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Monday, July 25, 2011

Translating things

The novel Girl in Translation had one element that resonated with me. As an immigrant from Hong Kong, Kim works in sweat shops with her mother once in America. After a time, she masters the piecework at hand and becomes amazingly fast with each item of clothing she and her mother bag for shipping.

When Kim's mom buys her supplies for school, or they purchase something for their apartment, she measures the money in piecework. For example, say that for every 100 dresses Kim and her mother bag, they earn $1. So when they spend $10, it's the equivalent to bagging 1000 dresses.

Have you ever thought of spending money like that? Now that I no longer make a regular wage, I find myself doing it. I bought Aspen a birthday puzzle (woo, neat!) today and it cost the equivalent of me teaching one Pilates or Yoga class. When I went to the grocery store this evening, I spent two classes worth of money on baby food and diaper wipes.

When I spend "Kev's money" on bills or regular groceries, I don't really see it that way. I don't compute the money spent into hours logged in the pay period because it's impractical to me. However, when I'm spending my own money it's just easy to see how much work I put into it since I don't work that much.

Of course, I'm not saying that I don't value Kev's money and the fact that we're somehow able to pay all our bills with his paychecks each month. But do you get what I'm saying? Have you ever looked at purchases like this? It's like, hey, is this item really worth teaching two weeks' worth of classes? The answer is usually yes because 1) I love teaching and 2) the item in question is usually super amazing like shoes or an adorable book for Aspen or a package of oreos.


  1. I've thought that before. A lot of the time I also think, "If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?" That has helped me a little to say no to certain items because I would rather have the money in the bank account.

  2. i just wish i had my own money - period. my husband turns into hitler when it comes to spending and it drives me nutso. i've resorted to just getting cash from the ATM and not telling him what i'm spending it on!

  3. Hmm I have never thought about my money like that, thats interesting. Im just glad we finally get our own allowance. The two years while I was in school we didnt & it sucked no extra money for anything but oh well its life. Most my allowance I buy Bailee things too.

  4. I tend to think like that, too, for better or worse. For example, last night, while walking to Victoria's Secret, my husband and I were stopped on the street by an Amnesty International fundraiser. I ended up committing to donate $10 per month for a full year. I felt sort of bad about it (that's a lot of money!) but then realized I would've easily blown $60 at Victoria's Secret, had I gotten there. I'm happy to give up a few bras to support a good charity.

    On the other hand, when it comes to splurges like dinner out or a new dress, I think, "That's only three hours of work! PFffffttttt!" and blow all my cash. So...

  5. Some things are definitely worth saving for! I really like to use my teaching income to get Kev little things, like mike&ikes candies. That way, it really is a gift from me, and not just something I bought with his own hard-earned money.

  6. I had a friend in college who always thought in packs of Ramen noodles. Ramen was 10 cents a pack so something that cost $10.00 was the equivalent of 1000 packs of Ramen. I'm not sure if it ever stopped either of us from spending money, but it was always good for a laugh.

  7. Our math was usually wrong, though.


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