Category Archives: Uncategorized

(Late) September Challenge: Bike To Work Every Day

This one wasn’t my idea, and I’m sort of cheating since I was off work last week. But I’m going to try to bike to work every day this month. I usually bike 2 or 3 days a week, but last month my legs were so tired from all the jogging I did. No more excuses! It’s 100% this month!

You can follow along with the other participants here:

Mini Book Review: Spent

I usually don’t write book reviews before I’m even done reading the book, but this book is blowing my mind so much I’ll make an exception. It’s called Spent and it’s about how our evolutionary instincts to show off reproductive traits are exploited by marketers. For instance, here’s why high-end fashion ads always look so weird:

The typical luxury ad includes a highly attractive model dressed up as a high-status heiress, wearing an expression of contempt and disdain for the viewer. The ad does not say “Buy this!”; it says, “Be assured that if you buy and display this product, others are being well trained to feel ugly and inferior in your presence, just as you feel ugly and inferior compared with this goddess.”

The ads aren’t designed for trying to get the average person to buy the product. They’re designed to remind the relatively few high-class buyers that the purchase (and display) of this expensive product will signal wealth to the rest of us.

Seriously, so much more of my previously-unexplained shopping behavior makes sense now. Especially the junk I bought in college, when I was subconsciously most concerned with displaying signals of my reproductive fitness to those around me.

Lost my first post to the angry internet gods

Sorry about the lack of posts. As you can see from the photo to the left (taken by the talented Mrs. Foundry), our family was on vacation the past few days.

I guess it’s bound to happen. I had a great post all written, and then I must have done the internet dance incorrectly, because now it’s gone. It was about a letter I got regarding the post on dealing with medical expenses. I’ll just post the letter and call it a night.  Sorry.

Name: Hayley J.
Comment: Hi Joe,

I’m interning at the Washington Health Foundation and a co-worker forwarded me Cathleen’s inquiry on dealing with medical expenses. If you would like, I believe it would be to Cathleen’s benefit to learn of our Personal Health Advocates, as this is a service we provide which assists those precisely in Cathleen’s situation.

The Personal Health Advocates is a phone service where advocates work with callers to provide personalized health advising; they answer questions on insurance coverage, help callers with any issues they may experience in receiving health care, and work with callers to find the best health coverage available to them, among other things. As we are a non-profit, not an insurance company, the Personal Health Advocates have no ulterior motives, so clients really can trust that they are receiving honest advice and guidance- working with an advocate that is purely on their side in the complex world of health care.

Cathleen also mentioned that she’s struggle with covering expenses because of the small size of her work, to which I would like to point out that this is one of the main reasons why our Personal Health Advocates exist- to help those who don’t already have someone navigating the world of insurance for them.

I hope this information is sufficient if you choose to relay it to Cathleen. If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact me at [email address removed. Contact me if you’d like to get in touch with Hayley]. Thank you for setting up this blog, I’ve been browsing around and already find many of the past posts quite useful! Thanks for doing what you do!

-Hayley J
Intern at the Washington Health Foundation

Personal Health Advocates: (855)-WA-HEALTH

I sent Hayley a few follow-up questions on whether the service is offered to those outside Washington state, and if there are any qualifying criteria. I’ll let you know when I get an answer.

Just-Cash June: Final Thoughts

June is over and I’ve removed the tape from inside my wallet. My credit and debit cards are free! Let’s take a look at how my household spending changed this month compared to an average taken over the past year:

Total spending down 22%. We invested the difference towards retirement. If we’re able to permanently keep up this savings level, I could retire 7 years sooner! Think about that for a minute…

Spending in “Auto” and “Entertainment” were cut in half. When’s the last time you paid for gas with cash? It’s a pain in the ass! And I remember turning down those extra drinks at the bar, since I never had an open tab. Amazingly, I got everywhere I needed to go this month, and felt as entertained as always.

Spending in “Personal Care” and “Shopping” categories down 75%. I guess the added hassle of paying with cash and tracking my purchases was enough to get me to stop buying shampoo and other non-essentials.

[A few notes on the results: I deferred a couple expenses that couldn’t be made with cash (e.g. new tabs for the scooter), so my spending for the month should be a tiny bit higher. Also, I paid no yearly bills this month (e.g. auto insurance), which makes this a relatively inexpensive month.]

I must admit I cheated a couple more times towards the end of the month: once to pitch in towards a class gift for my son’s teacher (money was being collected online), and once to have some books shipped to the boys at summer camp.

This exercise was eye-opening for me as it reaffirmed my belief that money is actually intangible and the paper or plastic we throw around are just abstractions of the concept of “money.”

The paper abstraction (dollar bills) are simply wired into our brains at a lower level than credit or debit cards, so it’s easer to remember what you’re trading away when you spend paper money. This concept is why casinos use chips for gambling. Chips are even more abstract than bills or cards, which makes people more likely to spend a lot of money at the casino. Imagine if you had to gamble with cash at the roulette wheel? That’s pretty much what I did all last month.

From now on, the trick will be keeping this mindset of being at one with my money, but adding the various convenient payment forms back into the mix. Let’s see how it goes!

A final thought: By not using credit cards, I kept about $60 in the local economy that otherwise would have gone to credit card companies in the form of transaction fees. Money-savvy people often like to boast about how they’re not helping the big banks get rich, but if you’re using a credit card, you’re syphoning profits off the stores you patronize, and moving that money to the banks’ bottom line.

Reminder: Just-Cash June starts tomorrow

If you’re like me, you rarely carry much cash in your wallet, so Just-Cash June is a pretty major shift in your habits. Consider this a friendly reminder to visit the closest ATM that doesn’t charge you a service fee. If you’re a member of a Credit Union*, you can use any of the 28,000 Co-Op Network ATMs in the country for free.

* If you aren’t, you should seriously consider making the switch.