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Lindsey Kuper

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Something is wrong [Apr. 27th, 2006|05:12 pm]
Lindsey Kuper

I read somewhere that cash-strapped design students are buying Ikea furniture for the raw materials they need for their projects, since it's cheaper than buying...raw materials.

A friend of mine in Chicago is now taking the CTA to work one day a week instead of driving. He doesn't especially like doing it, but he figures it's something he can do, I guess. Not only is it slower and less convenient, it's actually more expensive (at least, until gas tops $4.50 a gallon (which, don't worry, sooner or later it will)).

Someone else. A guy I know here, a programmer. Claimed to hate people. Wanted to leave civilization behind, go live "off the grid", but he didn't have enough money yet. He was going to head to San Francisco to work for five years or so, until he has enough money saved to do what he wants. So in order to get off the grid you have to fucking graft yourself to it for five years.

When I was a kid and learning how to sew from my mom, I excitedly told her how much money we must be saving by making stuff ourselves, and she had to explain to me that, well, actually, it didn't work that way; it was actually cheaper to buy clothes at the store. I didn't understand how I could feel like I had done all this work and made this thing myself, a great example of self-sufficiency, and still not come out ahead, like something was wrong, the numbers were screwed up, we had made a mistake. I just couldn't believe it, even though I saw that it was true. I believe it now, as an adult, but maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to think like that kid a little more often.


[User Picture]From: sonetka
2006-04-28 01:29 am (UTC)
Yes, the conundrum where doing it yourself is actually more expensive and, in some ways, more self-indulgent. I go back and forth on that one, especially when it comes to knitting things.

Honestly, though, if I were trying to save money to go off the grid, I wouldn't be paying San Francisco rents. Was that the only place he could work?
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-04-28 05:53 pm (UTC)
I think that was where he thought he could get the best job. I wondered about it too, but I didn't question. Dude's brain obviously works differently than mine, so. And besides, I live more or less communally -- what do I know about normal people's rent arrangements?
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[User Picture]From: leikela4
2006-04-28 01:39 am (UTC)
w/ making clothes you CAN however save money by instead of buying the fabric, going to a thrift store... buying some huge ass shirt for $.50 and making it into something wearable... I do that alot.
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From: rmfleming
2006-04-28 01:45 am (UTC)
Well, maybe he went to MIT and all, but my dad's neighbor just up and shut everything off. Eventually, he turned some of it back on, but not very often. He wrote a book called Better Off

My dad recommends it.
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2006-04-28 02:58 am (UTC)
my friends who knit somethings talk in hushed tones about knitting a sweater


they all realize that it would be the most expensive article of clothing that one might own
(sometimes even if you just count the cost of yarn!)
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-04-28 03:23 pm (UTC)
Nice yarn for a sweater might run you $90 or $100 -- not so different from a hand-knit sweater that you would buy, but then there are needles, patterns, buttons, and so on to consider.

It gets cheaper the more you do, because you're more likely to have the things you need. You build up a yarn stash; you build up a needle collection. But in order to do a big project like a sweater, one really has to enjoy knitting. It's almost like you're paying for the privilege of getting to make your own sweater. I've never made anything more involved than a hat, and my hats have ranged from bad to fairly decent. I'm scared of how I might ruin a sweater pattern.
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[User Picture]From: leadsynth
2006-04-28 04:06 am (UTC)
Not gas costs, but parking costs are what seem to really screw over drivers who work in the Loop. That's when the CTA starts looking good.
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[User Picture]From: anacoluthia
2006-04-28 04:02 pm (UTC)
This is something that has bugged me for a while. Even cooking a nice dinner costs about the same as going out for one. (After I move, it will actually be cheaper to go out than make the same thing myself. For some reason food in Hawaii is more expensive, but restaurants are about the same.)

I know a number of people working jobs they don't like because they pay well, with the intention of someday living on a sailboat or off in the woods. I'm really afraid that by the time someday comes, we'll all be too old to enjoy it.
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From: freyley
2006-04-28 05:02 pm (UTC)
I've noticed that when you get up to cooking a dinner for 4, it's a little cheaper, though not by much, than going out to a cheap restaurant.

But then, we're buying organic ingredients, which will raise the prices over a restaurant.

(yes, this means pesticides when I eat out! yay pesticides!)
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[User Picture]From: eliciel
2006-04-29 07:02 am (UTC)
I noticed cooking for "families" is cheaper, too. Cooking for two is kind of expensive in the waste of what you don't use, and cooking for one is really tricky to make cheap. You either live off of toast and ramen, or get really good at storing already-cooked/opened food.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-04-28 06:03 pm (UTC)
Food is actually one area I've noticed where it's cheaper to make your own. Then again, American food is artificially cheap.

I guess that's the point I'm trying to make here. Not "Gee whiz, it's cheaper to buy things than make things," but "Hey, maybe we should question artificial cheapness and artificial expensiveness rather than resigning ourselves to it."
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From: freyley
2006-04-28 05:03 pm (UTC)
This is sad but true.

But often, at least if you've got skill, you can make something that's far superior to the crap that's really cheap in the store.

Of course, it takes making a lot of crappy stuff to get skill.
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[User Picture]From: glowing_fish
2006-05-04 09:49 am (UTC)

But we knew that...

Of course we knew that something was wrong.

Apart from the fact that life isn't what we like it, and the short-sighted continue to rule, the specific "something is wrong" to me is structural changes in the economies of first world countries. I wrote about it in several places, including here and here.

I think I wrote about that three years ago. And since three years ago, houses and health care got more expensive, and the government ran up a bunch more debt. So we know this, we've known this for a while, but what can we do about it? Can we do anything?
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-05-05 01:04 am (UTC)

Re: But we knew that...

Of course we knew that something was wrong.

What do you mean "we", white man?

Okay, just kidding. But I don't think enough people do know. I don't think enough people question.
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