Consumer Culture

5 questions to ask before starting a shopping ban Taking a stance against our consumer culture is a challenge, which is why you'll need rules to live by.

Over the past year, I've written about four different women who have implemented shopping bans in their personal lives. Cait Flanders, Michelle McGagh, Mrs. Frugalwoods, and Ann Patchett are all frugally-minded individuals who came to the sensible conclusion that buying less stuff is key to spending less money. Then they took it one step further by implementing rules in their lives to curb spending, a.k.a. the shopping ban.

This idea fascinates people for many reasons, not least of which is the rebellious nature of it. To reject the status quo, to step away deliberately from a society steeped in consumerism, and opt for what many would view as a form of asceticism, is mind-boggling. But I think people are intrigued mainly because they wish they could do it, too. Consumer debt is higher than ever; people are struggling to pay down sky-high mortgages, maxed-out credit cards, and lines of credit. They're drowning and do not know how to get out of it.

We should look to these women for guidance. Their experiences prove that another path is possible, even fulfilling. You can get back on track, reverse your personal debt, declutter your home, save money for things that really matter, if you are willing to change your habits.

In order to do all of this, a shopping ban is a good place to start. It's the equivalent of plugging a leak before trying to clean up the mess. And I suspect that all of these women would tell you start in the exact same place, since this is what they've all referenced in their own stories: MAKE A LIST.

The creation of a "do not buy" list -- or make it a "things you can buy" list, if you prefer -- is imperative. This will be your guide through thick and thin. Here are some questions to ask yourself when making this list:

1) What do your bank statements say about your spending habits?

Take a hard and close look at your spending habits. Bank and credit card statements are helpful for this. If you use a lot of cash, track every dollar you spend. This will reveal a lot about where you spend money. Look for patterns. Do you have a $100/month takeout coffee habit? Do you go out with friends and end up spending far more on alcohol than intended? Are you surprised your grocery bill is so large? Are there certain things you crave and cannot resist?

2) What does your house say about your spending habits?

Look around the house. What do you buy on a regular basis? Is your wardrobe bursting with new clothes, labels still on? Are there weekly deliveries of fresh flowers on the table? Do you pay someone to do chores that you could potentially do yourself, like mowing the lawn, doing laundry, buying groceries, or cleaning? Do you feel panicky unless you have the latest model iPhone? There's not necessarily anything wrong with choosing to spend money on these things if they add value to your life, but often we find ourselves spending money on things out of habit, without analyzing them critically.

DO A WASTE AUDIT. See what is in your trash can. Everything in there has presumably been purchased by you or a family member and represents money spent. Find out where your (quite literally) disposable income is going.

3) What have you regretted buying in the past?

This excellent tip comes via Wise Bread (from which I got the inspiration for this post) [see below]. Examine your feelings of buyer's remorse:

"Have you made any purchases in the last few months that you regretted later? Write them down and see if you notice a pattern. Whatever the pattern is, figure out a rule that will help you break it. Maybe you need to stop buying clothes, like Patchett did, or refuse to shop when you're angry."

4) What do you need to survive?

Figure out all the "can't-live-without" expenses. These will be rent or mortgage payments, food, utilities, insurance, transportation, etc. Depending on your profession and interests, there may be other 'necessities'; for me, a gym membership would be on this list, as it's both a physical and social outlet for me. Know that you may need to replace things that break. For Cait Flanders, this was perfectly acceptable. She allowed herself to buy "consumable goods, as well as anything essential or that needed to be replaced." The key is to be realistic about what's allowed and what's not. You want to be happy, as well.

5) How much do you want to save?

Having a bigger goal in mind, beyond that of spending less, is helpful. Is there something you're working toward, such as paying down all debts or saving a set amount for a down payment on a house? As frugality blogger Mr. Money Mustache has explained, spending less has an often-overlooked dual benefit:

How a Simple "Do Not Buy" List Keeps Money in Your Pocket

Wise Bread covers credit cards, personal finance, frugal living

Curing 'affluenza' needs to become a cultural priority We need to train ourselves not to love buying new stuff so much.

Consumerism and materialism are not the same thing, according to Richard Denniss. The author of "Curing Affluenza: How to buy less stuff and save the world" argues that, if consumerism is about the love of buying things, then materialism is the love of things themselves.

Consumerism, on the other hand, is a relatively new cultural shift that has proven to be highly addictive -- and dangerous. From an environmental perspective, it's absurd to be using precious resources to generate products that are only used temporarily. (Think water bottles, Styrofoam takeout containers, umbrellas for emergency downpours, single-night outfits.) From a financial perspective, it's an enormous waste of money to be shopping constantly and a straight shot to debt. Psychologically, it is unnatural to override humankind's natural and historic inclination toward thriftiness, not to mention mentally exhausting always to be craving the next thing.

"...consumer culture's pseudo-democratic claim that satisfying consumers' every desire was the equivalent of universal justice and fairness. By analyzing and weaving together the export, to Europe, of chain stores, big-brand goods, corporate advertising and PR, the Hollywood star system, the supermarket, and the ideal of the wife as "Mrs. Consumer," de Grazia makes us see the incremental yet sweeping success of consumer culture abroad" (Susan J. Douglas. "Our Favorite Books of 2005." The Progressive, Dec. 2005: 46).

Slavehood 2017 By Peter Koenig [an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America.] May 04, 2017 "Information Clearing House"

When in the 18th and 19th Century African slaves did not ‘behave’, they were cruelly beaten sometimes to death as a deterrent for others. They were deprived of food for their families. Their women were raped. They were traded to even harsher white masters. Their lives were worth only what their labor could produce. They were treated as subjects, devoid of human warmth.

Today we have become all slaves; slaves to the powers of mafia bankster of finance; slaves to the western lie-propaganda; to the lobbies and their giant all dominating corporations – to the war-industry, because we happily believe what we are told about ever-increasing terrorism that needs to be fought with eternal wars; slaves to the environment-destructive hydrocarbon industry; to the pharma-industry; to the Monsanto-ized agroindustry; to senseless consumerism – and foremost – and summing it all up: to greed, endless greed that drives endless growth, nurturing endless competition fomenting adversity, destroying solidarity, instead of amical cooperation for a harmonious human cohabitation.

As people of western nations, we are enslaved to an all-engulfing neoliberal fascism – to a predatory economy. Corporate lie propaganda drip-feds our brains. We haven’t even noticed it. We are enslaved to so-called ‘leaders’, put in office by obscure foreign masters of deceit – the ever-stronger corporate controlled propaganda machine – the six all controlling Zion-Anglo media, whom we believe whatever lie they vomit – because it is more comfortable to believe a lie than to confront the truth – that’s self-imposed slavehood.

That’s how far we have gone. Because we are clearly on an almost irreversible downward track – sliding and running towards our own demise – into darkness – the darkness of chaos and bloody wars, endless wars against self-invented terrorism; wars that keeps our western economy running – and our armchair politics alive. Wars that kill and slaughter millions and millions – but all in ‘far-away’ lands. We are told we are protected. Our police and military watch over us. The new gods – money and military.

Although ‘pride’ was never an appropriate term to integrate our soul and minds, as we the western powers – have for centuries enslaved, raped, exploited and slaughtered the indigenous people, those who have for millennia, for history of mankind survived and passed on our human genes from one murderous civilization to another, always in the hope that the new one would see the light.

We can only hope that the patience of these native people, the survivors, our saviors – will prevail, that before we disappear in darkness, in the void of a manmade blackhole, we will awake, open our eyes and seek the light – become finally human, the term we have fraudulently applied to ourselves – the western civilization.

Independent thinking has become a crime, as it impedes the advancement of slavehood. Education is designed to kill individual thinking and the wide range of inventiveness – because it’s dangerous – for those who enslave and control us. ‘New-speak’ education has to make us thinking what the system wants us to think. That’s what western education has become in the last 50 years – a farce to keep us as non-thinking idiots.

Idiots are easily enslaved and exploited and sent to wars – to steal foreign resources to satisfy the greed of a few. We love to be cannon fodder, as we were told – enslaved – to believe that good patriots love to die for their country. We are blinded and avoid seeing that we are dying fighting to satisfy puppet leaders’ greed for power and money – whose power is nothing more than that allowed them by the Masters who control the world and who pull the strings on their marionettes.

Colby Glass, MLIS