Changing My Budget to Help Change the Status Quo
I have things to do that are more important to me than Netflix.
If there’s anything Americans can agree on right now, it’s that we want social change. Well, there’s probably a fraction of people who are so privileged that they couldn’t care less, but most of us are looking for transformation in some form or another. I am a queer, Black woman, so you can probably guess what type of change I want. (Hint: it involves treating marginalized people with respect and as valuable human beings.)
The movements I support have been in the works for decades, even centuries. Some days it feels like we’ll never prosper. Other days it feels like, with a little more time, we’ll finally cross the threshold. On the evening of November 8, however, it felt like any chance of progress had been smashed. On November 9, I could only mourn. I was a teary mess and sent defeatist texts to my family and friends when they tried to help me feel better. I didn’t accomplish anything except eating an entire frozen pizza from Trader Joe’s. On November 10, however, I woke up angry. No more tears. I was a hot poker. Underneath all that anger, I felt something else stirring. Hope. Is it too soon for that?
That was an important day for me because my despair had morphed into a renewed resolve to fix what was wrong. Something had to change in America, and I was determined to help. I started by making some changes of my own.
The first change was getting rid of Netflix. Cutting streaming services when you feel finances are tight isn’t anything new. And yes, my finances are tight. I’m already pretty frugal, so there’s not much else I can cut out from my budget. But that’s not the only reason I cut Netflix.
I cut Netflix because it’s a distraction. I think it will take big ideas to make a social change, and those ideas will require an investment of time. I can’t use up all that time watching Netflix.
I don’t really have anything against Netflix. It’s just that right now I have things to do that are more important to me than Netflix, such as getting through my reading list of books about understanding and changing society. In the future, if I want to watch a movie, I’ll borrow it from my local library. They’re more likely to have what I want to watch anyway. I keep checking for Lost in Translation because it reminds me of how I felt when I first moved to Japan for a study abroad program. But Netflix hasn’t had Lost in Translation since June 2014. My library has it on DVD for free, and it’s available right now. Y’all, I love my local library. Cutting Netflix will also encourage me to show my library more support.
Should there be a moment when I just really need to tune into something and don’t have time to go to the library, I can watch a show on Amazon Prime, which I use to save on shipping, or rent a movie for $3.99, which is still cheaper than Netflix.
I don’t own a car. I spend $78 on a St. Louis metro pass every month for unlimited access to the bus and MetroLink. I actually really like public transit and wish it were as strong in more cities as it is in New York City, DC, and San Francisco. Public transit in St. Louis is lacking, so I use Uber to get to places that are transit-inaccessible or would take much longer to travel to via transit. Over the past five months, I’ve spent $553.71 on Uber rides.
I’ve been avoiding Uber lately. Unfortunately, this change is less empowering than getting rid of Netflix, because it is a change rooted in fear. I was already taking risks by using Uber. In March, a Kalamazoo Uber driver went on a shooting spree. There are cases of Uber drivers assaulting female passengers. Uber still has the same race discrimination problem that taxis do, just in a digital form. All these risks are now compounded by the fact that the recent election results have emboldened many racist, sexist, and violent people.
Study Finds Racial Discrimination by Uber and Lyft Drivers
So I don’t feel safe taking Uber anymore. Not when my visible identities make me a target. I plan to avoid Uber as much as possible. If Uber is unavoidable, I will use the “share trip details” feature to let family members know where I am.
This isn’t just about not spending money. I need to be earning money too. If we have no money, we have no power. But the ways in which I choose to earn that money have changed.
Diverse representation has always been something I’ve championed, but I think now we especially need art/writing/products produced by marginalized people in the forefront. And I really mean the forefront. Put the spotlight on the people who have been made invisible, because not everybody will search for them otherwise. It’s time for me to start supporting these communities in meaningful ways. That’s why I’ve decided that 7 percent of what I earn from people supporting me as an artist will go into a Support The Others fund. I will use this fund to buy from or financially support LGBT/POC writers, artists, and entrepreneurs.
I’m doing 7 percent because I need to be saving up money to be less poor, but maybe someday I’ll be able to increase that amount. Maybe someday I’ll have lots of money and will be able to throw large fistfuls of it at LGBT/POC artists. For now, 7 percent.
I’m really excited about this for several reasons:
- I get to take action! I get to support people who don’t receive the recognition they deserve!
- There are a lot of cool people making cool stuff, and I get to treat myself to it.
- This forces me to focus on my own creativity. I’m not allowed to use day job money for this. If I don’t earn money as an artist, I can’t add money to the fund, which means I’m not supporting other artists and businesses the way I want to.
In the past few days alone I’ve seen so many people rally together to help improve the lives of others. I’m hoping we can keep this up. I’m hoping that things do get better.
Dera Luce is a writer and Japanese translator living in St. Louis. Follow her on Twitter at @deraluce.
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