I’ve been advocating for a long time that we would all benefit by being more mindful of our spending habits. Often, this is in regard to being more frugal and freeing up funds in a rough economy. But, this post will focus on a different reason why being mindful of our spending habits is important. Every time we spend our money, we are voting with our dollars.
Contrary to popular belief, neither of the two major political parties alone are to blame for the rough state of our economy. They are both bought and owned by corporate and industry interests. Get rid of the illusion that voting one party out and the other party in will fix anything. Both parties are firmly owned by corporations, and all players are beholden to the bankers, specifically the privately-owned Federal Reserve.
Now, I could go on about what the government, corporate and industry interests, and the bankers have done, about the bailout scams and the failed stimulus. However, that information is already all over the Internet. I’m more interested in answering this question: how do we fix it?
And yes, WE need to fix it. Government isn’t going to fix it. They helped cause it! They have enabled the corporations and bankers to do what they have done through enacting regulations that benefit corporations and banks. We need to stop looking to government for a solution, because each time we do, all we get is new regulations that benefit corporations and banks.
I believe a large part of the solution lies in our spending habits. This is probably no where more true than in our food and personal care choices. A lot of people think they are being responsible shoppers, gravitating towards “natural” and “organic” brands, and making an effort to seek out items made here in the USA. We try to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup and strange additives that would require a degree in Chemistry to understand. We try to avoid excess packaging and spend our money with responsible companies.
Well, here’s some bad news. Odds are, many of the brands that have made their way into our homes under the guise of being the responsible choice have been bought out by large corporations. Check out this article from Organic Consumers. Brands like Tom’s of Maine, Burt’s Bees, and Kashi have all sold out to corporate giants like Clorox and Colgate-Palmolive. Rather than compete with these brands, corporations just bought them out. So, if you had any designs on not supporting the Corporatocracy by voting with your dollars, you might want to double check which brands your using and who owns their company.
But do we have no alternatives? Of course we do!
- Produce more yourself
- Source food direct from local farms
- Shop your local craft and artisan shops
- Do your banking locally
- Pay in cash
Yes, you can produce a lot of your own food and personal care products at home. If you knit, crochet, weave, spin, or sew, you can even produce some of your own clothing. You absolutely can make your own sugar and salt scrubs, dry shampoos, jams & jellies, baked goods, and so on. If you can keep chickens or goats (or even a small cow), you can produce your own eggs, milk, and cheese. You can eliminate a lot of costs associated with living by learning to cook, do, make, repair things yourself. If you have access to wood and a wood stove, you can provide your own heat and cooking fuel. Hmm…. sounds a lot like typical homesteading skills to me!
If you cannot produce something yourself, a very common problem in cities and suburbs, locate your local farmers. It’s November right now, and up here in the Northeast, there isn’t much growing. But, you can start making your contacts for next year, locating a CSA farm, farmstand, and farmers’ markets. You can make inquiries as to who sells a half a cow, a half a pig, or perhaps a whole lamb. You can locate your local orchards ahead of time for next year. (If you have the space for a garden, pick up some gardening books and start planning your own backyard food source.)
Shopping your local crafts persons and artisans… yes, I can already hear it, that will cost more. Yes, it most likely will. However, if you have been frugal in other areas of your life, you should be able to afford to put some money back into your community, instead of sending it over to China via some Big Box store for some item that will probably break in 6 months anyway.
You can take a significant amount of money out of this corrupt system by choosing to spend your money locally, or even by not spending it at all. Yes, that means a lot of minimum-wage retail jobs would be lost, but that really doesn’t mean a hill of beans. By supporting locals crafts people and artisans, you are supporting businesses with jobs that actually make something. Which would you rather support- a job where something is manufactured here in this country, or a mind-numbing job where someone rings all your cheap imports through the register? (Yes, I’ve done that job, and it is pointless and mind-numbing.)
Finding a small, local bank can be challenging, but most places have credit unions that have more obligations to their membership. In one of the OWS protests, a bunch of people mobbed a CitiBank in order to all close out their accounts. Really, that’s unnecessary. If you feel the bank you currently do business with doesn’t represent your values, just close your account. You do not need a bunch of your friends to go with you to do it with you and make a big show of it.
And finally, please pay with cash. Every time you used a debit card (or even worse, a credit card), you are supporting the very banks that took our money in the bailouts. The government doesn’t produce any of it’s own money. Government money is TAX money that you and I pay. It’s OUR money that bailed out the banks. We really do not need to assist them any more through transaction fees each time we want to make a purchase. If you are buying from a local merchant, wouldn’t you already want that small business to be able to keep as much of the profits as possible? If you use your debit or credit card, you’re obligating some of your purchase price to be paid to the banks.
You absolutely can vote with your dollars. It may be the most important form of voting we have. I urge you to examine your spending habits. Are in line with your values? Do your spending habits support freedom, a strong local economy, and the environment? If not, give it some thought over this holiday shopping season. To help you out, over the next couple of months, I’ll be posting a lot of DIY projects to help you along the way.