Childfreelife’s Weblog

A lot of discussion about universal healthcare pros and cons are going on right now.  And I wanted to point out, that in many ways the US already has a plan for paying for healthcare: bankruptcy. Its a sneaky little tax that filters through several levels until it gets back to tax payers. 62% of bankruptcies filed are predominately medical debt. I worked in the bankruptcy field and I looked at a lot of bankruptcies–I have heard the arguments that folks are bankrupt because of wastefulness, credit cards, luxuries, nice shoes, nice cars, what have you. It frankly is not true most of the time. People go bankrupt because of staggering medical bills, in the tens to hundreds of thousands. Private insurance companies want you to believe they are the better option, but 73% of those who went bankrupt because of medical bills, had medical insurance.

What happens when someones debts are discharged under a bankruptcy? The creditors absorb the costs. Thats right, they just don’t get paid, or they get paid a small amount from the debtor’s assets. What is the hospital, doctor, or other healthcare provider going to do then? Raise costs for everyone else who can pay and raise costs for the insurance companies. Then the insurance companies raise costs for customers and employers who provide it to their employees.

Imagine a USA where the burden for paying for healthcare was spread out among tax payers in some clever way devised by congress. Very possibly, there would be less people in crippling debt, 62% less people going bankrupt–73% of which were paying for part of their services already through insurance.

You would think that the majority of bankruptcies are families with children, but as a bankruptcy legal assistant, I saw near as many that were singles and childless/childfree couples. This is an issue that affects us too. This may seem overly politcal for this blog, but I found it unfortunate that most people don’t know the reality of the system, we are already paying for universal healthcare, its just in a roundabout way that creates more and more situations where more people go bankrupt. The cycle keeps getting worse, as costs go up more bankruptcies, then there are more costs, in 1981 only 8% of bankruptcies were medical debt driven. Lets figure out some way to stop the cycle. I think it is wrong that our universal healthcare method (bankruptcy) is such a dire choice.


Some people spend more money than others on entertainment materials.  Trent at the simple dollar used to spend a ton on books and dvds.  Some folks go crazy on CDs or magazines.   I spend some money on books, not a lot, likely less than $50.00 a month, and even less on movies, magazines and CDs. But with my husband out of work, even the odd used book is more than I really should spend.  I consider this tip neither a little chunk savings nor a big chunk savings because it could be either on a sliding scale based on how much you spend in these catagories.

But I get excited, I am growing unusual plants as a hobby, (a fairly cheap hobby if you start from seed), and I saw a book I wanted.  I decided to be a good personal finance blogger and check to see if it was at my local library first, before I pushed buy.  I am glad I did!  The local downtown library has it, and I took a simple train ride down there at lunch, signed up for a library card and viola! I have my book–and a few more I spotted along the way, no guilt, they are free to read 🙂  If I had taken this many books home from the bookstore, we would be broke!

How to use the library:

Start with a book you want to read, you saw a review, your friend mentioned it, you were researching unusual plants and the book title came up.  Then check your libraries online catalog to see if they have it.  Browse the library catalog for a few more books by that author or in that subject area.  But don’t stop there.  Go to the sections of the library your favorite subjects kept turning up in.  Even if they didn’t have your book, there are so many other interesting books in that section!  I was looking at the book about the unusual plants, and on the same shelf was a book about werewolves (I was in the folklore area).  I had to grab it!  Next time I visit the library I am going to visit that area again to see what else catches my eye.

What libraries offer:

The public library carries CDs, DVDs, Books, Magazines, and Newspapers.  Take advantage of your local library to save whatever amount of money you tend to spend on these things per month. The library has internet access–great when yours goes down!  That means you can read childfreelife’s weblog at the library!  word

Libraries offer seperate sections for children.  Up on the top floor in the science and business section, there is an abundance of peace and quiet.  While libraries are not child-free areas, some areas of libraries end up being so.  If you want to find a quiet place, and don’t mind that you may not be allowed to check out the books, I can highly recommend academic libraries, the likely hood of noisy children is even lower at a higher institution.

If one of your local libaries is air conditioned, consider it a great place to spend a quiet summer afternoon, without having to run your air conditioner.  A lot of libraries have padded chairs you can curl up in, bright lighting for reading, and an endless supply of books and magazines for your reading pleasure!

But I have to have it in my collection!

Ownership is over-rated.  Unless you use the same book or dvd everyday or every week (like a bible or a school text book), you don’t have to own it.  The Frankenstein movie will be there next month when you want to watch it again, and if it is checked out you can put it on hold.   If you use books for research writing, use a cheap at home scanner to scan particular pages you will need to reference again.  I have a cheap scanner about the size of a fall vogue issue and it is great for making quick records of pages, photos, and such for reference purposes.  (you don’t need a state of the art scanner unless you are archiving photos, scanning your artwork for prints, or using scans for advertising purposes).

I do have some books I do have to own, I reference them very regularly.  But for the most part, I can borrow a book and get more value out of the library than a bookstore.


Do you have too many books, dvds and cds?  Could you downsize your library by selling what you don’t need because the local library has a copy already?  Sure you might want to watch Rambo again someday, but you can sell it with a feeling of security that should you ever wish to see it again, you can borrow it from the library.  When weeding through your home collection for books and movies to part with, have the library online catalog open on your computer.  Then you can make a pile of, “I might want it somedays” that you can cross reference to the library collection.  If your local library doesn’t have a copy, but you are unlikely to need the item again soon (and depending on how your library manages things–my library is just as likely to sell the donated items to get funds), you can donate your books and movies to the library directly, and come borrow them again when you want to.

I had never been in a position to lend money. I was dirt poor at the time and I was actually the one getting handouts some of the time. I worked for this amazing man, a pastor actually, as his office manager. He was lending money to someone, and I asked him, what if that person never pays you back? And he said, “Never lend money you wouldn’t just as happily give away.” You have to be able to afford to give the money away, and you have to be able to not resent it if the person never repays you. I think this goes for families, friends, and life in general. This is a great way to understand forgiveness. You nip resentment in the bud by not expecting, not demanding. Now I don’t think this means you should let people walk all over you. But if you loan money to someone, you should be just as happy to give it to them just to see them get through a bad time or succeed in an endeavor. What a reward, to have helped someone out! The other reason not to lend money if you wouldn’t give it away, is that you put yourself at a huge risk loaning money that you need. If you can’t get by without the money you are lending, you really are not in a position to lend it.

Lending is a way of sharing and breeding goodwill. A childfree person might be asked to lend more often than his/her childed friends because she might have more money to spare. Make strong boundaries so that you don’t feel walked all over. If you will feel badly about how money is spent, resent lending or giving, or if you feel a lender borrower relationship would hurt your friendship, either address your own prejudices so that you can accept giving the money, or set down boundaries and say “no”. If you want to help your friend, but don’t want to lend money, you might help them find the money. I know some religious organizations help out poor people. Applying for welfare and food stamps can be difficult. Picking up food from a food bank can be hard when you don’t have a car. Getting a new job can be hard when you don’t own a nice outfit or have paper or a printer to make your resume. You might be able to offer help or take advantage of your networks to help your friend find help. These sorts of services are intended to help people get on their feet. And people should not hesitate to use them to become a success story. There is a tendency out there to believe there are only services available for families with children. While there are more services for families with children, there are food stamps, food baskets, and job finding help for childfree folks too.

I have found there are ways to help friends without lending or giving money. Finding ways to save money together is a great way to help out a friend. And you don’t build that sense of one friend owing the other. You both helped each other out, it is completely mutual. In my big chunk series I mention finding roommates and carpooling, both are ways you can help a friend and help yourself. Several times I have helped friends who could no longer afford their living situation by moving them in and charging them less in rent. That room was wasted space in my house that is now making me a little bit of money, and they are grateful for the reduction in their rent. Most recently, we moved a friend in who was paying $350 a month he could no longer afford and we charge him $200 a month.

I seriously believe in helping my friends, but I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I am suffering terribly for the money or resources I gave or lent out and be desperate for a payback. That sort of situation keeps people from getting on their feet. Get on your feet first have a little extra and then you can afford to start helping out others. It is a great feeling to be able to pay forward the help I received when I was down to a new set of people trying to get on their feet. When they get on their feet chances are they will help someone too.

I am considering the issue of downsizing your transportation for this edition of Big Chunk because a fellow blogger The Simple Dollar wrote about this subject today and he decided against downsizing because of his need to have a spare car for emergencies with his small children. And I am wondering, once my husband is working again if we will need to run two cars. As a childfree partnership we certainly don’t need a second car for emergencies with children during the day. Also I live in a suburban area and public transport is readily available and all necessary services are within biking distance. In a medical emergency, honestly I would call an ambulance or ask a friend or neighbor for a ride. Having a second car around just for emergencies is unnecessary.

My husband and I have two cars. And recently, because of his layoff and the tire popping on his car, we have temporarily downsized to one car. We took that car off the insurance. I leave my car home with him most of the time and I take the bus. Downsizing one car can save you several hundred to several thousands a year on car insurance. You might end up with less car payments, if you were making payments on two cars. If you owned one of your cars and you sold it, that is cash in hand that can go towards debt reduction or savings. Furthermore, ditching one car and driving less often decreases gas and repair expenses. I know my husband and I save over $160 a month on gas with this arrangement. This is a big chunk savings issue similar to downsizing your housing and the savings can be just as significant as downsizing your housing. The monthly savings can be from several hundred to a thousand a month depending on your transportation expenses.

My savings without a car are smaller, because my expenses were low to begin with. I own my beater car, my husband and dad fix it once very three months for usually around $300.00, Gas is about $160 a month because I work in town, Insurance is about $25 per month, I have the highest liability and medical coverage on my insurance but no comprehensive on my little beater, I am over 25, own my home and I am married, I have a decent driving history, and I get a discount for paying a lump sum every six months. My insurance could barely get lower. Cutting out one car costs me a bus pass fee. Assuming I still work in my same town and go to the same school, my bus pass is about $5 per month. My savings are $280 a month right there.

The further you drive a day, the nicer your car and the more expensive your insurance coverage, the more you save by cutting out a car (also the cheaper your repairs because the car is new, so I left repair costs out of this formula). I know people who easily have a $300 dollar car payment, $150 monthly comprehensive insurance, and work across state lines spending $320 a month on gas. If they replaced their car with a interstate express bus pass which runs $100 approximately a month (no student discounts), their savings would be a real Big Chunk, $670.00! Now I have heard that time is money, assuming taking the bus is two hours a day, and you work 20 days a month, you are earning $16.75 an hour by taking the bus and getting rid of your car payments. If you can utilize your bus time listening to books on tape, reading, or writing, you are getting paid to invest in yourself. My second job only makes me $8.00 an hour, and I have to work a lot harder than just sitting on a bus.

So now to consider if you or I can sacrifice a car:

Can you take public transportation, is it more or less reliable than driving?

In my case public transportation, as long as I keep up my end of the deal (showing up to the bus stop early) is more reliable. Should the bus break down, another one comes along to save you within an hour and takes you straight to your location. When my car breaks down? I wait an hour or more for a tow truck which takes me and my car to a mechanic or my home. When it snows or ices? The buses put chains on the vehicles at something like 4 in the morning and get to running. I still make it to work, would I logically drive in that weather? Less likely. True I will have to wait for the bus in the snow, but if I get some good winter ski clothes, I can manage that. My city and neighboring cities have great public transport and I live very near both an interstate bus and an in town bus stop, if your city has more spotty service, this might be a “no” for you.

Can you carpool?

Whether you can carpool largely depends on the stability of your schedule and what you do after work. I tend to go to school after work some days, home other days, and to friends houses other days, I really doubt carpooling could work for me. If you have a predictable week that is the same every week day or nearly every weekday, carpooling could be an answer for you.

How far is your work, school, regular activities, store, etc?

I live less than a mile from a mall, a block from a corner store, and half a mile from a grocery store. Movie theaters and libraries are both at the mall. I can bike to most anywhere I need to be. School and work are both on the same bus route as my house. My new job is a little bit more of a challenge, but the offer I am hoping for is also on the same route as my house. Lets keep our fingers crossed on that one. If you work at home, you might be able to wait until your partner gets home to use the car, or you might just use public transit or a bike to get around. An option that I keep thinking would be great for a single childfreebie would be a Vespa scooter (or another type of scooter, I just think Vespas are cute).

Where is your spiritual, religious or philosophical meeting place and what is transport to it like on weekends and holidays?

My religious meeting place is in a rural area outside my town. Public transport on weekends and holidays is pretty spotty out there. However, my husband usually is sleeping in on Sundays, and for the bi-monthly evening activities he tends to not mind lending me the car if I drop him off at a friends house and pick him up on my way home. It is too far for me to bike.

Do you like driving?

I hate driving, I would rather do most anything else. I like reading on the bus, or watching the landscape while I bike ride. When I can walk, I love to stop and smell the roses and look at birds and rabbits. If you love driving, giving that up to be a passenger on a bus or to brave the weather on foot or a bike might just be a no-no for you.

Are the other options safe?

Without a car or two cars in your household, how would you deal with emergencies? Do you need to get around by yourself at night in parts of town you don’t trust? Are your bus stops and biking trails well lit? Is it safe to bike in your town? Do drivers give the right of way? Is the weather to severe for you to deal with waiting or spending significant amounts of time outside? If one of the partnership does drive to work, and you get rid of the second car, what would you do so s/he can get to work in the event your one car breaks down? I feel safe in my town. There are bike trails, the buses are clean and safe, the stops also clean and safe. The weather is relatively mild. There may be one week a year I might have to really bundle up and put on treads to get to a bus stop safely. If you live somewhere more arctic, eschewing one or both cars might not be an option.

For us, I think downsizing to one car could be a permanent situation. I can take public transport most of the time, especially if I get that in town job I want so badly.

et cetera