate life and “downshift?” Do you have a similar philosophy when it comes to money and possessions?

A. Yes, I'm married and we just added a baby to the mix in March. Luckily, my husband is 100% on the same page as me. He was the one that encouraged me to quit my job when I was doubting myself. If it wasn't for his support and dedication, I'm sure I'd have a very different life.

In July we'll be leaving again, this time with our two dogs and a four-month-old baby. We'll pick a home base for 3 months and then rent an apartment, get settled in and take short trips with the little one as we see fit (it's really easy to find dog sitters abroad-- most backpackers will leap at the chance in exchange for free housing). We're definitely limited by my desire to research and plan a trip. The hardest part of traveling with a family is figuring out all the logistics.

If you fly with dogs you want to take nonstop flights and it has to be airlines with a pet-friendly policy. Finding a place can be a challenge, especially with big dogs (we have Labrador retrievers) and getting around, even from the airport can be tricky. Babies at this age are easy, especially if they're breastfed, as it's easy to soothe them anywhere. It's all doable, it just takes more planning than your average backpacker, who can wake up hungover in one country and decide to on a whim to travel half-way around the world. I spend a lot of time writing emails, trying to get things down with the help of locals who aren't out to overcharge us.

Q. Is it difficult to maintain a sense of community while traveling extensively?

A. Yes, absolutely. I've made some incredibly close friends during my travels, the kind of relationships that I didn't find when I was working all the time. There's something about the bond between two people who have traveled together. You've been through this amazing experience that no one can understand, and most people in your life don't want to hear about. I don't have a community in the geographic sense... there is no location that I can call home... but I have these threads connecting me to people all over the world, that keeps me buoyed.

Q. Tell me about your film project.

A. One of the great side effects of having my blog is all of the amazing travelers I get to meet. There's this community of digital nomads: people working remotely, freelancing or running their business from overseas, allowing them to travel indefinitely. In some ways it's the dream lifestyle. The fascinating part is that the technology has changed so much in the past 10 years that it's incredibly easy for people to take their lives on the road. Everything from getting your mail, making phone calls, communicating with clients, managing your bank accounts, looking up files on an office computer... it can all be done over the internet. We're endeavoring to show some of the varied ways that people make this lifestyle work for them. This summer and fall we'll be traveling around the world filming and interviewing people who live incredibly ordinary lives in extraordinary ways.

Dreams on Ice

“The shortest route to the good life involves building the confidence that you can live happily within your means (whatever the means provided by the choices that are truly acceptable to you turn out to be). It’s scary to imagine living on less. But embracing your dreams is surprisingly liberating. Instilled with a sense of purpose, your spending habits naturally reorganize, because you discover that you need less. This is an extremely threatening conclusion. It suggests that the vast majority of us aren’t just putting our dreams on ice – we’re killing them.”-Po Bronson, What Should I Do With My Life? Fast Company.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Broke is Beautiful: Upcoming Media

I have been doing a fair number of interviews discussing the general concept of being contentedly skint. Here are some of the places you'll be able to hear/read interviews in the near future.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, April 27) I will be on the David Magee Show at 12:40 PM eastern time. Streaming is available via the link.

Wednesday, April 28th I will be recording an interview with Michael Ray Dresser for the "Dresser After Dark" radio show. The program is streamed over the Internet and should be online the following day or there abouts.

An interview I did with the Candy's Candor Show is still available on line. I come in at about the 14 minute mark.

I did an interview last week with Woman's Day Radio. It will be available on line in another week to two weeks.

I have also spoken to reporters for The Detroit Free Press, Real Detroit Weekly, and Revue Magazine (Grand Rapids). As soon as any of these appear on line, I will let you know.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Throw It Away

"Dorothy Day's friend Peter Maurin, the French socialist, told her when she was complaining about not having enough time, 'To make time, you must sow time.' Dorothy Day wrote in her journal, 'In other words, throw it away. It must seem madness to throw that first wheat away, but more wheat grew up a hundred fold.'

What are you short of? Time? Money? Power? Whatever you need, throw it away. Drop it, toss it, chuck it. Lose it. And get ready for harvest. No, it's not a sure thing. Nothing's sure-- neither the stock market nor the Red Sox nor life. The harvest that comes may not be the one you expect. But it might be the one you need."
-Never Far From Home: Stories from the Radio Pulpit, Carl Scovel

How to Eat: Weeds, Yum!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quote of the Day: Debts to Be Paid

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin–real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”– Alfred D’Souza, Australian inspirational writer

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Buy Without Money and Delight in Fatness

Erotic Capital and Karmic Debts

One of the main focuses of Broke is Beautiful is suggesting different ways to look at familiar ideas like "being broke," "capital" and "debt." I suggest measuring how "broke" you are not in terms of financial capital, but in terms of social capital-- the resources you have in terms of social connections, community, family and friends.

A couple of articles came across my radar today (via Twitter) that offer unique takes on capital and debt. The first from ResPublica offers hope to the truly "broke and beautiful" among us. (Although it might add insult to injury for those of us who are a bit less than model-esque.) The article "Liberalism and Erotic Capital" discusses the link between sexual attractiveness and earning power. If you're in debt, perhaps you can blame it on your oversized nose or wildly crooked teeth.

Good-looking people can earn up to 13% more than average-looking people. The most attractive lawyers are 20% more likely to achieve partnership in their firm. Research shows that teachers invest more time in cute children. Prettier girls are more likely to be married and live in higher income households. Last year, a study found that attractiveness has a roughly equal effect as qualifications on earnings
I've heard these kinds of statistics before and I'm not entirely sure what to do with the information. Are you? Ryan Shorthouse, the article's author offers some not-too-practical ideas for leveling the playing field. I haven't come up with any better ones myself, but it does sound like a boon for the cosmetics industry.

The second article for your consideration is "Facing Down Business Debt" from the blog Heart of Business. Mark (he's a first name kind of guy) takes a spiritual approach to the whole concept of debt. He suggests seeing debt not as an aberrant obligation but as the natural state of life in our interdependent web of existence. Here are some excerpts:

Debt had become an angry monster, snapping up every scrap of money coming in. Because the debt monster was running her business, it was like having an evil vacuum cleaner connected to her clients. It didn’t feel good to them, or to her, and things were spiraling down...

Here’s what Sufism has to say about debt: we humans are born with debt. Instead of “original sin” think “original debt.” The Divine gave us life and existence, and for that we owe...

The intense weight and power that debt is given in our society creates prisons that keep us from our creativity and resourcefulness. This can bring up resentment, and we can end up feeling angry or scared about any obligation to anyone. What a bind this puts us in. How can you live a fulfilling life or have a successful business without a healthy interdependent give and take from people and resources around?

Instead of rebelling against obligation, I’m suggesting you lean into the sense of healthy obligation that is available. Pay your debts in order: First to the Divine, then to yourself and loved ones, and finally to other obligations. I bet you find yourself surprised by the results.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Erring Your Ditry Laundry

Are you using too much laundry soap and pouring cash down the drain? It is quite likely according to an article in Money Talks (which draws on a Wall Street Journal article).

From the Wall Street Journal I learned:

1. There is someone at Proctor and Gamble with the title "head of laundry research and development for North America."

2. Laundry is still done largely by women. It was the primary household responsibility of 76% of women and 24% of men in a 2007 Whirlpool survey of 2,500 consumers.

3. The equivalent of 1,100 washloads are started every second of every day.

4. 53% of people don't use the recommended amount of detergent per washload, preferring instead to guess or, worse, to simply fill the cap up to the top—a practice that wastes more than half the loads a detergent bottle could wash.

5. There's someone at Whirlpool with the job title "consumer scientist, Institute of Fabric Science."

6. The latest twist in detergent is to a smaller quantity of a more concentrated product at a higher price. The idea here is that you use less, and you save money and the planet. This works great in theory, except that most people don't actually use less of the strong stuff. This is great for detergent makers' bottom line; not so great for yours.

The author of the Money Talks article suggests solving the over-sudsing problem by foregoing detergent all together.

You might be surprised to learn that, while clothing has been around since the fig leaf, laundry detergent is relatively new. And yet, ancient people were presumably able to make their clothing at least somewhat clean. How?

As it turns out, something that may be even more effective than soap is agitation. Ancient people used rocks and rivers, but your modern washing machine can clean lightly soiled clothes by just pushing them around in water.

In other words, people actually do get away without using detergent at all.

Of course it's hard to believe that after years of watching television commercial characters bravely battle ring around the collar.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Woman's Day Radio

Tomorrow I will be on Woman's Day Radio, aka Radio WD, at 4:45 PM. After the interview you will still be able to listen and to download the podcast.

Update: The interview will be posted in about two weeks time. I will let you know when it is available.

Video fo the Day: Is Your Stuff Holding You Back?

Matt Cheuvront, who blogs at Life Without Pants, has recorded this book review of Everett Bogue's "The Art of Being Minimalist" and a call to lose the attachment to stuff.

Your Hindering Your Potential (With Your Stuff) from Matt Cheuvront on Vimeo.

Media Notes

Last night I spoke on Candy's Candor on the on-line radio station Ambition Radio. The link above will take you to the interview. I come in at about 15 mins.

If you're in the Detroit area you can see me today on "Live at Eleven" on FOX 2, WJBK, Detroit.

Science Proves It: Giving is Contagious

What you learned on Sesame Street (cooperation is good!) has finally been put to scientific test. And researchers found-- I'm paraphrasing here-- that "the more we get together the happier we'll be." You can read all about it on Eurekalert.

In a study published in the March 8 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard provide the first laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it spreads from person to person to person. When people benefit from kindness they "pay it forward" by helping others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network...

From a scientific perspective, Fowler added, these findings suggest the fascinating possibility that the process of contagion may have contributed to the evolution of cooperation: Groups with altruists in them will be more altruistic as a whole and more likely to survive than selfish groups.

"Our work over the past few years, examining the function of human social networks and their genetic origins, has led us to conclude that there is a deep and fundamental connection between social networks and goodness," said Christakis. "The flow of good and desirable properties like ideas, love and kindness is required for human social networks to endure, and, in turn, networks are required for such properties to spread. Humans form social networks because the benefits of a connected life outweigh the costs."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why Broke is Beautiful. Listen to Cathy's Candor Tonight.

I have been invited to appear as the first guest on the premiere episode of Ambition Talk Radio's "Cathy's Candor" this evening. The show starts at 9PM. I believe you should be able to listen via this link. If not, it will be archived, and I'll post how you can listen to it once it's out.

Tune In, Turn On, Be Broke!

If your soaps aren't doing it for you tomorrow, I hope you'll tune into "Live at Eleven" on FOX 2, WJBK, Detroit. I will be on this program to talk about Broke is Beautiful.

Wednesday evening I will be at Book Beat in Oak Park, MI from 7-8 PM. They are promising "this will be an entertaining and fun event for all ages, and especially anyone facing the realities of a financial downturn." So I'm hard at work right now, honing my fun skills.

If you can't make it to Book Beat on the day, for example, if you live in Alaska; and you would like your copy of Broke is Beautiful autographed, please order by clicking on the image of the book cover on the right.

This is the link to order directly from me, and I'll scribble my name in it before I send it out to you. You'll even get my finger prints and perhaps some trace DNA, allowing you to frame me for a crime or perhaps clone your own broke author. (I watch a lot of CSI)

Author Alain de Botton wrote, "Writing a book has about it some of the anxiety of telling a joke and having to wait several years to know whether or not it was funny." How true.

If you've had a chance to read the book, I'd be grateful for feedback and if you have a chance to post an online review on a review site or your own blog it would be a great help in letting people judge the book by something other than its cover.

Money is a Poor Motivator for Creative Problems

More Money Butterflies

I was dreaming of something like this when I created my video trailer (below) but my stop motion talents were a bit more modest.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Video of the Day: Begging 21st Century Style

We Discovered How To Make Fire! Act Now and Get a Free Bonus!

Great opening on a New York Times review of the book Age of Persuasion:

SUPPOSE aliens landed on Earth today. What would be their main impression of our culture? Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant argue that they’d be struck by the omnipresent influence of advertising and marketing...

“Had you stumbled upon this planet in any other era, you might have concluded that we lived in an age of stone or bronze...But today? You couldn’t help but conclude that we live in an age of persuasion, where people’s wants, wishes, whims, pleas, brands, offers, enticements, truths, petitions and propaganda swirl in a ceaseless, growing multimedia firestorm of sales messages.”

You can read the full review by following the link at the beginning.

Seeking Guest Bloggers

Do you write about voluntary simplicity, minimalism, downshifting, creativity, frugality, thrift or a related topic? I am interested to hear what you have to say to the broke and beautiful of the world. It's not a conversation if I'm the only one talking, so I'm hoping to find a guest poster or two.

Drop me a line at or via the comments or twitter or the Facebook group. We don't have the world's largest following here, but it's respectable enough, and might attract one or two new folks to your site. (Maybe being on WJBK Fox 2 TV on April 20 and having a chance to meet people at Book Beat in Oak Park, MI on April 21 will make us a little more respectable.)

In the meantime, here's a diversion. Nothing to in particular to do with Brokeness, just a song and musician worth hearing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Going Forward with No Plan

There are a lot of how to books out there that claim to get your life in order or help you found a successful business. What most of them have in common is a list of 7 or 12 or 50 simple steps that, if you follow, will supposedly guarantee a better result. But as poet Robert Burns noted after watching mice shout "Who Moved my Cheese?" Those plans gang aft agley.

Today on Free Range Humans, Marianne Cantwell shares an interview with Ian Sanders who is on a mission to spread the gospel about "unplanning your business."

A consciously unplanned business--or life for that matter-- is flexible enough to respond to change.

This was the guiding principal of The Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a not for profit founded by folk singer Arlo Guthrie. Ten years ago (how time flies) I interviewed Guthrie for a book I wrote on the history of the building that began as the Trinity Church, morphed into the setting for the song and film Alice's Restaurant and later became a community center.

"A lot of people, when they set up an organization to save the world are convinced that if you only do what I know, everything will be fine," Guthrie said. "Well, that's just another guy with another plan to save the world. If I knew [what the community needed] I would just go do that. What I want to do is be responsive. It means I don't know in advance what needs to be done. What I want to do is set up something where, if somebody needs something, they can call up and say, 'I need this,' and I'll have a group of volunteers and say, 'Who can take care of this?' And someone will say, 'I can.'"

Having a plan may be great, but knowing when not to follow it is even better as Ian Sanders explains in this clip:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Video of the Day: Gypsy Junker

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hurry Up and Eat!

If you start to feel like an under-achiever, and to go over your to do list, when you drive past the golden arches researchers say you are not alone. Here's the skinny (as it were) as reported in

...according to new research from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, the very sight of the McDonald's logo might make him hurry up.

When people are exposed to fast-food logos, even momentarily, they're reminded of the need to save time, says Chen-Bo Zhong, a professor of organizational behaviour and the paper's co-author. In three experiments, participants were found to be more impatient and hasty after seeing logos such as McDonald's, Subway, KFC or Wendy's.

"It's the goals that you associate with these symbols," says Zhong. "They really are a very prevalent part of our culture that (remind us) we need to be time-efficient, we need to be able to save time."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Video of the Day: Obsessive Shopping

Broke is Beautiful Quote of the Day

Visionary entrepreneur Paul Hawken knows why Octavio has launched a successful enterprise and will keep it growing. In Growing a Business, he points out, “With low overhead, frugal means and fragile budgets, you can’t buy your way out of problems. You have to learn your way out. The creativity and tenacity you have to develop will make it hard for you to be put out of business.”

From Joyfully Jobless

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Work Harder, Make More Money...NOT!

A study by Dante DeAntonio uses data from the Current Employment Statistics -- a monthly survey of more than 400,000 U.S. business establishments -- gave estimates for employment, hours, and earnings for all 50 U.S. states.

Now that we can clearly see which states' employees work the most hours, we should be able to prove conclusively the equation T=$ (where T stands for "time" and $ stands for "money.")

Richard Florida did the math for The Atlantic and SURPRISE! There seems to be no correlation at all between hours worked and earnings. What he did find was a correlation between "human capital and economic development."

What does that mean?

Our analysis reinforces a simple fact that working smarter, and not working harder, is what brings higher earnings to states... more open and tolerant states are better able to compete for a wider range of talented and skilled workers across the board. And, smarter states not only generate higher earnings, they afford a greater level of happiness and well-being to their residents.

It's time to get over the notion that simply working harder brings wealth and economic development. The structure and composition of jobs matter greatly. At a time when job creation is at the top of the agenda, this is something policy-makers need to factor into their thinking about exactly what kinds of jobs we wish to create.

Read the full analysis at The Atlantic.

Broke and Beautiful Person of the Day

Marisa (I assume that is her name from the comments on her "about me" blurb) is a life expermiment blogger a la Julie and Julia. Her stunt? Wear a brand new dress each day spending only $1 each day ($365 a year) in thrift shops.

Her blog New Dress A Day shows what can be done with a small budget and a big imagination combined with serious sewing skills. Many of those stained or hopelessly out of fashion duds were most likely destined for the skip. If more of us were able to literally re-fashion our clothes like this, we'd need to pound out much less stuff and we'd have less waste. We'd also look much more individual and unique. That's the Broke is Beautiful spirit at work.

If you like Project Runway, you'll become a fan of New Dress A Day. She shows you the before and after photos of the clothes as well as some notes on the conversion process.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Classic Broke and Beautiful Folk: Dolly Freed's Possum Living

A 1970s documentary on simple, sustainable living. It's a bit blurry, but it's all about making do, right?

Dolly Freed in Possum Living from Tin House Books on Vimeo.

How Much Do You Need?

According to professor Juliet Schor's essay The New Politics of Consumption (published as part of Beacon Press's New Democracy Forum Series in 2000) more than 40 percent of adults earning $50,000 to $100,000 a year, and 27 percent of those earning more than $100,000 a year agree that "I cannot afford to buy everything I really need."

One third of those in the first income bracket and 19% of those earning $100,000 a year or more agreed that "I spend nearly all of my money on the basic necessities of life."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Video of the Day: The Uniform Project

The Uniform Project Trailer from The Uniform Project on Vimeo.

What is Thrift? The View from 1919

" should be perfectly clear that thrift does not mean the hoarding of money. To hoard money is one of the most thriftless things one can do with it. The miser of romance who kept his money in a secret hoard where he might gloat over it and enjoy the sensations of feeling, hearing and seeing it was, in the strictest possible sense, a thriftless consumer of wealth. Instead of using money as a tool of production or instrument of business, he was using it as a means of direct physical enjoyment. To have used it for the adornment of his body would scarcely have been more frivolous, thriftless or selfish."-Thomas Nixon Carver, War Thrift, 1919.

If you'd like to read the whole book, here it is:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From the Bad Predictions File

I found this clip on an apparently defunct blog called Shopoholic. It is a 1930s look at what fashions will be like in the year 2000. I don't remember wearing anything that looked like this in 2000, although the dress with the braiding does look like something concocted by a Project Runway contestant, and the idea that we'd be wearing telephones seems to be spot on.

Rags to Riches

Sam Spurlin, a fellow Michigander, is trying to get a conversation going on his blog dedicated to simplicity: The Simpler Life.

Rags to riches stories are the stuff of Hollywood legend. Most of us aren’t in literal or metaphorical rags, though. Most of us are doing a pretty good job at whatever it is that we do– not really getting ahead but certainly not falling behind. How do you push through and do something amazing when nothing seems to be changing around you?

Have any ideas? Follow the link above and join in.

Luxury Goods and Waste

Lawns were invented as a way for the landed gentry to demonstrate that they could afford to waste land. By taking the land away from the grazing sheep, they were sending a message to their neighbors. We're rich, we can happily waste the opportunity to make a few bucks from our front lawn.

I invite you to head over to Seth's Blog to learn more about the connection between luxury goods and the "desire to waste."

Monday, April 5, 2010


Here's a story, courtesy of the Colbert Report, that mixes frugality with a hefty dose of Schadenfreude:

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Documentary Film: Modern Day Slaves

"Many Americans and Europeans believe that they will never get poor and they will always be where they are today,” said film maker Ted Unarce. “I wanted to do a documentary about the third world and how these people survive during difficult times so that when the time comes, people in the first world countries will understand how to survive."

I had the opportunity to interview the winner of the Indie Fest Humanitarian Award about his film "Modern Day Slaves." You can read the entire interview on line.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Middle Class and Broke in LA

Friday, April 2, 2010

Does Happiness Depend on Owning a Dream Home?


San Diego architect Alison Whitelaw told the good folks at Money Magazine (I read about it in USA Today) what types of home upgrades make people happiest, and broke folk will be pleased to know that it is not marble counter tops, scads of designer furniture or a top of the line media center.

Research suggests more modest changes will do wonders in lifting your mood. Follow the links to the articles to learn about how wall color and furniture placement can make everything seem better with life.

"Light and color have a definite impact on people's emotional response," says San Diego architect Alison Whitelaw in a story by Money Magazine. She's vice president of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, which brings scientists and designers together.

CNN Money, which also covered the original Money article notes that:

..people are in danger of wasting money on projects that won't increase their pleasure after all. That's because our survey shows that people aren't always right about what will make them happy in their homes.
Just another illustration at how bad we are in general in predicting what will make us happy...

Photo credit:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Book is Now Available

Broke is Beautiful may be in stock now at your favorite local book store.

It is available now on, and Barnes and Noble. Or, if you'd like an autographed copy, and a free copy of my 2000 book Broke is Beautiful (now through the 13th) you can order via the link on the right. (Click on the book cover)

Video: It Takes a Village

About a community effort to form a gift based micro economy in Fairfax, California:

Song of the Day

In honor of April Fool's Day its The Foremen. Hell Froze Over Today.