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Consumerism and the Environment: What Would Jesus Buy and Subsequently Throw Away?

posted by Nathalie Martin

Sorry, Morgan Spurlock, had to steal that one. One key to meaningful financial literacy education is that a person has to really care about something to work for it. If you take the time to let it sink in, people can see financial literacy education as a way to consciously choose a course of action that is counter to the prevailing culture of consumerism, and that gives them back their time and their lives. For some, this will resonate, especially younger people.

Yesterday, I was handed a free sample of a Starbucks mocha-something-or-other while in line at Target.  It was my first taste of Starbucks coffee.  I am too cheap for Starbucks. I don’t have cable T.V. I do not choose to live in a home resembling Hadrian's Villa, because I’d have to work at a different kind of job to do all that and don’t want to. These are the kinds of choices I want to help people make.

I used to have more expensive tastes, but realized that one thing they aren’t making any more is more hours in a day. It takes a lot of time to care for expensive stuff. Most things we buy will either end up (1) in our homes or offices where we must dust, move, organize, or otherwise take valuable time caring for, (2)in a landfill somewhere, or (3)in the used items market and then in someone else’s closet or home, after we paid retail for them. Since I don’t want to pay retail for something that ends up in someone else’s house, I see no alternative but to forego…even in the case of shoes.

Silliness aside, there is one thing I do care about and think about every time I open my wallet, namely the environment. Sure, a few people are still denying global warming, or saying there is nothing we can do about it, but not many. Here in the Southwest, plastic water bottles are becoming more of a threat to the environment than the water shortage itself. Feeling helpless about global warming? Do yourself a favor, pay your bank account, cut a couple of years off your work life, add several years to your life, and play a tiny part in cutting the waste that leads to global warming. That’s a bargain.

Since real estate is the most valued asset around today, why not preserve the value of that space, by cleaning out all the garbage and not replacing it with anything? If we have turned into a consumer nation, why not thumb your nose at it? Question conventional wisdom that credit equals freedom. Care enough to learn the inside scoop, the real cost. Dare to be different. Just say no to those who would let you use your human and social capital for trifles, those who would promote our overall economy through mass consumption at the expense of its parts.

So I finish with an optimistic though about financial literacy education. Trust me. If I can care about global warming, people can care about the future costs of credit, about learning about a good investment, about their kids’ college educations. I am optimistic that people can care about things worth caring about.

Thanks for the opportunity to blog.  Arrivederci!  J


"I see no alternative but to forego…even in the case of shoes."

One small nit, something that angered me when I first saw a similar comment years ago. You need to be careful to distinguish between true economy and false economy. Safety gear adds to the price of a car, but how many people would argue that going with the slightly older car that lacks air bags or anti-lock brakes is a prudent financial move? Athletic shoes are another example -- you can go Payless if you just want cheap shoes, but actually run on those shoes and you could be paying hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on physical therapy and rehabiliation. (I wore good shoes and still managed to tear my Achilles tendon.)

I think the key is "mindful" spending, not minimal spending. Only spend when you have a specific need, but when you act you must be willing to spend enough to avoid foreseeable problems.

The best minds our country can produce manufacture complicated financial products designed to strip average people of their money in ways quasi-blessed by our government and legal system. A few well-meaning financial seminars don't change that basic fact. Not that financial education is completely valueless, but in our current consumer-hostile environment, it's like equipping people with a knife to take to a gunfight.

"What Would Jesus Buy and Subsequently Throw Away?"

Fish hooks and a bread machine?

Suberb. Could not agree more. Like organic food. Pricey, but for me, worth it.

I get it! That’s funny!…. Miracle on the mount.

How about a magnum of Champaign?

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