How to spend less money

It is Fridays and Fridays are for fun. Recently I  am seeing articles about how to spend less. Most include a list of items that a person who wants to spend less or save more should stop buying. I am not sure if I am bragging or complaining but I rarely find anything on the lists that I buy and therefore can not stop spending on.

spare change

I make coffee at home every day. I figure for two of us it costs about as much as 1.5  cups of coffee at the coffee shop down the street. As an added benefit we use one compostable coffee filter rather than two disposable cups with plastic lids each day.

Instead of a fancy expensive stationary bike that requires a monthly subscription, I have an old school bike that I actually use to get from point A to point B.

We rarely dine out and because of the huge amount of salt in most restaurants and take-out food, we mostly cook at home.  Our total grocery bill for a week costs a little more than it would cost to dine out once.

I’ll admit it would be better for the economy if I spent more but on the other hand, I can’t possibly spend enough to make a difference. During the great recession, I managed to cut a bunch of expenses and haven’t added much since.

The lists I find usually include 5 to 25 items. They are fun to read. Maybe it gives me an idea of how the other half or maybe 10%.

Housing wages in Minnesota

Housing report
Out of Reach 2021

I took this screenshot of the “Out of Reach 2021” report.  If you are like me you have a budget and housing is part of that budget.

In St. Paul, $25.15 is the “housing wage”. That is around 50K a year.

A person has to work 69 hours a week at minimum wage to pay rent for a one-bedroom apartment, and 86 hours a week for a two-bedroom.

In San Fransisco, a person needs to make $56 an hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment. The minimum wage there is 16.23.

If you have ever wondered why people have room mates, now you know.

Local home sales and prices

The numbers are in for August and we are starting to see a seasonal slowdown but by slow down I mean it may take a few more days to sell a house. Multiple offers were common in August and they still are. Sale prices were on average higher than asking prices. Overpriced real estate is slow to get offers.

Low inventories of homes for sale is driving prices up as the strong sellers market continues.

The numbers used to create the tables were extracted from the NorthstarMLS which is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

table by neighborhood
August Home sales

For numbers from past months and years see Local market conditions and home prices.

Is someone knocking at your door?

Real estate agents and door-knocking go way back. Agents are encouraged to go out and knock on doors and to cold call, send text messages, and postcards too.

The demand for houses is high but the supply is low. Large companies and small investors are buying up real estate because it is a solid investment.

People really do want to buy your house right now. The people who knock on your door could be legitimate or they could be scammers.

We can research by name and find out your address. If we just have an address it takes seconds to find out who owns it. The information is public and we have databases that are easy to search. Phone numbers, even cell phone numbers are sometimes included with the other information.

I found my name and address in a database that has “sell scores”. Our sell score is very high and as a result, we were getting text messages almost every day from people who want to buy our house. I have managed to block most of the numbers.

As more and more people get real estate licenses during a time when there are fewer people who want to sell houses agents are scrambling for business.

Real estate agents will find your obituary and knock after you die. I have had clients complain about this practice. In one case two elderly women were staying in their mother’s house after she passed. It was during the pandemic and before they could be vaccinated. They were horrified when agents stopped by and knocked on their door.

Personally, I don’t knock on doors, call or send text messages to people I don’t know. Most of my business comes to me through the internet, past clients, referrals, or from friends and neighbors.  I have mailed out postcards and I used to distribute flyers in the neighborhood.

Open houses are also a popular way for real estate agents to meet future clients.

Real estate agents are salespeople and the tradition of knocking on the door goes way back and is encouraged in the industry. Cold calling is also encouraged and agents are offered a lot of advice on how to get rich by dialing for dollars.

Happy Labor Day 2021

Happy Labor Day! It has been a long, hot, dry, smokey summer with plenty of natural disasters and of course a raging pandemic.

I have used most of these pictures before to commemorate Labor Day. You will notice that almost all of the workers are white. Last year I added a new picture of a hat factory that was partitioned off so that black women could work there.

Most of the jobs in the pictures don’t exist anymore. I suspect many of the workers were paid better than workers are paid today.

Working conditions for many have improved over the last 100 years or mainly because of technology. It was once thought that technology would replace workers and it has but no one ever expected technology to be in charge of so many workers. I am thinking of those who work in full-filament warehouses, large discount chains, and call centers.

Some jobs are broken down into pieces so that each individual worker does part of a job, over and over.  There are many jobs that don’t pay well enough so that the worker can afford life’s necessities like housing, medical care, and healthy food.

I am not at all surprised that there are so many job openings right now. I am mystified as to why anyone would blame the workers rather than the employers for labor shortages.

Our brand of predatory capitalism is part of the reason why so many workers can’t have nice things but their bosses and the people who own the companies can.

factory workers 1934
factory workers 1934


Construction 1912
Construction 1912
typing pool 1960's
typing pool 1950’s
Factory worker working at machine with draped stockings, 1936


hat factory 1922
Hat factory 1922

The photos came from Flickr commons where there is a treasure trove of old photographs.

Bad jobs and bad employers

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. As I get ready for the last holiday weekend of summer I am remembering all of the jobs I have had.

After college, there was a recession. I wasn’t able to get any of the jobs that I had hoped for.

I worked many jobs including ten years as a government employee. Some of my work experiences were horrible and some were alright and I learned something from each.

There were a few times that I had bosses that were totally insane. There was a boss with a drug problem and one who was a narcissist.

When I worked in a family-owned business I competed with the boss’s children for the best jobs. I won’t even mention the toxic work environments and poisonous company “cultures” I endured on my way to greatness.

I have been self-employed since early 2002 and started my own company six years ago.  I no longer have to worry about being let go.  I meet a lot of interesting people and I have a lot of control over how I spend my time and who I spend it with.

Self-employment and working on a 100% commission basis isn’t for everyone but for me it has been a perfect fit. I don’t like doing the same thing each day and I need to be challenged and I actually like to work. I especially enjoy problem-solving.

Enjoy the last holiday of summer any way that you can and don’t think about work until Tuesday.