My preoccupations

As the Occupy movement grows, I’ve been thinking more and more about a topic that’s already been on my mind for some time — how do we build a viable economy on a human scale?

At the same time, I’m still struggling to build a viable living on a household scale. As I work and strategize I’ve noticed that I’m being pulled in two completely different directions.

One is up, up, and away. With every incremental gain, I’ve been reminded of the awards that await once I earn a little bit more. When you work for yourself, you pay a lot in taxes. At the same time, though, a lot more things become write-offs. And I can see, far down the road ahead, that the rewards of making more money are exponential, so long as you keep on spending it or investing it. That’s a bright future, but an uncertain one, and I also get the sense that as in gambling, the odds are with the house, not with me.

The other direction is down, down, down. I’m lucky enough to be covered by Oregon’s basic, affordable, emergency-only health insurance, and even luckier not to have had to test whether or not it’s effective. Should all my entrepreneurial endeavors flop, there’s even more state assistance I’ll qualify for. Being on the dole, as many have discovered the hard way, is anything but reliable. But now that I’m down that far, staying there holds a compelling, conservative sense of safety, banking on subsistence rather than luck. It’s a sobering realization.

At this point, I’m back from a financially successful tour, had a little bit more work than usual for a month or two, and have a little bit of cash saved up. Not much, but enough that I’m momentarily skirting that line between full-on broke-assed-ness and the murky middle ground where you’re still broke but there is no safety net — without my actual, after-taxes income increasing.

Which means that I get to start playing the game that I learned about last April — the one Uncle Sam seems so bent on me playing — saving nothing, and reinvesting as much of my income as possible into my business. (That is, after I invest a pretty big chunk of it into dental fillings and a new glasses prescription — not deductible.)

Until the revolution comes and the financial world gets back to a human scale, it’s time to spend. I have a few plans, but am soliciting more ideas. What does a gal need to buy – preferably local, awesome, and not entirely made of plastic — to keep her writing business going and growing?

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3 Responses to “My preoccupations”

  1. Eugene Cyclist October 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. I really enjoyed reading it.

    I’d like to gently counsel to avoid thinking “what” when considering where to spend your money. A small business course; a writing workshop; a weekend retreat for writers; an investment in yourself is money well spent and will pay dividends long into the future.

    If you feel now is not the time for formal education or self improvement, consider investing your money in your community. Pay more for your groceries so that you can support a local farmer. Buy a bus pass for a friend who is on the fence about giving up their car commute, but can’t see themselves biking. The possibilities are endless here.

    It’s hard not getting dispirited when thinking about the external forces that try to shape our personal economies, but greater satisfaction comes from succeeding on your own terms.

  2. Tiago DeJerk October 16, 2011 at 7:06 am #

    I’m about to buy a house. Not necessarily business-related, but I think it’s going to be a good investment, I believe. Hit me up if you’re curious how I’m gonna pull this one off.

  3. Elly October 17, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    I hadn’t thought of buying some education, but it’s a fine idea and I’ve been meaning to do the Mercy Corps business foundations course: http://www.mercycorpsnw.org/what-we-do/foundations-business-course/

    Tiago, I’m gonna email you.

    Also, a kickstarter-free printing of the next Taking the Lane may be coming up…

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