Here’s seven things I did to navigate the complexities that come from existing in late capitalism at the precarity and privilege I experience, with the ethics, desires, and capacities I have. More about those in detail at the end!
Ride Free’s List of Strategies to Move from Freakin Out to Fairly Stable:
1. I scraped up enough $$ to stay ahead 1 month + 1 rent: I did whatever extra work I could and saved up 1 month of my expenses and never touch it. Like, never. BUT I know if my job(s) get unbearable or end, or if I get sick and can’t work for a few weeks I am not financially ruined. I also keep $1000 (a bit over my rent) as a float in my bank account so when a check is late or doesn’t clear quickly, it does not destroy my life.
2. I dealt with my scary debt and keep up on little debts. It wasn’t fun to un-default my student loans, but I did it. These are grown lady pants. I grew up with collection calls, so when I f-ed up my student loans and the calls started again in my adult life I felt paralyzing fear. Once I dealt with that big debt and started paying my loans, it got easier to move through the world and easier to stay on top of little debts. I’m not saying the debt system is right, I’m saying dealing with it will make your life easier.
3. I buy myself shit I want after I save for it. This is a 2 step process yall and the order of operations matters: save, then buy. Mass media confusingly instructs us both: “you’ll NEVER __(fill in your own fear)___”, and “Do __(insert shaming marketing)___ now to be an acceptable human”. You can shift that narrative by not engaging on a capitalist timeline. You will save for that thing, it just may take time. I simply don’t buy things I can’t pay for in cash* (though I run purchases thru a credit card and pay it off within a month to boost my credit). *not including a house/mortgage, but you better believe that payment is very within my means.
4. I prioritize non-money pursuits. Some worktime each week is devoted to work that’s not centered on money, but rather adventure, identity, social change, etc. Why? For me to not feel drowned in the pursuit of financial stability I need to make myself see my place in the whole world, including the non-money world, regularly.
5. I make some money to give away. Until a new social system arises, organizations that help and causes that matter are funded by grassroots donations, kickstarters, and sometimes grants. That’s reality (and it’s complicated). I was raised to give 10% to church, but now I give 2% of my income to people or projects I want to see sustained. As I get more stable, I look forward to getting to increase that.
6. I participate in building and learning about alternative systems and autonomous zones with my resources and time: Art organizations. Land projects. Coops. Digital Infrastructures. LARPs. I’m inspired by Aurora Levins Morales’ concept of being in the coyuntura – the present place where we haven’t made every change yet needed for our earth and her beings to thrive. Here, we make hard choices, are necessarily complicit, are imperfect. Whatever your version of the world you want is, the present is where you are now: surviving that is also crucial.
7. I let go of “being saved” or “saving myself” and participate in mutual aid. There’s no prince charming coming — and I don’t want him/her to anyway cuz that’s some sexist hegemonic christian nuclear family individualist hero bull***t. I don’t want to produce an americanist narrative that’s about another bootstrapping poor person, because I definitely haven’t made it on my own. None of us “make it” by ourselves (or in dyads) — even capitalism requires we work together to agree that money is something we’ll exchange, and then make good on that by buying from others and receiving money ourselves. So here we are — you’re reading this, and I’m sharing with you what I know.
So That Means You’re Like Perfect or Blessed or Something?
Naw — I’m just really into figuring out how do what I want because I’m a lady punk; I get it done with ethics cuz I’m a dyke; and I do it with a political analysis cuz hello the world is big and messed up and we have people power.
So, I’m a working-class person with a graduate degree, manageable debt and excellent credit.
I’m a traveller, a weirdo who produces queer art on a national scale, and a professional technologist who works at the intersection of open-source software and resistance to colonizer mentalities.
I’m an adult child of a working-poor person who I have supported financially and surely will again.
I don’t have access to familial resources. I do have white privilege and a gender-conforming, able body.
I want to work doing things that engage me and pay a living wage, and I want to be intentional with my resources.