Real money magic: priming the pump

What’s to be done when a well runs dry? Here’s a tip: try priming the pump before calling a well driller. The same can be said for when we run dry, creatively or spiritually or even financially: with the right skills and components, even on our worst days we are not lost causes; our pumps too can be primed.

Applying that to money can seem like a catch-22: if it takes money to make money, where in Tartarus should I look if I don’t have two cents to rub together? The fact that this is not an easy question to answer is a deep and enduring problem in our society. Those resources which do exist to help the penniless can be hard to identify, and even when they are known there can be barriers from geographic to bureaucratic in the way. While it’s been decades since I needed to rely on public assistance to pay for rent, food, and medical care, I haven’t forgotten how efforts to prevent welfare fraud made it harder to earn enough to escape that trap. I had to use the most dangerous pump-priming technique available to me: taking out student loans, hoping I’d eventually make enough money to pay them off.

For the most part, I don’t borrow money that I don’t know I can repay. I am risk-averse, which means that my pumps don’t get primed as quickly as some. Priming a pump with borrowed water when there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to repay right away is something I’ve done more than once with dissatisfying results. I understand that there are others for which the combination of timing, circumstance, and personal motivation make this a risk well worth it; recent history is peppered with examples of stupendous success based on other people’s money. Infomercials, too, are filled with those tales, and it’s largely due to that sort of soulless shilling of dream-chasing that I have sometimes nearly come to ruin. Lending that targets the desperate is often particularly predatory. Feel free to borrow if you wish, but it’s rarely something I counsel. If you come to me with a tale of woe, I will listen sympathetically, but when asked for advice to avoid doing to oneself again I will definitely recommend not borrowing more money as a first step.

Borrowing aside, what remains is finding ways to increase income, and, for the advanced practitioner, controlling expenses.

The former, identifying new or greater sources of income, might involve seeking a raise or a new job, find an additional job, joining the gig economy, selling things that are lying about the house, or turning hobbies into revenue streams. It is not the purpose of this passage to give specific tips on doing these things, the specifics of which can vary. (Moreover, my life experience only includes a couple of years surviving solely on thanks to government assistance, and that was before Clinton gutted most of those programs.) What’s important to recognize is that there is almost some level of control over how much money comes in, although making more money usually requires a sacrifice of time spent doing other things. If it means watching less television, that might not be too bad, but if the sacrifice is time with one’s children, the calculus gets trickier.

Find what you’re willing to give up — even temporarily — and you’ll have a sense of how much time you can focus on earning more money. That equation can change from day to day, even hour to hour; sometimes it’s going to be a tough choice between spending time with the kids and ensuring they have food to eat, but mostly not. The key is that we make these decisions all the time, and the challenge is doing it consciously.

In short, working with money is, and always will be, something that carries with it risk. That’s especially true when undertaking new ventures, for which the downside is unclear. Priming the pump represents that initial risk: is the water I have in this container before me going to yield more if I pour it down that hole than if I pour it down my throat?

The answer to that question can only be determined with some discernment, but that’s a big enough topic it deserves a post of its own.

Advertisements

Real money magic: cash money spells

Money spells: who doesn’t love them? From dressing lodestones to scratching off lottery tickets, there’s lots of methods which are supposed to bring money into one’s life. Occasionally I will try out a spell I find online, or actually buy a spell kit, to understand how they’re put together. Along the same lines, I once wrote a column reviewing lottery games; each as is much magic as the other. I find it interesting to deconstruct them, and try to evaluate how effective they are.

There is a class of money spells that I find to be quite effective, to the tune of several thousand dollars that has come into my life because of them. The qualities these spells share include slow development and an emphasis on how money flows. For all it’s associated with earth, money does an awful lot of flowing; whether that’s indicative of water or magma, I’m not yet clear.

Bad news first: if it’s not already clear, lottery tickets don’t make the cut. Sure, there is an opportunity to win beaucoup bucks by playing, but anyone who believes they can wrap their head around just how small that chance is going to be is kidding themselves. I do buy a lottery ticket from time to time, but I do so as an offering to Hermes, and never expect a winner. That way lies madness.

My reference to “slow development” might also be disappointing; if there is magic which showers the user with lots of money within hours or days, I haven’t found it. Money just doesn’t seem to move all that quickly, and it might take a tremendous amount of energy to change that. (I searched high and low for a datum about the physical speed of money to no avail, but I assure readers it’s measured in miles per year, if that fast.)

Nevertheless, there are spells which I have used to good effect in helping me accumulate money. The astute reader might notice a theme.

  • Weekly dollars: On the first Sunday (a day good for money work) of the year, I light my money candle, take out a dollar bill, and recite a prayer to my patron:
Khaire, Poseidon Asphaleios.
Guide the tides around me
so that my efforts here
will secure my future.
I do the same each Sunday thereafter, only increasing the amount of money by a dollar each week. The last Sunday of the year that’s $52 I drop in the pot. Increasing the amount over time makes it doable for me, because I can make adjustments to my spending habits gradually. I’m like the proverbial toad in the pot of water being boiled, and I think most other humans are as well. This is not about ripping the band-aid off; it’s allowing it to drop when it drops. If you’re ready for radical transformation, go for it! This spell is intended for the rest of us.

Spells work better if there is a specific intention; for this one I focus on needs for my home. I am presently working toward a fireplace insert to make a home warmer than 60 degrees in winter affordable; I’m on my fourth annual cycle, and expect to make this offering to Hestia next summer.

  • Daily cents: This is another incremental saving spell, but it focuses on pocket change. I was given a lovely pottery container, and on the first day of the year into it I deposited a penny while saying:
Penny by penny,
cent by cent,
to pay for my funeral
is my clear intent.
I repeat this every day, adding one more cent to the pot daily, meaning that on the last day of the year I’m putting in $3.65. For those not reading closely, the intent I have chosen for this spell is preparing for my own death. First on the list is purchasing plots in a nearby natural-burial cemetery; in future years I’ll set aside money to be used for whatever friffery my survivors decide to put me through on the way to that hole in the ground.
  • Fiver diversion: For about seven months I’ve been avoiding spending five-dollar bills; instead, I put ’em in special money jar I originally prepared for the “daily cents” spell, but proved too small. I have accumulated about $400 thus far, for which I have not stated an intention. Money magic without intention is only for advanced practitioners! Set a goal for every spell; don’t be like me, or you might discover you blow your wad and have nothing to show for it.
  • March of dimes: Pinterest wisdom is that a two-liter soda bottle filled with dimes yields about $700. I haven’t tried this one yet, because we don’t waste enough money on soda to justify the big bottles of the stuff. It’s true that the price per unit is much lower when buying in bulk, but I personally would rather not save money on something this awful. Yes, I drink soda, and I don’t want to have any excuse to think there’s any benefit once it’s past my taste buds. No, I’d rather not feel morally superior about drinking soda, thank you very much.
  • Found money: I pick up pennies in the road. I scoop change out of the lint trap and couch cushions. I discover crisp bills in the pockets of pants I haven’t worn in months. Some of this money was technically mine all along, but either I didn’t miss it or I adapted to its absence. Either way, it’s a blessing to have it in my life and I set this money aside as “luck money,” to be used when times are lean (to counter bad luck) and when celebrating the bounty in life (such as giving to panhandlers or purchasing lottery tickets).

None of these spells have made me rich, but those I’ve used have ensured I have money when I need it most. Some might say that this isn’t drawing money to me, because it’s mostly about money already coming into my life. If capturing the money coming in before it disappears isn’t magic, then why aren’t more people doing it?

Real money magic is part of a wider project, Thrifty Pagan Writings.  If you think this stuff is utterly amazing, please convince me to start a Patreon account.

Rethinking immigration law

My long-held view on immigration is classically Republican, as opposed to the view held by many modern members of that political party: a republic is a nation governed by laws, and if those laws are not enforced there’s nothing left holding that republic together. The modern Republican view is classically American: we don’t like foreigners and will use laws to keep out as many of them as we can, even as our hearts swell with pride when thinking of the Statue of Liberty. I say “classically American” because while the Republican party is presently the home of most xenophobes, hating people who look or sound different is an idea that’s historically right up there with apple pie and “give me your tired.” We love the idea that people want to come here (we’re number one!), but once the neighborhood is packed with folks talking in another language, it’s a different story.

[Wikimedia Commons]

I try to avoid such hypocrisy. Sometimes, I even succeed.

Being a stick-to-my-guns sort of guy, I’ve gotten in a few online tussles with people over my “enforce the law” position, even after I started clarifying that “enforce the law, or change it to a law that you’re going to enforce” is fine by me too.

As I sat watching my local elected officials work out some kind of sanctuary law, listening to the testimony of people who live under threat — often, but not always, deserved — of detainment and deportation, it was very important that I wrap myself in my journalist’s mantle of dispassion. Otherwise, I knew that I could end up writing up my opinions, rather than actually reporting what happened. This is a mantle which often hangs loose about me, but this was one of those times when pulling it tight would be needed to make sure its work was done.

When I wrote the editorial about journalism as ministry, it wasn’t just that I see reporting news as a vital service. When I notice similarities in the way I approach my work as journalist and priest, that means I see serving the gods and speaking the truth to be closely aligned on a sacred level. It is a place from which I deeply listen to discern that truth, to the wagging of tongues and the moving of spirit. What settled over me was an understanding that I needed to let go my righteousness.

I’m surprised that no one in the room that night heard the grating, crunching sound of a paradigm shifting without a clutch. Maybe that falls short in explaining what went on in my head. It’s not that I suddenly understood reasons differently; no, I was just getting new orders and it didn’t really matter what I thought about them. Sometimes divine presence, for me, can be compared to physical sensation: floating, tingly, an emotional response. That was not the case this time; what I got was a thought dropped cleanly into the logic center of my brain.

Zeus is keeper of the law. My respect for law honors he who oversees its enforcement. It was some weeks after my experience before I realized he’d had a hand in reconsidering this question. Yes, Zeus is god of law, but not only mortal law. There are divine laws which also govern my life, and one of them, xenia, he wants me to put before immigration policy. Moreover, he shifted how I might interpret the relationship between host and guest; where I previously would have branded the alien an enemy for disregarding the law, I must evaluate em now as stranger, a person unknown who should be treated with respect and hospitality.

What’s changed? Expectations, more than attitudes. I still feel that a republic — a country governed by laws — should only have laws which are enforced, and that all others should be discarded. I still am likely to bristle a bit when I think about people ignoring the process for immigrating to this nation, rather than working to get it changed. Those thoughts, and the logical sand emotional steps I took to reach those conclusions, were not erased. However, I’m not to act on those opinions. It will take time for my worldview to shift, aligning itself with this directive, if it ever does. All I know for certain is that this particular set of laws is not one I am to defend. Perhaps, like tectonic plates settling after an earthquake, the change will be a gradual one that I scarcely notice. For now, I wait.

Real money magic: acting wealthy

Fake it ’til you make it. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Act in accordance with your will. From the standpoint of motivation, magic, and mental discipline, mindset is everything. I recall a news story from some years ago about professional panhandlers who dressed business casual to hit up the crowd at busy subway stations; they were never rounded up by police officers and told to move along, even when their “profession” was an open secret. The so-called “millionaire next door” doesn’t find protestors in the front yard because e doesn’t have a reputation for using that wealth to exploit.

One does not need to act wealthy to receive large sums of money, and not everyone with money lives the stereotype of monocle and top hat. Nevertheless, I believe there is a connection between one’s financial self-image and the reality underpinning it. Some of those who have nothing don’t wish for more, and some of those with money spend a lot of time worrying about losing it. Who is the wealthier, the person content with what they have or the person is fears being wiped out?

While I am saying that state of mind is connected to actual wealth, it’s certainly not the only factor. Ben Carson, who arguably should not have been surprised by this, was excoriated for saying that poverty is a state of mind. To suggest that is cruel, and possibly even Calvinist. Were mindset the only factor, then there would be no need to help out the poor, because they got that way by choice alone, correct? Hogwash. Even if I believed that financial hardship was entirely controlled by one’s thoughts, there are still good reasons to dispense charity. After all, a poor person might be a god in disguise, curious how one will act when no one else is looking. It’s also a nice thing to do.

The exact nature of the connection between mindset and money is not entirely clear, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored, any more than the connection between positive thinking and physical health should be dismissed. More study is required, but in the meantime there’s little downside to evaluating one’s own limiting thoughts.

I submit that the only person who is not prone to limiting thoughts is a megalomaniac. For the rest of us, they act as a check against life-endangering recklessness. When unchecked themselves, they can become self-destructive. What’s needed to avoid either extreme is mindfulness.

When it comes to money matters, mindfulness starts with paying attention. That is a tall order; money is at the heart of most marital discord for good reason. We develop money habits mostly the same way we develop sexual ethics: our parents, who would prefer someone else do the job, largely allow us to figure it all out through osmosis. Many of us never talk about money until we are trying to pool our resources with other people. The entire culture is pitted against mindfulness, with BUY NOW and SAVE MORE marketing schemes flashing in front of every set of eyeballs. (Here’s a little tip about that: if you didn’t have the extra in the first place, spending less on a purchase isn’t “saving” money. Saving involves actually putting the money somewhere safe.)

Acting wealthy isn’t about conspicuous consumption, because the smart money isn’t spent on clothes and jewelry, at least in my culture. Americans do love to flaunt wealth they do not have, but that is not acting wealthy. True wealth, monetary or otherwise, is its own reward.

Real money magic is part of a wider project, Thrifty Pagan Writings.  If you think this stuff is utterly amazing, please convince me to start a Patreon account.