Four hundred and one

Happiness

I sent off my Extreme Couponing section of the book to my agent today and am working on the edits she suggested for the prologue.  As I’m writing about how this journey got started right now and my first couple of months, I’m analyzing more and more what happiness is and why I am so much happier now than the beginning of last year.  It’s very fitting then, that the first ever World Happiness Report was released yesterday in time for the UN’s Conference on Happiness.  The report is a fascinating read and if you have time I would recommend taking a look.  Here are a few excerpts:

We live in an age of stark contradictions. The world enjoys technologies of unimaginable sophistication; yet has at least one billion people without enough to eat each day. The world economy is propelled to soaring new heights of productivity through ongoing technological and organizational advance; yet is relentlessly destroying the natural environment in the process. Countries achieve great progress in economic development as conventionally measured; yet along the way succumb to new crises of obesity, smoking, diabetes, depression, and other ills of modern life…

…happiness differs systematically across societies and over time, for reasons that are identifiable, and even alterable through the ways in which public policies are designed and delivered. It makes sense, in other words, to pursue policies to raise the public’s happiness as much as it does to raise the public’s national income….

A household’s income counts for life satisfaction, but only in a limited way. Other things matter more: community trust, mental and physical health, and the quality of governance and rule of law. Raising incomes can raise happiness, especially in poor societies, but fostering cooperation and community can do even more, especially in rich societies that have a low marginal utility of income. It is no accident that the happiest countries in the world tend to be high-income countries that also have a high degree of social equality, trust, and quality of governance. In recent years, Denmark has been topping the list. And it’s no accident that the U.S. has experienced no rise of life satisfaction for half a century, a period in which inequality has soared, social trust has declined, and the public has lost faith in its government….

The report recommends Sustainable Development Goals with four pillars: to end extreme poverty by 2030; environmental sustainability; social inclusion; good governance.  The top ten happiest countries the report found are (in order): Denmark, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland.  United States is eleventh.

The report found happiness is determined by “external” factors such as: income; work; community and governance; and values and religion, and “personal” factors such as: mental health; physical health; family experience; education; and gender and age.  It’s no wonder I’m happier, having changed many of these factors in my life, including my values, physical and mental health, and my community.

The ramifications of TLC’s Extreme Couponing

Speaking of happiness, there are some not-so-happy couponers out there because of TLC’s Extreme Couponing show.  I was checking sources and statistics for my book and came across a lot of articles and comments saying how that television show has made it harder for them to save money now.

MommySavers.com “Spaving” Gone Wild: The Hidden Costs of Extreme Couponing is just one example, but take a look at the comments on the article.  One lady comments: “BECAUSE OF THIS STUPID SHOW many grocery stores have changed their coupon policies! This makes it hard for those us that just want to save a few bucks on a shopping order.”  Another says: “it’s those type of customers that clean store shelves for the thrill of it and leave the rest of us driving all over town for the item we DO want/need/will use!  I HATE EC on TLC with a passion!”  Another: “I’ve noticed stores that used to stack coupons have changed their policies and have started to discourage usage. Items are often missing. It seems like an innocent way to save money for a family has turned into something more…not innocent.”  There’s lots more.

It’s interesting because when I did my extreme couponing experiment it was before the whole season of TLC’s Extreme Couponing came out (they had only run one special I believe at the time).  I wonder if Canadian couponing was affected.  I haven’t noticed it, but I don’t use coupons nearly as much as I did during that month.

Three hundred and thirty-four

Motivation

There have been times this year when I’ve really not wanted to write.  When I’d rather just relax and do something completely mindless.  When I procrastinate writing until 10pm, even though I have had the blank page in front of me all evening since I arrived home from work.  When the energy just doesn’t seem to exist to do something productive.  When a glass of wine and sleep seem like the only course of action.

These times are intensified when I don’t have plans that need to be accomplished that day.  I always get more done when I have more to do.  It’s motivation and deadline-driven.  When I have to be out of the house at a certain time, I will get everything I want to get done accomplished before I leave.

But what happens when I feel overwhelmed because I have no money to spend, no place to be and stressed because the “to be paid” stack of bills is getting bigger and bigger?  Combine that with a lack of exercise, and bad processed fast food common in low-income households, it can create a downward spiral difficult to get out of.

Today is a “I don’t want to write” day for me.  Although I do not live in extreme poverty, I can see the beginnings of the downward spiral.  My “I don’t want to do anything” days are becoming more frequent, and that scares me.  All caused by stress and money.

A little motivation is sometimes what I need to kick start my life and pull me out of my funk.  So here’s a video from One.org of how anti-poverty activists are really making a difference:

And check out their Living Proof website where they show the good news about what is happening with extreme poverty around the world.  Here’s an inspiring video of a woman who is now growing her own crops to provide for herself:

It’s always great to hear some good news.  And it’s definitely helping my mood, putting things into perspective, and motivating me to keep going.

Three hundred and thirty-two

Poverty, the Great Depression and war times

UN Poster

I was speaking to my grandmother today on the phone about poverty and different definitions of poverty and she said that most older people understand being poor because of growing up in the Great Depression and then war times.  Although she was young during the Depression and WWII, she recalls how hard it was for her mother to feed the family and keep the household running.  During the Great Depression 30% of the Canadian work force couldn’t find a job and one fifth of the population depended on government assistance to survive (Wikipedia).  Although the start of World War II boosted the economy by the creation of more jobs, it was still difficult for families to cope.

It got me thinking how different our generation is from theirs.  How they wouldn’t have even dreamed of big screen televisions (in more than one room of the house, no less, like many families now) or upgrading to a new car every few years.  How stockpiling when there’s a particularly good sale, counting your pennies, and being creative with money is commonplace in their lives.  How buying things and putting them on credit sounds crazy to them.

I wonder what our generation would be like (and especially the generation below me) had we been through even a small bit of what they went through.  I’d bet we’d be more thankful and gracious for the things we do have and stop coveting more and more and more stuff to make us happy.  Have we become the selfish, self-centered generation we are because of having too much and what we didn’t go through?

[That doesn’t even begin to touch on the thousands of immigrants living in Canada now who have lived through war in their own cities.  War that turned their lives upside down, destroyed their homes, caused them to immigrate and start over in another country.  War that caused extreme poverty.  And what of those people who can’t leave and are stuck living with the war at their doorstep?]

Three hundred and fourteen

Here I am again…

Here I am again, sitting at home for the night on my computer, or watching movies, or reading, or cooking.  It’s great for awhile.  I rarely get downtime and it’s usually spent doing things for the blog when I do.  The cooking is great, especially when I can convince someone to come over and join me.  And I’m really catching up on my movies.  But, I’m used to being busy out in the city.  I like to go see plays at local theatres and dance at concerts.  I love to try new restaurants, or just have a chat and a glass of wine with a friend at a pub.  I want to wander the city, stop in at a coffee shop, sit in the window and watch the world go by.  All of these things involve spending money.  So here I am at home.  And I’m not very inspired to do anything – especially write.  It’s funny how the busier I am, the more I get accomplished because of the momentum.

I know I can spend some money, but half of my day’s allowance on one glass of wine seems like such a waste.  And a ticket to the theatre or a concert costs anywhere from $20 to $100.  My friend’s birthday is on Friday and a bunch of us are going out for dinner and drinks to celebrate.  I’ve started saving already for the night, but I still will only be able to afford a meal, a glass of wine and to buy my friend a drink.  I know I’ll have to deal with pressure to spend more.  It’s going to be difficult.  It’s almost like I believe I have to spend money to have fun (I’m pretty sure our capitalist society encourages this thinking).  And I feel left out that I can’t.  I really need to change this thinking.  Maybe I should stop drinking altogether.  That would save me a bundle.

Stop whining Lindsay…

I wrote all this above and then started do some more research into poverty in Canada.  That led me to more websites on extreme poverty throughout the world.  I am here complaining about how $21.40 a day (after paying rent and bills) is difficult to live off of.  I live in Canada, where we have free universal health care and education, jobs for almost everyone, natural resources, social services if we need them.  I am so fortunate to live where I am and have what I have.

The World Bank in 2005 defined “extreme poverty” as having to survive off of US$1.25 – covering all food, housing, health, education and transportation.  One dollar and twenty-five cents per day.  There are 1.4 billion people in the world right now living in extreme poverty.  (livebelowtheline.com)  I need to put things into perspective!  These people don’t have the luxury of worrying about not being able to spend money.  Many of them don’t even have clean water or sanitation systems.  I’m almost embarrassed about my above whining.

Here is a video from GlobalPovertyProject.com.  Although it’s a trailer for their larger presentation they do, it has some interesting statistics and more information about extreme poverty.