Saving Money Versus Risking Safety
There are may things that my husband and I do to save money that we don’t mind doing. For instance when I bake our own bread or desserts instead of buying pre-packaged. I don’t mind the time it takes, and it often tastes better. So that choice is a no-brainer.
Other times the choice isn’t so obvious and we choose to check some things and discuss before we make a decision. One such choice was replacing our modern bottled cleansers with such products as baking soda and vinegar. There was a learning curve to that one. What natural products should we use on which surfaces? Did we trust their anti-bacterial and cleansing properties as much as we trusted the others? Would visitors to our home believe it was dirty if it lacked the familiar smell of bottled cleansers – and did we mind if they did? In the end we almost always choose in faor of the home-made and natural and inexpensive.
But not always. There is one question with the possibility of stopping our cost saving measures in their tracks: “Is It Safe?” Because sometimes the answer to that is “No”. That is a tricky question to ask, though. For instance, store-bought chicken vs home-raised chicken. If one believes that store-bought chicken in its styrofoam container and plastic wrap is 100% sterile, then to that person a home-processed bird would not appear safe to eat. But if you truly know the conditions under which that store-bought bird was raised, butchered, and packaged, then you realize that a pasture raised, home butchered bird is at least just as safe, possibly more safe. So we have to understand not just what we want to do, but also understand what it is replacing, before we can make an educated decision about whether the new way is “safe”.
Sometimes it is personal knowledge that makes the difference between something being safe or unsafe. For instance, it is safe for me to make my own plumbing repairs, but not safe for me to make my own electrical repairs. That is based solely on the knowledge and skills I have aquired, and for other people it may be the other way around.
Other times neither choice is exactly safe, so it comes down to weighing the risks. Like for our current trip to the Philippines, we were faced with a choice between willing exposure to the new bacteria and viruses in the Philippine environment, vs the risks inherent to vaccines that can prevent the diseases. Neither choice is completely safe, and in this example we ended up taking a middle ground rather than strictly one or the other. We researched the whole list of possible Philippine diseases (and recommended vaccines) to learn which ones were actually present in the part of the Philippines we would be visiting. Then we considered the chances of infection, and from that the chances of an extreme reaction. We considered the cost of medical care should we actually contract any of those infections in any of their forms. And we looked up efficiency rates for the various vaccines. In the end we chose a middle ground, receiving some vaccines for some diseases, and deciding against others. In those cases, we paid some money up front to be vaccinated in the expectation of saving money (and avoiding physical and mental trauma) in the end.
One theme you will see repeated over and over in this post is that we can *choose* between two or more choices. We make choices to spend less money. We choose which cleaners to use. We decide where our chicken will come from. We have the ability to call an electrician to fix electrical issues. We have the choice to pay for vaccines or not.
And while I write this post in the Philippines, I am blatantly reminded that many people don’t have those choices.
You see, we rode to church this morning in a vehicle intended to seat five people. Two bucket seats in front (gearshift in between), one bench seat in back, and a small cargo area behind. In the USA, that vehicle would be driven by one or two adults, who would pick up one or two children from daycare, and use it to put a few bags of groceries in the back. If the family needed to transport five people on a regular basis, they would purchase a bigger vehicle. If the family had more than five people, they would not even own this vehicle.
We rode to church as part of FOURTEEN people in that vehicle. Four in the front seat, four in the back seat, and six in the cargo area. The driver sat with his two year old son next to him, and changed gears by reaching around the child. The passenger held her 8 year old nephew in her lap. My husband and I sat in back with two women; as there was not enough room for all our hips to fit next to each other, one of the women and I scooted forward with our knees against the seats in front. In the cargo area five adults and another child squeezed in, pressed against each other and against the sides of the vehicle. This is simply their normal method of getting to church on Sunday morning.
You see, for them there is no *choice*. They do not have the ability to choose between putting their 2 year old son in a carseat or not. They do not have the ability to choose to drive a second or different vehicle. There is no option for seatbelts when people are packed in so tightly. This is simply what they have, and they make it work the best they can. Even making multiple trips is not a possibility due to the expense of gas. Walking is even less safe. Not going is unthinkable, for religious reasons as well as the fact the driver is the pastor and if he would not arrive at church he would have no paycheck at all. So everyone gets loaded into the one vehicle they have and off they go.
What choices would we make if we had no choice? If I had no money to hire an electrician, would I go without electricity or would I, somehow, learn to fix it myself? Would I risk fixing it without proper knowledge if it meant the difference between some light or no light at all? If I had no money for store-bought chicken (or had no way to get to a store), I am sure the prospect of not eating would affect how many chickens I raised each year. If I had no money to vaccinate myself against a disease I thought was a real risk, would it affect what I did or where I went? Or would I simply hope there would be a way to treat me if I did contract that disease? Low-cost and no-cost disease treatment is often available, but by no means accessible, comprehensive, or comfortable.
I “save money” because I can. Other people “don’t spend money” because they don’t have it. Quite a difference.
I am not sure how to wind up this post. Take from it what you will. And by all means, leave a comment with your thoughts.