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I have a strange confession to make; I have turned into quite the non-consumerist, in fact I have spent less than twenty dollars on myself since the first of the year.
That's right, less than two ten dollar bills! We are nearly at the end of the first quarter of 2011 and all I have purchased for personal use (not counting food and basic consumables like deodorant and facial tissue) is the following:
I am calling this new aspect of our more simple lifestyle *Adventures in Non-Consumerism*. We are feeling decidedly counterculture about this.
Have you ever been in the middle of catching a game on TV over the weekend or snuggled in for a movie night with your family (picture a Hallmark holiday classic here) and suddenly noticed the sheer volume of advertisements? Maybe the game goes to commercial for what seems like the hundredth time and it hits you you've seen that car ad several times...just today, and it is an amazing car... Or maybe you are deeply involved in a pivotal scene of the movie and for the *umpteenth* time they cut to a "This special brought to you by_________ (fill in the blank)" and you realize you are now craving something you weren't earlier or for a split second there, you even questioned why you didn't already own one of those handy gadgets.
It dawns on you that you have been influenced in your own home by an advertising agency, that these companies spent millions of dollars to develop their ads in the first place and then millions to air them at the peak time that their prime audience would be a 'captive' one and most open to their influence.
Yes, it really is that insidious. Companies large and small invest an exorbitant amount in research, execution and display of their hopes and dreams for success, that, don't forget, depend in part on you, via the commercial delivery system.
I'd like to propose we cut the delivery system cord and disconnect from all of the undue influence. Our budgets, bottom lines and savings accounts will thank us!
Let me say here that I am not anti capitalist in my leanings.
I am grateful we live in a society that people with creative ideas can bring their inventions to market and become a success. We have the freedom to whip up the best cupcake recipe in the region, open up a little cake shop and become a cupcake maven through hard work and ingenuity.
Every company from the Mom & Pop grocers or diners to the trendy boutiques and high end clothing stores will need to employ some form of advertising to get discovered by their target markets; i.e. best customers. This is where we come in as consumers.
We either intelligently take in and consider their marketing, coupon offers and sales and respond deliberately with a plan, a budget and stick to our plan and budget escaping the oh so attractive traps of impulse sales at the cash register, clearance items that we have no real need for and up scaling the size of our food order for just $4.99 more, (such a value).
Or we don't. There really is no in between.
For businesses to thrive they must sell services and goods. For us to thrive we must selectively secure what we need and no more, living below our means.
They will sell to the masses; we buy for our family what is right for us. It is not our responsibility to keep the economy afloat.
In our Adventures in Non-Consumerism there are a few actions we have adopted to help us in our fight to keep us a financial success even as the businesses that seek our patronage pursue separating us from our money:
We have turned off the TV. Seriously.
We were under attack from the advertising monster and the only thing we could do to shrink him down to size was to cut the cable. Without the constant barrage of ads telling us what we needed, should crave, must drink, must drive, must have, should want, should wear etc. we discovered the wants, the itchy *gotta go gets* left. Poof! Gone! Love that!!
It is very freeing, even empowering to shop and know that what you leave the store with is what you intended to get, the only exceptions are when we find a deal on a food item we use but weren't planning to eat this week, we choose to be flexible; if rice is what is on sale, we will be using rice in a recipe or three this week.
We cut all magazine subscriptions for very similar reasons to the above. Magazines add another layer though that is slick, very attractive and further lures you into a lifestyle. Chances are if you read a certain magazine you are predisposed to the lifestyle it portrays, meaning you are already drawn to the kind of world depicted in its content.
You are set up to respond to the ads within its pages, which is an ad agency dream.
You are in dangerous territory here, reader beware. When people purchase or subscribe to a magazine they usually spend more focused time in its pages than say if they scan through it looking for a great tips and articles while at the library. There is a related dissatisfaction with your own life that results from focusing on other's picture perfect ones.
A certain magazine that I used to subscribe to used the phrase "The Well Lived Life" and then showed the trappings, style, actual items owned by those they deemed as living that well lived life. I saw it for what it was one day and it made me sick.
Someone living a very simple, self sacrificing life to bring clean water to villages without any is living a well lived life; a couple sacrificing financially to get out of debt and save for their and their children's future is living their lives well in my estimation.
Having a certain quality of suit or a certain brand of watch or perfume does not add anything of lasting value to how we are living our lives. These are temporal things, brief highs from acquisition.
Take the power back and make your own choices, don't mindlessly read and adopt the prescribed attitude of lifestyle publications. Yes, I still enjoy flipping through a magazine at the library, but my thought process and detachment is so different now, I read with a critical eye for value, lasting value.
We have officially embraced the 30 day method of delaying gratification.
If we see something or think of something we really desire we sit on it for at least 30 days before revisiting the desire/need. Some things make the cut; my husband has further worn down his running shoes and it is obviously time for a good deal to come along. We start watching for a great deal online toward the end of the 30 days if it's apparent we are going to follow through on a purchase. That simple.
We have found books we really wanted at the library, read and re-read for free, no need to expend money or clutter up a shelf at home. We have held off on other things that I can't even remember what they were. A very good example of why they obviously didn't survive the 30 day test.
If you can't imagine doing this just try it, maybe start with sleeping on it, 24 hours later do you still want it? You delayed that long, can you wait a week? At the end of the week keep the game up, go for two or skip straight to the month. You are now in control, not your appetite or desire.
This can literally save you anywhere from hundreds to thousands a year.
A further trick that will literally up your savings immediately is if you were justifying a purchase, you have the funds to pay cash and you choose to delay and test your desire for the item, set aside the funds in a savings account for it. At the end of the 30 day window if you realize that your desire for the item has waned leave the funds in savings. Compounding interest even at a low rate is still working for you. What would the gadget do for you but cost you money and interest not earned?
I hope that you will explore the idea of becoming something of a non-consumerist.
As we've slowed our life down, simplified it and become more deliberate in our purchases we have felt more at peace, more free to really enjoy life.
We are patriotic, free enterprise system loving Americans; we are just choosing to be wiser and conscious about the part we play in the system.
How about you? Are you using any of these tactics to keep or take control of your financial life?
Have a few others you could share? We'd love to hear them!
Count Your Blessings
Do You Really Need It? 8 Expenses You Can Cut Out of Your Life
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Gena Smith (Ha Nui Loa)
G. Smith lives, creates and writes on an island about slower, more conscious, less consumerist living. You can find more of her and her ohana at http://www.hanuiloa.com/index.html. Or discover Ha Nui Loa's Go Slow life at www.letter.ly/GoSlow where for way less than the price of a gallon of gas you can learn more about slowing down and enriching your life, whether you live on an island or not!
Download Your Free Spending Journal
One key to managing your personal finances is having a firm grasp of where your money is spent each day.
Those daily 'incidental' expenses can really add up.
Maintaining a spending journal helps you to keep a watchful eye on your spending, giving you a chance to make changes to keep your budget on track.
Waiting 30 days (or any amount of time) to buy something is a great idea! My daughter's b-day is coming up, and she recently expressed a "I GOTTA have this!" interest in a particular item. So..we were going to rush out and get it. We didn't...and now that a few weeks have gone by, she doesn't even mention it anymore. Conincidentally, that item was made known to her via a magazine that is mailed to her once a month. I should really cancel that subscription. :) Sounds to me like we're in the hunt for a different (less expensive) b-day present.
Gena I love this! As you know, I have a very similar attitude as you on this which -- not so surprisingly -- came after I studied marketing and advertising in college. Once you realize that you're being manipulated by advertisers, it's easy to turn off the noise that is advertising. Once you see it for what it is, your entire worldview shifts. I know I'm sounding a bit dramatic here, but it's the truth.
"For businesses to thrive they must sell services and goods. For us to thrive we must selectively secure what we need and no more, living below our means."
This is a genius quote. We need to realize that businesses are doing what they need to in order to thrive. But we also need to realize that in order for US to thrive, we need to be diligent about our exposure to advertising, which in turn will help us live below our means and acquire what we actually need -- instead of what we're told we need.
Your 30 day rule is a super way to practice this way of living.
Great post as always! We have adopted this same mindset in the last year and it's really turned our lives around.
This line really struck a chord with me:
"It is not our responsibility to keep the economy afloat."
How real can you get? This is how people justify their over-spending and shopping splurges. For us, it had to stop. It was out of control and none of the things we were spending our money on were making our lives any happier.
Btw, loved this too:
"Someone living a very simple, self sacrificing life to bring clean water to villages without any is living a well lived life; a couple sacrificing financially to get out of debt and save for their and their children's future is living their lives well in my estimation."
Travis, So smart that you waited to purchase her must have item! You're probably right to cancel it and any catalogs coming to the house, we have found they so set up a crave for things. Things we technically don't need. We've been chewing on what it might mean if someone was very wealthy but not controlled by the constant craving of new and better. Could a wealthy person be set financially and live by the same principles; only buying what they need, when something truly needs replacing do it but not before. They could splurge on high quality and probably replace less often than the average person, thereby saving even more. One of our new goals is to get to that place again and make that quality of a decision so we are free to make a difference in lives.
Hey, Jenny, Love that you must have got the ultimate inside scoop on marketing while in school! The more I've researched the more sickened we became by the whole process. From clothing companies constantly pushing out new looks to make you feel compelled to comply or look super dated to the same from car manufacturers. We must not look like we bought our vehicles to last you know! ;) Thanks for the high compliment on that quote, maybe in our spare time a few of us should write a financial recommendations for real people book! It's so great that there are sites like this now to help people get back on their feet! And I agree, you are not being too dramatic about the shift in world view, our whole society needs it!
Marianney isn't it amazing how often we buy into the myth that a purchase will make us happy? We did for a long time on some level. It took awhile but that thought process is broken now, thank heavens! I couldn't help sharing about the whole living well thing because in popular culture it is so relevant and temporal. What is living well can be defined by what is poplular in movies, media, novels etc. it evolves without a true standard. We prefer to identify our own standard of what is excellence in living and live according to that credo or predetermined level. Its the old if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything scenario. If we don't take a stand on how to live with character in our lives and finances we'll fall for every other ad campaign and half the things in our favorite catalog. If we do have a standard of what we feel is acceptable financial behavior and we stick to it we rise above the *temptation* of the momentary high of the acquisition and we refuse to be moved by it. That's what we're aiming for, I think that you'll find a lot of those that participate in your Starfishers move will have a similar approach!
Adventures in Non-Consumerism--I like it!
Gena, I take a second look at everything I do these days and notice how media and advertising as affected my way of thinking. I used to get so angry or upset at my fiance because he wasn't being the way he was "supposed" to be according to tv and movies. When I realized that he had his own way of showing me that he loves me, I've learned to recognize that and it's made our relationship so much better!
I used to get free subscriptions to magazines years ago from expired airline miles and I used to get Harper's Baazar, W, and crap like that. I used to read these magazines and think I could know all there was to know about fashion (expensive fashion that i couldn't afford!) I started to buy so much crap and started to dress like a different person. One day I realized that it was the magazine making me want all those things and I stopped reading them. Now I wear jeans, tshirts and flip flops every day and I am back to being just me again and it's soooo much more comfortable too!
Jock, Thanks and nice to meet you!
Marianney, That is so wonderful that you figured out your fiancee's own "love language" everyone has one, how they tend to show love is often how they also want to be shown love, and it is seldom about money spent! My husband used to agonize over the perfect gift for me for birthdays and Christmas, I finally got through to him I would far rather do something with him or go somewhere with him, spending time with him not money was the thing. And I am so with you on the flip flops, its nice enough here I live in cotton skirts or capris and light tops and they call them slippahs here :)
I agree with you, ads are so enticing. I got rid of my televisions, and I have no subscriptions. I read books without any ads in them. :-). I find that I don't need or want half as much as I used to. I love the peace and quiet of not having the television on, it is so much more relaxing. Great post. Thank you for sharing.
My boyfriend used to work in advertising so when a commercial airs on TV, we mute it. He said the biggest factor used in advertising is fear. Fear that if you don't buy this product you won't fit in, or you'll be judged in some way. I've started to look at advertising that way and notice the fear factor in ads for items like anti-aging creams, or the newest phone, etc. And I can see how this really works on getting people to buy. Thanks for your post!
Thanks for reading and confirming the less we have the carrot dangling in front of us the less we want it! Glad to hear you've discovered the same! :)
If we ever choose to catch a cooking show or something on hulu we mute the ads too, that's one thing we really enjoy about not having cable; hardly any ads and so easy to mute those few. You are so right about the fear factor in advertising; from pharmaceuticals to tires, fear and desire for the perfect life shows up again and again! Thanks for sharing!
I think this is a bit of an over-reaction... using rhetoric like "it really is that insidious" and "You are in dangerous territory here, reader beware" make is sound like it one huge, evil conspiracy! Advertisers are just tying to what we all are trying to do, make a living, selling our product and skills. Do you know how talented and creative you have to be to work in advertising? This article seems to be throwing all of these wonderful people under the rug, and I think that is very offensive! Advertising is a good and necessary part of society, how else will people be able to sell their products? Sure, the 30 day rule is a good way of keeping yourself from buying worthless junk on a whim, but why would I stop reading a magazine watching a T.V. that I enjoy just because of annoying ads? Heck, in the magazines, I don't even look at the ads! Basically, I don't think its fair to slam the advertising industry just because you used to have a problem with your discernment in your purchases.