“We are not consumers. We are people. We are not living to support the corporations. And yet, if you were to take an objective, outsider look at our society, it would seem that we are.” –Leo Babauta of Zen Habits (http://zenhabits.net/zen-to-done-the-simple-productivity-e-book/)
I remember as a kid I used to get so excited when I earned enough allowance to go buy a new toy. I would be ecstatic in the car on the way to the Meijer. I was literally building up the joy I would have once I had a new Barbie or new My Little Pony. I remember half-walking, half-running through the store to the toy isle and finding my treasured toy.
The moments that lead up to purchasing my new toy were invigorating, addicting even, like a drug!
But once I got home, I found myself bored with my new toy and would find something else to play with. That is what shopping does to us. It lures us in with enticing and strategic commercials that show us the body we should have, the clothes we have to have, the house we will go into massive debt over, and the endless, useless and unnecessary products we will ultimately buy and never use.
Such as the Snuggie! No one ever needs a Snuggie. Wear a bathrobe backwards, you’ll get the same effect!
After I decided to become a nanny I really had to take a look at not only how much I was purchasing, but who I was purchasing it from. I didn’t want my hard-earned dollars going towards a company that supported exporting manufacturing to lessen the cost of labour and materials.
I don’t believe any company should legally be able to employ children, grossly under pay employees, make employees work in a hazardous environment, or deplete our natural resources by means such as clear cutting precious forests.
With my new, low budget, I took on the task of researching companies, buying local and organic, and spending less. I didn’t need all of that stuff to begin with. Why was I buying a new pair of jeans when I had 8 pair at home? Why was I buying another new top, when I had dozens at home?
Because I felt as if I had to.
We’ve been raised, and not completely intentionally, by our family, friends, and society to be a consumer. We’ve been told to go to college, get a good paying job, get married, buy a house, and have 2.5 children. All the while, we’re supposed to spend our paychecks on needless items that will collect dust around our house, which is probably much bigger than we need in the first place.
I guess we need the space for all the stuff we buy?
I decided to purge my belongings. I had so many items, including bins full of crap at my parents’ house that I just didn’t need. I sold what I could, gave away what I couldn’t sell, and got rid of the rest. It was so liberating to get rid of my stuff. Though I still have one bin at my parents’ house full of items from my childhood. After purging, I could fit everything I owned into my, then, Ford Explorer!
There was an ulterior motive to purging my belongings; I wanted to get out of debt!
Getting out of debt meant freedom to me. Freedom from “The Man,” freedom to travel, and freedom from the guilt of being in debt. The person who inspired me to get out of debt was Adam Baker from Man vs. Debt. – http://manvsdebt.com/ I began my “Get out of debt” process by becoming anti-consumerism, and the second step for me was the debt tsunami.
The debt tsunami is Adam’s term where you tackle the debt that holds the most emotion for you. The debt that would lift the greatest weight off of your shoulders to create a ripple effect to pay off the rest of your debt.
What I didn’t realize is that I’m not the only person in the U.S. with $20,000 in debt between a credit card, student loan, and car loan. According to Creditcard.com, the average credit card debt per household is $14,750.
That’s what consumerism does to us. It makes us feel that we have to have something so bad that we go into debt because of it. The intoxicating rush of shopping quickly fads, which is why we do it so much. It is like any other addiction, it has its ups and downs. And like any other drug, it has its consequences… debt!
There are roughly 330 million people in the U.S. and yet there are 609.8 million credit cards held by U.S. consumers. The total U.S. consumer debt is $2.4 trillion according to creditcard.com. These numbers are outrageous and we need to take control of our buying habits.
While shopping we need to stop and ask ourselves, do I need this or do I want this? If it is not a need, then we must ask ourselves why we’re purchasing it? If you still want the item, put it back on the shelf and come back in a couple days. If you haven’t thought about the item during those days, you probably don’t need it.
Minimizing your purchases isn’t an easy task, but it is a necessary one.
The less stuff you have, the less you have to clean. The less stuff you purchase, the more money you have to do what you love. Whether it is traveling, hiking, rock climbing, sky diving, etc. The list is endless when you free yourself from stuff you don’t need.
Becoming anti-consumerist gave me the freedom to do what I love. Write, photograph, and travel with my boyfriend. What freedoms will anti-consumerism give you?
Written by Kates Bailey
View Kate’s profile here.