Category Archives: Community

How I thrived on a Basic Income of $11,000 last year in Montreal

For the original article published in all its beautiful glory on Medium: How I thrived on a Basic Income of less than $11,000 last year in Montreal

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From January 1st to December 31st, I recorded all of my spending through 2014 with a wonderfully intuitive app called YNAB (You Need A Budget) so that I could share my economical alternative lifestyle. This kind of living is definitely not for everyone, but with my advice, you could save a few hundred or thousand dollars by the end of next year.

I am an avid supporter of Universal Basic Income—an income given to every adult citizen in the country—so that they may each have the basic requirements necessary (food and shelter) to live proper lives with dignity. This program has been called ‘a natural extension of medicare’ by Dr. Anna Reid, MD, Past President of the Canadian Medical Association(2013–2014) and a way to simplify a complicated (and sometimes degrading) system of social assistance and financial aid programs. I highly recommend this video for a quick outline of its benefits and the Basic Income subreddit for more information about UBI than you can shake a stick at.

Rent (51%)

My rent contributed to 51% of my cost of living or $5500 at an average of $550/month for 10 months. I sublet my room for June and July (see: Vacation).

There are smaller rooms available at a lower rental cost. I could pay as low as $325 per month in my own home at a cost of a mere $3900 annually.

Explore different areas of the city (east and/or north especially), and be aware of social assistance programs (welfare & food banks). There are a lot of opportunities. Be creative! Also, check out Frugal Montreal and don’t be shy to ask questions.

Community

I owe a significant portion of my financial savings to my community. I live in an extraordinary environment with 13 roommates. We live in a prime location in the Plateau which is ideal for proximity but less so for cost savings. A portion of our rent payment goes into the collective pot where we purchase common items to share. For instance, our electricity, internet, telephone, and a basic level of food is provided in our cost of rent.

Food (19%)

Food has contributed to 19% of my cost of living or $2067.60 at an average of $172.30 per month. Eating out has cost $1399.25 whereas groceries have only cost $668.35. Coffee has also played a significant role in my eating habits, at least $212.56 worth (most likely 20%, and explained in the vices category) .

All of the food seen in this photograph was obtained through dumpster diving.

The low cost of personal groceries is directly related to cost of our group purchased groceries and the extensive amount of dumpster diving in which our home participates. As far as group purchasing, these typically include a variety of cooking oils, spices, pasta, rice, beans, coffee, teas, as well as some low cost bulk fruit and vegetables.

We almost always have an overabundance of food (with excess to share with our local community), despite such a large number of people living in the same space. Dumpster diving is one aspect of our eco-friendly lifestyle. There is so much food that is thrown away that is perfectly good, you would have to experience it to believe it.

Transportation (2%)

This year I have spent $127.50 in bus tickets or about 1% of my budget. I’ve also spent $138 to renew my driver’s license, a handy expense.

It’s important to wear proper protection when you go biking.

I walk when I can (my excuse for exercise), but I absolutely love to ride my bike. I take pride in knowing how to tune up and fix little things when they go awry. A few years ago (after having my other bike stolen) I purchased a beautiful used bike with a lock for about $150, put $50 of parts and work into it and have made great use of it ever since. I might have to change the tires next year. I did however tune it up and realign my gears, which I did myself paying $2 for the use of a bike stand and some expert advice at the non-profit organisation Right to Move. I also purchased a few lights on Ebay for $1.89.

Vacation (10%)

I sublet my room for two months (June & July) to travel across Canada and the U.S. in an attempt to raise awareness and build connections for JoatU, the Jack of all Trades Universe. This system is a trade, barter and exchange platform for those wanting to offer their goods and services to other in exchange for other types of compensation besides money. The real difference is the point system. If you help out your community by offering a free public class, planting a community-accessible garden, or doing some other offering of public value, you are rewarded with Community Action Points (caps for short) which you can trade with others and spend with participating local businesses.

We traveled over 9000 miles costing $1092.46. Most of this money went directly towards gas, the remaining towards paying for food. I traveled with aspiring pop sensation Johnny Coull and we were able to find accommodations through Couchsurfing.org and our network of friends all across Canada and the U.S.

Juan is a wonderful story told through song.

Couchsurfing.org is a fantastic way to share experiences with all kinds of people throughout the world, but it should not be regarded as solely a free place to sleep. In fact, that type of thinking over the years has significantly lowered the value of Couchsurfing for potential hosts who are seeking a mutual exchange.

Fun / Vices (3%)

My most expensive vice is coffee, attributing to about 2% of my yearly cost of living. From buying the almond milk to make delicious mochas, to going out and sharing a drink with friends, it adds up. Coffee is a part of my morning ritual and I love it. And I absolutely refuse to change it.

If you are drinking coffee often, making it at home can save you time (if your coffee machine has an automatic timer), and buying the beans in larger quantities will save you money. If you insist on buying your coffee on-the-go, there are places where you can find a cup of java for under $2 which will make a huge difference if you’re regularly paying $3-$6 for specialty beverages. You can always splurge once in awhile as a gift to yourself, but remain conscious.

I don’t smoke cigarettes but if I did, they would be a huge financial drain. But let’s say you do smoke, and looking for alternatives.

The first best would be to quit altogether, but I’ve heard nothing but outstanding reviews for Allen Carr’s The Easy Way.

You could also try creating your own incredibly inexpensive smoking mix, roughly 10% the cost of cigarettes. You could drop by Alchimiste en Herbe and pick up a smoking mix or construct your own! Personally, I’d recommend a mix of rose, coltsfoot, raspberry, damiana, and mint.

I also don’t drink, but if you do, and you don’t want to stop anytime soon, brewing your own beer could be a cost-efficient alternative.

As a society, we are in desperate need of more open and non-commercial spaces for people to gather. The social pressure to spend money in an establishment diminishes the authenticity of the invitation in my opinion. I do not like feeling pressured to spend money when I go out, and I love being able to offer that out when it comes to my personal cohabitation experiment. We also have an open-door policy for those wanting to create collaboratively, share openly, or lend a hand in beautifying our space.

Other ways I enjoy having fun are through playing harmonica (a $30 instrument) and most recently with devil sticks ($30) and they last for years. A movie here and there, a bit of online splurging, a few concerts and art shows and voila. There are loads of free activities throughout the city. Concordia’s ‘University of the Streets Cafe’ is a great example of a wonderful way to pass an evening and converse with some incredibly interesting and engaging people.

My total cost towards ‘fun’ came to $239.04.

Health (3%)

I have spent $314.67 on my health over the past year. A portion towards dental, another towards travel insurance and the rest was miscellaneous. I don’t use shampoo, only soap. Here’s a way you can stop using shampoo.

Also, be sure to take care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing daily will keep your dental bills low. A healthy mouth is a key element to a healthy body. And sunscreen! Some places you just don’t want to skimp!

Vibrational Meditation with Gong The Planet at the Open Mind Festival in 2013.

There are a lot of ways to stay healthy. Regular exercise, meditation, walking, etc. If you love your rock climbing, you’re going to have to pay for it, but if your health habits are simpler and you have the space for it, you can take care of your body and mind for next to nothing.

Communications (5%)

Break a phone, buy a new one. I splurged on some fancy new tech and it cost me, but buying used off of Craigslist saved me some cash. If you’re looking for affordability, you have your options. Fongo is a free wifi phone line in Canada. If you want connectivity on a cell phone tower but want it for as little as possible, you can check out Koodo’s Pay-as-you-go plans. $15/month will get you texting, and if you buy the boosters, you get calling at 5c/minute and internet at $30/gig. If you’re a light user or nearly always at home or work, that could go a long way.

JoatU (8%) eats up a significant portion of my life, my current earning potential, and a part of my financial capital. In the past year, I have attended conferences, printed flyers, business cards, booklets and bought office supplies. For the time being, these costs are coming out of my pocket.

Conclusion

You might be saying to yourself, “I could never do this,” but here’s what I told myself before I set my own budget of $12000: I can do this.

Ask yourself: Is your life revolving around the people you love or the bills you have to pay for the stuff you don’t really need?

Life is a game and it’s up to you how you want to play it. Are you a player or are you being played? A lot of this comes down to the responsibilities you have to others, your personal priorities and how you ultimately want to live your life. The fact that I have surrounded myself with active and conscious individuals striving to build a model for community is incredibly motivating.

An atypical marriage at Coop Sur Genereux with friends and family!

If you want to learn to live better for less, the first step is wanting to. When you’re ready, create a budget for yourself and know that it’s okay if you overspend. Budgeting is an experiment. Just knowing how you spend your money will help you become more conscious about it and that will help you tremendously. Have a wonderful 2015 and may we all do our best to consume less!

Please support my goal in achieving a basic income and helping my community by contributing a monthly pledge.

Jamie Klinger — Founder of JoatU, member of Coop Sur Genereux. Community Organizer, Entrepreneur, Writer, Photographer, Marketer, Poker Coach and Rebel with a Cause.

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Grass to Gardens : JoatU’s Community Initiative

JoatU : Grass to Gardens ioby campaign

love.joatu.com  Grass to Gardens Initiative

The community is everything.  Absolutely everything.  JoatU wouldn’t even be an idea if not for the concept of community.

So what better way to reach out to the community than to plant vegetable gardens in their front yards?  Food brings people together, we know this.  So let’s plant the seeds (literally) to bring people together!

C/O Cycle Alimenterre

C/O Cycle Alimenterre

JoatU has enlisted the help and support from Coop Sur Genereux, a cooperative home in Plateau Mont-Royal of eleven years to help organize this great feat.  We will be planting a series of raised-bed boxes that will be overflowing with fresh produce to be shared by land owners and volunteers.

We have also gathered some permaculture experts from Valhalla & Cycle Alimenterre to help lead educational workshops and to help create beautifully crafted vegetable boxes.

And on top of all this, we have already raised over $2000 thanks to Coop Sur Genereux, JoatU, and the Neighborhood2Neighborhood grant!  Help us raise the rest to get our project up and running!  For every dollar we raise, the grant will double it!  So every donation really counts!

Our next steps are getting community donations, finding the supplies we need, the yard space to plant in, and the volunteers to help make this happen in spring 2015

Can you help with any of the following materials?  Or are you interested in volunteering in some way?  Click Contact and let us know!

Space to work
Soil
Compost
Wood (12ft 2×8 or scrap)
Table Saw
Drills
Truck (for delivery)
Shovels
Wheel Barrel
Seedlings
Seeds
Chicken Wire
Irrigation Tubing
Timers
Perlite
Level
PVC Piping
Mesh
Soil Rake

Want to learn more about JoatU?  Enjoy this interview I just did with Valhalla!

People’s Social Forum 2014 : Space for Change

The People’s Social Forum is a “critical public space aimed at fostering activist involvement of individuals and civil society organizations that want to transform Canada as it exists today.”

Amassing over 3000 participants with over 500 unique workshops, the PSF held the space for social change in a brilliant fashion. One of the most under-acknowledged successes of the Occupy movement was the physical space in which it was held. It was an agora, a public space for discussion and philosophizing where its participants were conscious that their space was safe and held with their collective interests in mind.

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Our relationship with space and property are complex to say the least. Ottawa (as well as most of, if not all of, Canada) is on unceded Native American territory. The contracts that were forced upon the Natives have largely been decreed illegal. If you’re interested in your Canadian history of colonization, I highly recommend Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance.

I humbly thank the organizers and participants for allowing us to meet freely throughout the beautiful campus of the University of Ottawa, and to talk about all of the issues as we saw fit.

 

So much of the value comes not just from the knowledge brought through the workshops, but through networking with our comrades across Canada with whom we can share our opinions, ideas and experiences.

 

Now let me credit some workshops:

 

The first talk of the day was hosted by the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, an absolute beast of an organization that helps support community economic development throughout Canada by providing resources and assistance (I realize that description is quite vague, but their vastness is a bit imposing).

 

Fair Vote Canada are pushing for an alternative to first-past-the-post voting (for example, the alternative vote).

 

I left the “Marx was Right” (unrelated, but fantastic article) talk after ten minutes of meaningless rhetoric. The speaker was no Richard Wolff.

 

Solidarity Halifax knocked it out of the park with their talk. Having a group that stands together with those who need it most is of unmitigated importance towards building a unified left in Canada

 

Post-Capitalist Futures with prolific author Richard Swift, inspiring no-nonsense author Errol Sharpe, and Bob Thomson of Degrowth Canada was another phenomenal talk.

 

Economic Democracy for the 21st Century with author & professor Tom Malleson was another wonderful opportunity to learn about the keys necessary to help reach our goals of a fairer future.

 

And author Pierre Ducasse spoke about economic democracy, shouting from the rooftops that all of the issues we fight for are symptoms of a rigged economy and that, to create sustaining change, we must fight for a fair economy (which is exactly what we’re doing with JoatU).

 

Overall, the event was incredible on several levels. By holding space, the People’s Social Forum allowed for experiences of all kinds to take place, including yours truly expressing himself at a poetry slam and taking part in a healing workshop discussing the role of touch in society.
I am feeling refreshed, inspired and ready to change the world. And with your support, we will do just that.

What I learned at the HopeX Hacker Conference

HopeX is the tenth anniversary of the Hope (Hackers of Planet Earth) conference.  A ‘hacker’ in this context refers to “someone who is curious and creative, who seeks to understand how things work, especially complicated systems.” (HopeX FAQ)

Undoubtedly, when you put together two thousand curious and creative minds, you can get some impressive results.

Not Your Typical “Buy!  Buy!  Buy!” Conference  Booths  

Not all conferences are created equal.  Some of them are endless vender booths selling useless wares.  HopeX did everything right in this regard.  The booths were primarily knowledge-based, non-profit focused, and DIY promoting.  From lock-picking sets, to the EFF  (Electronic Frontier Foundation), to a $999 Bitcoin ATM w/Skyhook, to the ACLU  (American Civil Liberties Union), to a logo removal service, every booth and attending presenter drew us in with valuable and intriguing information . .

The Specialized Talks

What more could you ask for?  From the hyper-specialized to the broadly generalized, there were talks for all types of hackers.  I  was fortunate to have had the opportunity to give my presentation on community-based economics via the You Track; an appropriate match for JoatU as these were  self-organized talks in a more intimate community-oriented venue.  And then there were the 5-minute lightning talks too!  What a great way to hear a fast-paced succinct presentation.  Information overload (in a good way)!

The Community is Strong in This One

The talks in between the talks really emphasized the value of this conference.  Being able to meet with so many curious people can really fill you with inspiration.  I received a lot of great feedback about my project from all kinds of people living all over the world; I couldn’t be happier.

The volunteers, the everyday attendees, and the humble speakers were the perfect trifecta  for a nearly perfectly executed conference.

Ten Interesting Takeaways 

10) If someone is overdosing on cocaine, get them to overdose on valium until paramedics arrive!  It could save their life.* (Bringing Down the Biological System: How Poisons Hack the Body – Jennifer Ortiz)

 

9) While science is great for solving certain problems, to think that it can solve all the problems all the time is just plain dumb. (Solve the Hard Problem – Gillian (Gus) Andrews)

 

8) Sometimes going with the moral decision (John Locke) can destroy your economy. (Hacking Money, from Alexander the Great to Zerocoin – Finn Brunton)

 

7) If you flash a rainbow colored LED penis to the audience, they’re going to have a hard time regaining focus.

 

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Also, it’s important we recognize our biases, be respectful of people’s boundaries (e.g. Don’t touch!) and do everything we can to destroy the rape culture that we exist within! (The Sex Geek as Culture Hacker – Kristen Stubbs)

 

6) Self-Publishing will be more work, but it can really pay off.  Not to mention, you are in control of your own content which is especially valuable if you’re using this content to teach. (Self Publishing Success – John Huntington) *Full Talk*

 

5) A lot of talks spoke about the need for user-friendly cryptography.  Minilock is incredibly simple-to-use file encryption software (Usable Crypto – New Progress in Web Cryptography – Nadim Kobeissi)

 

4) We are closer than you can imagine to smart spaces.  A room that can sense how many people are in it and adjust the air conditioning automatically.  Or to know how many chairs are in there to better plan your Edward Snowdon talk.  There is technology that can let the environment (or others) be informed that you exist and you can choose to share more or less information depending on who they are.  The tech will be ubiquitous and as popular as barcodes in a decade or two (or less?).  I’m interested to see where this can go and to live in smart environments with Reelyactive. (YouTrack – Reelyactive – Jeff Dungen)

 

3) The Repair Movement is making a resurgence as being tested and applied in real life by numerous innovative individuals and groups.  When Sandra Goldmark rented a storefront and opened the doors to repairing broken objects, she brought with her some of her own broken objects just in case it was a slow first day.  It wasn’t.  The business, while not hugely profitable, has thus far been sustainable! On top of this, we have the transition towns movement which are working to bring our communities into the 21st century with permaculture practices and JoatU (my project) working to link it all together! (The Repair Movement – Sandra Goldmark; Michael Banta; Vincent Lai; Miriam Dym; Tiffany Strauchs Rad)

 

2) According to Robert Steele, an inordinate amount of conspiracy theories are conspiracy facts.  As an outsider with a limited amount of information it’s tough to know which ones, but it seems clear that more than we initially acknowledge have hidden information.  Go figure.  On a more positive note, he is an extremely strong supporter of the open-source movement and proposed that the CIA use a more open methodology for information gathering.  He obviously doesn’t work there anymore.  Read more about his open source revolution. And one of the biggest reveals he made, he expects the US to stand up and say no more when the pedophilia rings and sex-slavery intertwined in US government are revealed. (Spy Improv: Ask me Anything – Robert Steele)

 

1) ‘We need to know how governments act to know how much we need to scrutinize their actions.’  It only makes sense that to be a fair judge, the citizens need to be informed.  Forget the fact that the public education system is a joke, on top of that, the most damning evidence that breaks the US constitution is held in secret.  This is an unacceptable practice in a democracy. (A Conversation with Edward Snowdon)

Summary

All in all, I came away with a wonderful experience, new friends, great knowledge and about 42 pairs of Trip Glasses.

*Information taken from a HopeX talk does not guarantee results and encourages independent research.