It's Halloween. And this year, we're handing out Pixie Sticks. It's a small thing, really. It's not that we can't afford chocolate candy, it's that we've chosen in every area of our lives to think hard about whether that purchase is a want or a need, how it fits in with all the other purchases, how much happiness it will actually bring us. Halloween candy just isn't that important.
I made my daughter's costume this year, where "made" equals "assembled." I based it around the purple Mardi Gras mask I got free at a blogging conference last year. She's got two tutus, a belly dancing skirt, beads, a tiara, some gaudy plastic rings, sparkly leggings and shiny shoes. We already had it all. Because spending $30 on a crappily made Halloween costume doesn't make sense, either. Not ever, really, but especially not this year.
We've been fortunate in that we haven't gone without unemployment since the load hit the fan, but we've worried about it, hard. We've talked about The Plan if one of us was to lose our job. We've switched our Internet around, dropped long distance on the home phone we keep for 911, limited eating out to once a week and started extreme couponing. We buy most of the little angel's and my clothes at our kickass local Goodwill or the gently used kid's store. We still have a rusted 1998 Ford Explorer with more miles than I thought possible for that vehicle.
We've pulled the little angel out of after-school care so we can save that extra money a month for emergency babysitting. My husband is traveling weekly for his new job that he started three weeks ago, and our babysitter is $15 an hour and we have no family in town. I tried to line up a neighbor for parent-teacher conferences so we could both go, but then the neighbor girl got sick. People are always asking me why I can't come to this or that, but the tough reality for me is that I don't have free childcare, so -- as with purchases -- I have to carefully weigh everything I'm going to attend if my husband is traveling. And if it's across town and I have to add an extra hour of driving time, I'm probably not going anymore.
I'm picking up extra odd blogging jobs, and some of them are coming through here. I'm putting that money toward the credit cards. Too many business trips run through personal cards have messed up my grandiose payment plans. It feels like the balances never go down, despite all our best efforts. Beloved and I had a very frank talk about the cost of utilities, groceries. They are far outpacing our salaries. I thought we'd be rich once we stopped paying our mortgage in toddler childcare, but nothing has really changed. And it's because life -- healthcare, utilities, gas, groceries -- got way more expensive while we weren't looking. But we are very lucky: We still have jobs. We can keep it from getting worse as long as that job pipeline stays open.
My teacher friends have had their hours cut when school bonds didn't pass or states cut their funding. I'm on the board at The Writers Place, where I volunteer more hours a week than I should. We lost state funding this year for the arts. Beloved and I qualified for a refinance a few years ago because our house has lost so much value. It's not just us -- it's tough all around, Ponyboy, and probably worst for small business owners. I don't view Surrender, Dorothy as a main income stream, but I do still have a small S corp for my book royalties and freelancing and blog ad network revenue. I am thankful I have a day job. I am thankful I don't have to fret over a dip in traffic or a late invoice.
A lot of people do.
I've thought and thought about it, and I've complained here about capitalism at times. It seems nearly impossible for private industry to do good when it is measured on quarterly profits by a hungry Wall Street. How can it possibly make bottom-line sense to give money away? And that's why I don't like to see a lot of things privatized, no matter what the argument. The main argument, to me, is will they use their power for good or profit?
So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Starbucks is donating five million dollars to seed a fund at the Opportunity Finance Network, which in turn will provide capital grants to select Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). The CDFIs will provide loans to underserved community businesses, including: small business loans, community center financing, housing project financing and microfinance.
Beginning November 1st, you may donate to this fund through the createjobsforusa.org website, or at Starbucks, and 100% of your donation will go directly to the fund. The really cool thing about this is that every $5 donation will result in $35 in financing to support community businesses, because the CDFI lenders will issue $30 in financing, on average, for each $5 donation.
I know, right? Starbucks. Generally speaking, I try to buy my coffee locally. I know Starbucks put a lot of small businesses out of business -- that's capitalism -- it's like Darwinism. I actually don't know what prompted Starbucks to do this, but when huge corporations do the right thing, it's important to holler MORE. Maybe if other huge companies see people support this effort, they'll put their money back into the economy instead of into their bank accounts, too. This is probably one of the hardest times to get a small business loan of my lifetime. I'll support anything that will help the little guy, especially now. Maybe I'm so impressed I might mix in some Starbucks beans the next time I buy coffee at the grocery store. Way to go, Starbucks. Way to go.
The CEO of BlogHer, Lisa Stone (my friend and, oh, my CEO, who helped create the once-small-business that now has me on full-time payroll and provides me healthcare and puts food on the Arens table) is actually going to ask Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz just those sorts of questions on a 15-minute conference call tomorrow, Tuesday, November 1 at 11 am PT/1 pm CT/2 pm ET. If you want to listen in, here are the details:
Participant Number: 877-698-0629
Conference Code: 23564006
I'm planning to listen in. If you want to submit a question, you can use this link.
Tonight, I'm going to walk my little Mardi Gras girl around the neighborhood and enjoy the small stuff -- candy, lit pumpkins, the last remnants of people's mums, my favorite fall leaves (maples). I know there are folks out there who have gone months or years between jobs after a lay-off. I know I'm one of the lucky ones to have my Pixie Sticks all ready to go. I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween and that life is good at your house. Thanks for reading and supporting me here, of being tolerant of the occasional sponsored whatever. It's tough all around, Ponyboy, but we're going to get through this.