Saturday, March 29, 2008

In the Dark

On this Saturday evening, we're sitting at home in the dark to honor this event.

What are you up to?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Off Track

Okay, it's confession time...

As with many of my past New Year's resolutions, my attempts at change have lost steam over the past few weeks. I continued strong until about mid-February and then seem to have petered out.

While my awareness of not spending continues, I haven't been keeping track of it (in the calendar I designed at the beginning of the year). Also, in the essence of full disclosure, I have knowingly, consciously purchased items that, in my original post, I indicated I would not buy this year, namely two tote bags (one here and one here) and a candle. Hhhhmmmpphhh!

It seems this lifestyle change takes focus and energy - and lately both of those things have been occupied by other endeavors and life circumstances. Thus, the not-buying-it work has slid down on the totem pole of priorities.

However, I remain committed to this quest!

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Two good things of late:

1) My spending IS much more in line with my values. I continue to seek to purchase local and/or handmade goods as much as possible. I also focus my choices on things that are consumable and/or experiential (like a visit to this awesome museum); things that won't sit around and just collect dust.

When considering a purchase or a donation, I am asking myself, "Is this important to me? Is this worth the exchange of my hard work and life energy for this product?"

I have reduced the amount of catalogs I receive by participating in this great new web site. Also, I have requested to have my name removed from non-profit mailing lists for companies that are no longer in line with my values and vision for what I want the world to be.

2) I am happy to report that, other than our mortgage obligation (which happens to be at a great interest rate with less than 10 years to go), I am now DEBT FREE!

I have paid off my credit card balances! And I just opened a new savings account (my previous one was used up and closed when I was out of work last year). This is the one in which I plan to deposit the $600 rebate check I'll get from GWB in May.

So - all in all - my falling off the wagon so to speak hasn't been as dire as past failures at making lasting change (mainly diet and exercise!). It's just that, like anything else if life, it is a work in progress...with lots of learning along the way!

And your journey? How's it going? Please comment and let me know how you find yourself and your spending as we near the end of our first quarter together.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Our Primal Nature?

I often get epiphanies at very odd times - in weird places. As I was changing the sheets on our bed today, it occurred to me that, perhaps, the act of shopping is part of our primal nature.

Is our bent towards the acquisition of *stuff* a leftover genetic thing from our days of hunting and gathering?

Now that, for the most part, our survival needs are met and we don't have to hunt and gather for our basic needs any longer - have we replaced that urge with the shopping and spending that consume so much of our days?

I know I shop for security reasons. This has manifested itself quite clearly in the years since 9/11. Each winter since then I have hoarded a commodity of some sort. The first year it was toilet paper. Then it was cereal. Then it was boxes of tea. This past year or so it was canned goods.

A part of my psyche told me that if I had enough of "x" on hand things would be okay. All is right with the world as long as we have canned goods!

And that's where the hunter-gatherer thing comes in. While our ancestors had to spend the better part of their days working hard for food-shelter-clothing, we now have those things in abundance. And yet our genetics remain unchanged, which leaves us with the desire to continue to hunt and gather.

Who among us hasn't experienced the thrill of bringing home a desired object - or - felt the victory of the kill when finding a great bargain? I assert that these are similar feelings to the quest and subsequent celebration that existed years ago (and, of course, may still exist for those who live and struggle in other parts of the world) when the hunters were successful.

So, once again, I will attempt to lay down my bow and arrow. I will look at all that is gathered around me - the accumulation of years of working hard and exchanging my money and life energy for stuff - and resist the primal urge to hunt and gather. I will remind myself that what I have is more than enough - and that I am safe.

Well, right after I stop at the grocery store on the way home that is...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Get Happy Here!

That's what the sign says.

In fact, there are several of them proclaiming this message loudly in the windows of a business in downtown Dayton. I had to do a double take as I drove by. I was intrigued.





Ah....then the awful truth...

It's a tax refund anticipation loan place.


Needless to say, there's tremendous faulty logic behind this message. But, how many people realize that?

Read this article to learn that over 12.3 MILLION folks took advantage of such a loan in 2004! I'm sure that number is much, much higher this year.

There is a couple I know who barely make it through each month, depending on quick-fix deals like this. They borrow $150, only to owe back $176. They continue their addictions to alcohol and cigarettes, high long-distance phone and cable bills, video games, etc., relying time and time again on the paycheck advance folks to front them money when the rent is due, when the car needs gas, or when dental problems become almost life-threatening.

Tough stuff. Hard to listen and love, without judgment or chastising or trying to "fix" them.

In my mind, the world should be more like "It's a Wonderful Life", where the community rallies together to provide support for a beloved member who's fallen on bad times. But the way we've adapted to an every-man-for-himself, independent, don't-threaten-my-rights society - simply encourages the use of these kind of places, replacing the responsibility of community with the band-aid approach to just make it through the week.

Happiness? I'm all for it.

But not the kind that money brings.

And certainly, I'm Not Buying the message that it can be found in a tax refund loan place on Main Street in Dayton, Ohio.
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