...for everyone who contributed too much to MeFi and ran out of money
May 27, 2014 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Poorcraft is on the Web. The acclaimed comic book guide to "living well on less", written by C. Spike "Templar, Arizona" Trotman* and drawn by Diana "Intrepid Girlbot" Nook, after two years in print, is getting a second life as a free webcomic**, publishing a page a day for the next five months. So don't declare insolvency until you've gotten all the moneysaving tips! Recommended by notable MeFites.

*Spike's one of the more beloved figures in the field of Webcomics (who even made a comic about how to make comics) and has become the Queen of Comics Kickstarters, thanks to the success of Poorcraft, and the group projects she edited: the classy porn of Smut Peddler 1 & 2 (NSFW, obvs) and the horribly good horror of The Sleep of Reason. Templar, Az., previously here and here and Spike herself here.

**for those of you too broke or too cheap to spend 10 bucks for the paperback or 5 for a PDF, Kindle or 'scratch & ding' copy.
posted by oneswellfoop (28 comments total) 99 users marked this as a favorite
If nothing else, Poorcraft's section on budget cooking ( and cooking well!) is worth the cost. It goes through basic techniques and tools and sets you up to roast a chicken and then use it for meals for a five day week.
posted by The Whelk at 1:33 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not much posted yet, though Google turns up quite a few sample pages.

Looking forward to checking this out, since it reminds me of Tsukasa Maekawa's Dai-Tokyo Binbo Seikatsu Manual - a personal all-time favorite.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:36 PM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Looks like not just follow-on-tumblr-worthy, but add-the-rss-to-feedly-so-you-don't-miss-a-single-issue-worthy. Thanks for this!
posted by procrastinator at 1:37 PM on May 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by tilde at 2:08 PM on May 27, 2014

favorited for the clever way you wove the idea of giving to MeFi into it. Maybe we can all do that in every response, kinda like how everything on the Jerry Lewis telethon turns into - you guessed it...
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:11 PM on May 27, 2014

I'm a fan of Girlbot, so I'll enjoy this for the art alone, but the content will likely be very good.
posted by Harpocrates at 2:26 PM on May 27, 2014

kinda like how everything on the Jerry Lewis telethon turns into - you guessed it...

When you walk through a storm
Keep your chin up high
And don't be afraid of the dark...

no, no, I'm sorry... I can't do it...

and I apologize to anyone who thinks I'm hitting the MetaFilter Fundraising angle too hard.

And one more thing...

posted by oneswellfoop at 2:56 PM on May 27, 2014

I definitely followed this, as someone who enjoys both webcomics and tips for living on a budget.
posted by chatongriffes at 3:21 PM on May 27, 2014

Poorcraft is awesome. I re-read and keep applying it to our lives, especially when I start to feel we've let spending get out of control. (We really really try not to do that.)
posted by Kitteh at 3:25 PM on May 27, 2014

This made me wonder if The Tightwad Gazette had anything online (it appears not to -- though there is a blog by the same name which is not affiliated) and it caused me to trip across a video tape of the author Amy Dacyzyn on a budget-oriented site.


Also, I know the name Smut Peddler from Girls with Slingshots because the author Danielle Corsetto worked on that project, apparently as a contributor.

Thank you for posting this foop. I look forward to seeing more of it.
posted by Michele in California at 3:40 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I bought the first four Templar, AZ books. Kinda hoping she'll put her other stuff on the back burner for a while to finish the story. It's been very, very sporadic.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:06 PM on May 27, 2014

oooooh shiny. Thanks !
posted by Faintdreams at 4:13 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm interested, but there's not enough posted for me to know whether or not I'm interested in buying the book. Are there any sample tips members feel comfortable sharing?
posted by xammerboy at 5:46 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I bought the book on the strength of Mefi suggestions, and I have to say that on page 20/180, I'm annoyed enough that I've closed the file. Just MOVE! You can WALK to work! You don't NEED a car!

Which is probably great stuff for people who have money to move (because first + last + security is easy to come up with if you're the sort of person purchasing a book about how to live better while poor) or people who work in areas with public transit and/or housing near their jobs, but that kind of, I dunno, rules out a huge chunk of people.

Does it get more practical/accessible, or should I just leave the file closed and be vaguely bitter?
posted by MeghanC at 7:16 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a very poor post. I mean that in multiple ways, starting with the paucity of content. A cover, a title page, and an introductory page? Maybe within a few weeks there will be something more than an introduction of her dog. If you can afford to have a dog, you're not poor. If you eat dog food, you're poor. That's basically what I had for dinner tonight, courtesy of the local food bank. I call it "poverty stew," it's a can of expired canned chicken, with some canned green beans (no expiration date on the can) plus some expired soy-mushroom soup, combined with the very last store-bought food I have, about 50 cents worth of pasta. For dessert I had a pecan bar that expired 5 months ago. When you are poor, you eat crap like this. It's dog food. I think back fondly to the time, some weeks ago, when the food bank gave me such a large can of dog food.

I regret to inform the author that she is incorrect, being poor sucks. If it doesn't suck, you're not poor, you're middle class.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:30 PM on May 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

poverty's not a contest.
posted by boo_radley at 9:33 PM on May 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

Poverty is a constant contest. It is the ultimate game of brinksmanship, you are always playing chicken with disaster. This author's cheery intro about "being broke doesn't have to suck" does not lead me to believe she knows what poverty is. Poverty isn't about making choices to live below your means. Poverty is living like you do, because you have no choice. Poverty sucks, and I don't need some middle class comic author slumming and telling me it doesn't.

I just checked the site, another page has been posted. It says "Poorcraft is the fine art of living well on less.. Learning how to do more with what you have and learning to do it better. Spending wisely, infrequently, and frugally. Wearing things out and using things up instead of replacing them. Recycling, research, preparedness, self-reliance, and resourcefulness. Knowing your options and picking the right one."

That is hippie bullshit. Being poor is stretching out what you have, to make it last, because that's all you've got and it has to last until the payday after next. It is spending unwisely, because there are always financial problems that incur surcharges, they call it a "poor tax." It is wearing things out and using them up because you can't afford to replace them. It is about knowing you have no options, and being forced to make a choice that will allow you to survive another day, but sacrifices your future.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:53 PM on May 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Today's page: "Poorcraft is the fine art of living well on less. That's what I call it... Anybody can do it. And you don't have to be poor."

You may take issue on even using the word "poor". (Like someone objected to "wackadoodle" recently)

For you, there's MeFi's Own John Scalzi's great little essay: "Being Poor".

It's an honest debate; just remember that while we're debating, the obscenely rich are getting a good laugh.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:02 AM on May 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

Being comfortable enough to be able to waste $5 to take one for the team, I bought the book. I personally wouldn't recommend it for anyone except those living on their own for the first time, making decent money but needing some tips on how to start saving and paying off/avoiding debt. The advice is literally as simple as "have roommates", "don't buy new cars", "buy in bulk", "start a garden", and "don't waste money on take-out and expensive cleaning products", with a handful of basic recipes and some tone-deaf items like "Volunteer as an usher at an independent theatre to see movies for free!"

Having been legitimately poor for long periods of my life (ranging from "our neighbors killed and ate a stray dog" to the more pedestrian "working full-time, sharing a house with eight other people, and still need the food bank", I feel that "poorcraft" is a gross misnomer. It's a nice little guide to being thrifty, and when it's available fully for free, I might pass on the link to my two nieces who are starting out in their own households, but it's not really about poverty, and it seems to be of limited use to anyone supporting dependants or making minimum wage.
posted by northernish at 6:20 AM on May 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

It is cute (really cute! I bought some of the authors' other work!) but the advice is basic helpful advice for thrift, yes.

The things that bothered me when I bought it several months ago after The Whelk praised it was that the cooking section was really carb-heavy and that only buying a car for which you could pay cash seems like profoundly stupid advice for anyone who is not a mechanic. Because if you pay cash for a car you're either not needing the advice about poorcraft or you're buying a car that will almost certainly need extensive repairs in a very short time.
posted by winna at 6:47 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

As someone who recently decided working 8-5 for the rest of my life is for the birds and wants to save as much as possible so I don't have to eventually, I can't seem to get enough of this type of subject matter. And it's such a cute little comic, I might even consider buying it.

But I agree there is a huge gulf between choosing to live frugally and involuntary poverty. I wish they had chosen a different title - it seems like there are plenty of other things that would have been more appropriate.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:22 AM on May 28, 2014

I bought this too even though I am not poor, I am trying to lead a more frugal lifestyle, and while it was cute it was very basic advice pitched at young single people with decent incomes but bad spending habits. Were I actually poor I would probably find it insulting for the reasons given above, and it certainly had little to recommend it for people with a family.
For instance, living with unrelated housemates is not something many people with children would consider a viable option out of choice, although of course plenty of people do it out of necessity. Nor is not having a car something I would want to contemplate in my current city with a small child, especially when it's -20 outside and you've got a sick toddler, and the public transport is rudimentary at best.
Or, live close to things so you can walk! But pay less rent! Well, yeah, those two things tend to be mutually exclusive. I've always prioritised amenities over price in my rentals and I've always paid 40% of my income or more towards housing, even when I lived in share-housing.
posted by jasperella at 9:25 AM on May 28, 2014

For those who took interest in this because they really need help making ends meet and are disappointed, let me suggest a couple of things:

How to Survive without a Salary By Charles Long

The Complete Tightwad Gazette By Amy Dacyczyn

If you really need this info for practical reasons and just can't afford the books, try going to your library and looking for similar fare. Amy Dacyczyn, author of The Tightwad Gazette, once said that if she had realized how many books already existed on the topic, she likely would not have started the newsletter that later got compiled into the books (that later got combined into the "The COMPLETE Tightwad Gazette"). I think she also made the point that living on a meager amount without creativity is actual poverty, not mere frugality. Coming up with creative solutions to get your needs met in spite of the budgetary limitations is what makes it frugality rather than poverty.

My dad had about three quarters of the cost of the house they bought in the bank when he left the military when I was 3 years old. Thus, when I was growing up, my parents' house payment was about 40% of what the neighbors were paying. He was suffering PTSD from his time in Vietnam (if not also from his time on the front lines of WWII) and he was frequently unemployed for months at a time. So, the house payment was low, he had a military retirement check and free medical coverage for the entire family, there was a garden out back, dad hunted and mom sewed most of my clothes and constantly cooked from scratch (and shopped sales).

Growing up, I had no idea that our monthly income was likely substantially less than that of our neighbors. We ate better than most folks around us and I dressed better than my classmates and neighbors and we lived well. As far as I knew, it was everyone around me who was poor, not my family. One next door neighbor, who had 8 kids, would eat mayonnaise sandwiches the night before payday and then bring home mountains of fresh meat and grill on the side porch for hours the next day when dad had money again. I had no idea at all when my dad got paid and no idea at all that there was any relationship between when he got paid and what we ate.

So while I understand the criticisms and objections, I also understand why some people (like Charles Long, Amy Dacyczyn and C Spike Trotman -- oh, and I do the same sort of thing, somewhere, I guess) offer ideas on how to get your needs met in spite of your limited budget. Money alone does not determine how "poor" you are in real terms or how poor you feel. Having skills and knowledge that allow you to access adequate resources in spite of the tight budget makes a huge difference in quality of life and one of the big things separating the haves from the have nots is mentality. People with a poverty mentality often do not feel entitled to really find those solutions that work (and often lack the skills necessary to make it work in spite of people around them being all judge-y about how they spend money, etc).
posted by Michele in California at 10:05 AM on May 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

I bought this in print a while back. I appreciated its perspective, knowing that it wasn't a be-all and end-all guide for living. That said, one aspect really irritated me:

The Mil character is the one we're likely to identify with as readers - the newbie who's being instructed by Penny on how to live frugally. But Mil is miserable the entire time, all the way through to the last page of artwork. Everything out of her is eyerolls, stubbornness, fear, and annoyance. There's no hint of her enjoying or embracing what she's learning. It felt really discouraging to read, like if you're not already perfect and perky like Penny, then the frugal experience is going to be nothing but suffering and deprivation and you won't enjoy any aspect of it.
posted by cadge at 12:08 PM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am completely looking forward to not contributing a thing to these fine artists!
posted by markkraft at 8:15 PM on May 28, 2014

Poor Nickel! He should've left those chickens alone!
posted by magstheaxe at 8:03 AM on June 3, 2014

I really hate that they're doing the URLs "backwards", and redefining them every day, i.e. the latest is always "poorcraft.com", yesterday's is always "poorcraft.com/page/2", the day before yesterday's is always "poorcraft.com/page/3", and so forth. It's like, I'm on the latest page that I've read, some time has passed, and I hit "refresh", and now I'm on another page. Is it the first page I haven't read? Maybe! Depends how long it's been since I've read. So now I have to figure out where I last was. Well, I was last on "poorcraft.com". Has it been one day? Maybe, in which case what was "poorcraft.com" would now be "poorcraft.com/page/2". But I don't actually know if it was one day. Maybe what was "poorcraft.com" is now "poorcraft.com/page/4". I have no idea.

Assign a page a URL and keep it there permanently. I understand wanting to put the latest as poorcraft.com, and that's fine, but give the latest its own permalink as well, and give users the ability to get to the latest via its permalink, to make navigation easy. The current scheme is effectively an anti-permalink; it's pretty ridiculous and very poor UI.
posted by Flunkie at 4:19 PM on June 3, 2014

Oh holy hell seven new pages since I last looked. And it gets worse, it is progressively more insulting.

Oh and by the way, I promise, NO RAMEN NOODLES.

That's what I had for lunch today. That's what I had for lunch every day for the last 4 days. I decided to splurge because I was sick of stale bread and expired yogurt from the Food Bank.

Most financial trouble starts with ignorance: not knowing how much you're spending or what you're spending it on.

Absolutely wrong. Most financial trouble starts with a health care crisis that drains your bank accounts. And even worse, this is the Big Lie of the 1%, that you are poor because you are ignorant and stupid, not because the 1% rigged the system against you.

I'm not stupid. And I know where every damn penny of my money goes. I track it constantly. I am reminded of an old Phil Dick essay from his anthology The Golden Man:

When I see these stories of mine, written over three decades, I think of the Lucky Dog Pet Store. There's a good reason for that. It has to do with an aspect of not just my life but with the lives of most free-lance writers. It's called poverty.

I laugh about it now, and even feel a little nostalgia, because in many ways those were the happiest goddamn days of my life, especially back in the early fifties, when my writing career began. But we were poor; in fact, we —my wife, Kleo, and I—were poor poor. We didn't enjoy it a bit. Poverty does not build character. That is a myth. But it does make you into a good bookkeeper; you count accurately and you count money, little money, again and again. Before you leave the house to grocery shop you know exactly what you can spend, and you know exactly what you are going to buy, because if you screw up you will not eat the next day and maybe not the day after that.

So anyhow there I am at the Lucky Dog Pet Store on San Pablo Avenue, in Berkeley, California, in the fifties, buying a pound of ground horsemeat. The reasons why I'm a free-lance writer and living in poverty is (and I'm admitting this for the first time) that I am terrified of Authority Figures like bosses and cops and teachers; I want to be a free-lance writer so I can be my own boss. It makes sense. I had quit my job managing a record department at a music store; all night every night I was writing short stories, both SF and mainstream . . . and selling the SF. I don't really enjoy the taste or texture of horsemeat; it's too sweet . . . but I also do enjoy not having to be behind a counter at exactly 9:00 A.M., wearing a suit and tie and saying, "Yes, ma'am, can I help you? and so forth.... I enjoyed being thrown out of the University of California at Berkeley because I wouldn't take ROTC . . . boy, an Authority Figure in a uniform is the Authority Figure! —and all of a sudden as I hand over the thirty-five cents to the Lucky Dog Pet Store mall, I find myself once more facing my personal nemesis. Out of the blue I am once again confrollted by an Authority Figure. There is no escape from your nemesis; I had forgotten that.

The man says "You re buying this horsemeat and you are eating it yourselves."

But let's get back to the Poorcraft insults to the poor:

Discretionary spending should be your first target in any out-of-whack budget. This is where the cuts will hurt the least. Eat out less!

I can remember the last time I went out to eat, it was 349 days ago on my friend's birthday. This week, I had to decline her invitation to her birthday, and explain that I was embarrassed to be too poor to afford a restaurant meal at her annual party. I am pretty sure that I had not been to a restaurant for a year prior to that, again at her birthday.

When you are poor, discretionary spending includes all food. You skip meals so you can save something to eat for tomorrow. Right this very moment, I am considering whether to eat dinner or not, maybe I can just go to sleep and forget about hunger for tonight.

At my temp job today, we are training. I had ramen for lunch. In the adjacent training room, they had a catered lunch. Outside their room, there was a table where the box lunches were laid out. I noticed they had two trays of coffee beans, which were apparently decorations. It looked like about half a pound of beans. I considered pouring them into a paper cup and taking them home.

We're working in a brand new office building, in a newly remodeled auditorium with all the latest teleconferencing gadgets, adjacent to a huge cafeteria. It is a stark contrast to where we normally work, in the warehouse, or in the basement of the oldest building in our company. Each morning, we have to meet at the old building (in the room where the cafeteria used to be back in the 1960s) and then walk over to the new building where we have a full-time worker open the door for us, since our passcards don't open the doors at the nice new building. Some people asked if they could just meet us in the new cafeteria. The project leader said the corporate rules say that we have to be escorted. I discussed this remark with my coworkers. I said if we were told we were walking together to the training room, that would be a team-building exercise. But instead we are treated like Morlocks that must be escorted whenever we emerge from the underground vault and dare to tread the same ground as the Eloi. At the morning break, I asked one of the supervisors if we were allowed to use the bathrooms without an escort. He didn't get it, he said, "sure!" and thought I was serious.

Today when I went to the cafeteria for lunch, I saw a display of the company's new health program, entitled "Good Health Starts with Food!" Right, and bad health starts with bad food, and a lack of food. I've lost 5 pounds in the last week because I am poor, and I am what they euphemistically call "Food Insecure." Then as I walked back from my lunch of ramen, I was stunned at what I saw on the 50 inch flat screen TVs that were recently placed in every hallway to show corporate announcements. It was a solicitation for donations to the Food Bank. The top 3 most needed donations were money, peanut butter, and canned meat. Yeah, we already talked about the dog food canned meat just up thread. It is infuriating that the Eloi employees are urged to make donations to the Food Bank where Morlock employees like me go. The company should be paying us more. I recently read an essay in the Harvard Business Review entitled "It's Not OK That Your Employees Can't Afford to Eat." The reaction across the internet was the usual futile outrage, one person said, "If your employees can't afford to eat, you're not employing them, you're exploiting them." The company does not seem to understand that a substantial percentage of their employees are Food Insecure. Or perhaps they just don't care.

I mentioned to some of my supervisors that our competitor has come to town and they're paying $15/hr for a job easier than the highly skilled $12/hr job we're doing. One of them said, "yeah, it's horrible! Oh, not that they're getting 15, it's horrible you're not!" Another of them said, "yeah, they haven't raised the wages on this job for 5 years, it's about time." Checking the Cost Of Living Index, if we had just gotten COLA raises and nothing else, we'd be earning $13.18. That would be a $47/week raise, more than I have spent on food in the last month.

Yes, Phil Dick was right. When you are poor, there is no escaping from your nemesis. The Authority Figures surround you, enjoying their luxurious, newly remodeled showpiece offices and emerging at lunchtime to gorge on subsidized (but expensive) healthy meals in the cafeteria. They taunt you by asking you for donations to the very Food Bank that supplies your own food. They might as well be gnawing on my very bones. But in only two days, I will return to the underground vault, where at least I don't have to see the Eloi and their luxuries, and watch them cry crocodile tears that I am not earning enough money to buy food.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:15 PM on June 3, 2014

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