Free movies all summer long
May 27, 2008, 1:52 pm
Filed under: Frugality, Movies

Regal Cinemas is offering a Free Family Film Festival every Tuesday and Wednesday morning throughout the summer. See if any of your nearby movie theatres are participating by selecting your state at the website.

I still haven’t gotten around to seeing Shrek the Third or Wallace and Gromit, so maybe I’ll be able to catch them on the big screen for free this summer.

30 Days
May 25, 2008, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Movies

Jake asked me to check out the first season of the television show 30 Days from the library. While I greatly enjoyed the documentary Super Size Me, for some reason, I just wasn’t overly excited to see 30 Days. I scanned the episode listing and two caught my eye: “Minimum Wage” and “Off the Grid.”

In “Minimum Wage,” Morgan and his fiancee, Alex, live on minimum wage for 30 days. They started off on one week’s minimum wage salary ($300) without any access to their credit cards or any of their previous money. By the end of the first day they found an affordable apartment in a bad neighborhood and by the end of day two, they both got minimum wage paying jobs. They quickly discovered, of course, that it was nearly impossible to survive on $5.15 an hour. A few stifling medical bills (they had no health insurance) and a visit from Morgan’s niece and nephew pushed them into the red. Yet another great demonstration of the challenges facing today’s working poor.

In “Off the Grid,” two coworkers live at Dancing Rabbit, an ecovillage in Missouri, for 30 days. They were off the grid in respect that they did not use any electricity or fossil fuels. They learned how to install solar panels, recycle their own feces, and live in a self-sustaining community. This episode really got me thinking about converting my car to run on vegetable oil and how possible it would be to get solar panels installed whenever we buy a home. Environmentally friendly and frugal? Yes, please. If a whole community can do it, then certainly a single couple can. 

While I did enjoy watching these episodes, the fact that these two concepts, living on minimum wage and living in an environmentally responsible way, are so outlandish that it made for good TV saddens me. Far too many people live on minimum wage while far too few devote their time to reducing their ecological footprint.

Waging a Living
May 17, 2008, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Movies

I just finished viewing the documentary Waging a Living. The movie follows four members of the working poor over the course of three years. There is very little commentary or judgement, only a few facts that are displayed on the screen throughout the documentary. The film basically just shows what day to day life looks like for people who work their hardest, but just can’t manage to get ahead.

Parts of Waging a Living really rang true for me as I grew up around the poverty line and can remember my mom going to the food bank and accepting charity so that we could get by after my parents got divorced. While my childhood was never as bad as the examples in the film, I got a crystal clear view of what my life could have been like if my parents or I never went to college. 

I enjoyed the fact that the film simply showed what life is like for the working poor and did not jump in with loads of facts and commentary. There were no solutions presented or any sort of judgement passed. I feel that it is easier for each viewer to take away significant meaning from the documentary when it is presented in this manner.

Here are a few facts that were shown during the film that really stood out at me:
-In the year following a divorce, the man’s standard of living rises 10% while the woman’s standard of living drops 27%.
-Since 1979, housing costs have tripled while wages for the bottom 20% of workers remained static.
-78% of low wage workers in service jobs do not have health insurance.

I feel confused after viewing this film because, while I do have a college degree, I am making very little money working my two part time jobs with no benefits (less than some of the people in the film). Am I considered to be a member of the working poor? Since I live with and rely financially on my fiance, I think I escape that labeling.

What can I do, in this failing economy, to get a job that I deserve? Is it even possible? In a nutshell, Waging a Living makes me feel both lucky and pessimistic about my current and future states.