If a sustainable life is to be less about stuff, and more about people – with few new buildings and products being made – what is there left for designers and artists to do?
A big part of the answer is to seek out daily life solutions that already exist… and then to adapt and improve them for new contexts.
As a designer my default setting is Make Something New. But there are billions of things that are Already Made. More and more the best answer is to use something already made. This applies to all areas of life, not just design.
But seeing as I am writing about design right now, have a look at the Useful things you can do with a Wii Remote:
1 November 2008
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Friday was fun. That was the day that I discovered that once again I messed up my tax payments. HM Revenue & Customs sent me a lovely little document explaining how I need to give them £800 now and another £1,000 in January and another £700 in July, bless them.
It’s not their fault. It’s mine. It’s also my fault that we have debt to pay off and that we have a £600 monthly deficit that we are trying to overcome. It’s my fault that my family is facing some very difficult months as we tighten everything to try and get back on track.
Probably the worst thing about this situation is how slow I am to change. I have been actively working on clearing up my financial mess for a year and only now have I started planning and budgeting! (Insert pejorative exclamation here.)
Probably the best thing is that I know it’s all my fault. That fact really gives me hope. I’m not at the mercy of weather or spiteful little deities or a Curse of Finance (Lay your hand on the television and say the name of Cheee-susss and send your biggest cheque to me and you will be fuh-REE-ah, my brother!) I’m just an idiot with money. And I can do something about that.
Here is one of the things I am going to change: in the past, when our income has increased, our lifestyle has always ‘improved’ to use up that increase. I think it is like that for a lot of people. I have known for years that my lifestyle should be beneath my income, but when it comes to what I have actually done my reasoning went like this:
- Hooray! More money!
- Now I can finally buy ____
- Ooh, shouldn’t I start saving?
- Yes, but I’ve been so poor for so long. I can’t be expected to keep living like this. I deserve a reward.
- Of course I do! I’ll start saving and investing soon.
- Yeah, right.
Not this time, buddy. I don’t care how cheap and tight and stingy I feel like I am being, our lifestyle is going to improve more slowly than our income increases.
28 September 2008
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I realised about a month ago that the only connection between one’s income and one’s expenditure should be that the latter is less than the former.
Well, obviously. Everyone in the world knows that. Come back when you have something worth writing about.
But here is the important thing. In order for that to happen, unless you have more income than you are actually able to spend, you have to have and use a Budget. I kind of knew that I should have a budget, but I was very intimidated by the idea, so I didn’t.
Fortunately, this summer life conspired to make something else more intimidating than having a budget.
- My graphic design work mostly dried up, so we were making less money.
- The government decided that since we made ‘so much’ money in 2007-08 we did not need any tax credits for 2008-09.
- Our car became desperate for a new clutch.
- Christine became desperate for a new tooth, and the NHS dentist, who is being funded in part by the tax credits the government decided I don’t need, decided that a new tooth was too much work and she would just pull the old one out. In January. Oh, and please notice the sign at reception: toothache, no matter how bad (yes, even if it is so bad that that ibuprofen, paracetemol, and codeine combined don’t help at all) is NOT a dental emergency. We went private, of course.
All those fun things together mean that right now our income is about £500 per month less than our expenditures. I refer you to paragraph one. Something has to change. Several somethings, actually.
- We are putting a real, working budget together with the help of Steve Houghton our pastor and financial guru.
- We are cutting expenditures with a very big, lifestyle-altering knife. (Yes, I did miss my after church pints on Saturday and Sunday. I also knew that miss counted for my family’s fiscal well-being, so I was fine.)
- We are working hard on three things to increase our income. They will be announced here soon.
In conclusion, I am grateful that the government decided to stop giving back some of my money. It turned out to be the pointy tip of the cattle prod which drove me into the livestock transporter called Budget, so that I could get moo-ving down the highway of Financial Freedom and one day arrive in the green pastures of Fiscal Well-Being*; i.e. I am making my sure my expenditures are less than my income.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
*I’m on a budget now, so I can’t afford good metaphors.
22 September 2008
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Are you reading Paul and Sonya Armstrong’s blog posts about how they are getting out of debt yet? Start now!
We tried numerous times to curb our spending; sell things we didn’t need, look at our budget (bought books on budgets and management of money, software and programs). And it came in spurts. When the bills piled up and we felt like we were breaking, we got “real serious” about our spending. But we’d go right back to our pattern. I’d get something at McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A or Wendy’s for lunch, I’d buy a CD, something for my camera, get office supplies; Sonya would buy inexpensive shoes for the kids, clothes at Target, we’d eat out every now and then (to be with friends, etc). Little things. None of them wrong, but it gave us a small excuse to avoid real change. Change that went beyond numbers. We resisted a first step in a real direction toward change.
At the heart our problems was fear…
27 August 2008
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When we decided to get our finances under control (at about the same time we acquired our teenage daughter), one of the obvious things to do was to reduce our expenses. We did this in two places.
We changed telephone companies. We we paying BT about £70 a month for our telephone and internet access. We switched to Orange. Now we pay less than £30 a month for exactly the same thing. (Note: Don’t expect the savings to kick in quickly. BT took six weeks to finally let go of us.)
I changed karate schools. The dojo where I was training had started to feel more like a get the owner rich project and less like a martial arts school. (I blame the organisational structure, not my former sensei, for whom I have great respect.) As soon I got my black belt I started looking around for somewhere else to train. I found another dojo that teaches the same style, has an atmosphere that I prefer, and isn’t all about the money. It costs me £200 less per year!
Those two simple changes are saving us £700 this year without affecting our lavish lifestyle even slightly. There are probably some places where you could very easily cut your expenses too.