Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Affluenza book discussion (chapters 1 - 5)

Affluenza: The All-Consuming EpidemicWelcome to the first discussion post for the Affluenza, The All-Consuming Epidemic book club. The chapters in this book are rather quick and make for a fast read so I hope you are enjoying it. If you want to participate in the discussion (even if you haven't read the book), feel free to answer a few of the questions or, if you have time, all of them by posting your answers in the comments.

Chapter 1. Shopping Fever: This chapter introduces the fact that many Americans view shopping not as a necessity, but as recreation.

How many of you consider going to the mall a social event? In other words, do you meet up with friends there or plan on going with your family on the weekends as "family time"? If you do spend a lot of time at the mall, is it just window shopping or do you oftentimes find yourself mindlessly buying things you don't really need because the items looked nice or were on sale?

For those of you who eschew malls (and, I guess, also for those who don't) do you spend a lot of time shopping online or buying from catalogs? I really can't believe people watch the Home Shopping Network, but I suppose there are some out there so I'll include that as well. For catalog shopping, do your purchases always follow right after a catalog delivery or do you keep them and reference them later? Do you find that you buy things you don't need but because the presentation looks great or the price is seemingly "cheaper" you do it anyway?

Chapter 2. A Rash of Bankruptcies: Debt is something Americans have a huge problem with. Even children receive applications for credit cards and, with the culture of "shopping to help the economy", it's no wonder that people are overspent, over-mortgaged and overwhelmed.

Do you have credit cards and if so, do you pay them off every month or do you just pay the minimum? If you have a lot of credit card debt have you consolidated your debt or have you thought about doing so? I'm always impressed by how much people spend just on their credit cards. If you're willing to share with the rest of us, how much credit card debt do you have and/or how much do you have to pay each month just to stay afloat? How much do you pay each month in interest?

Most Americans don't put much into savings each month. Are you able to save any money each month? Or is it always, "we'll start saving once we pay off the credit cards?"

Chapter 3. Swollen Expectations: Aaah, living up to the Joneses. A nearly impossible task because just as you think you are getting close, the Joneses seemingly got a raise and are still out of reach. It's extremely wearing and stressful always trying to obtain a lifestyle that will always be just beyond your budget. But you'll keep trying. And manufacturers and marketers will make sure that scenario will always remain to keep them in business.

Do you feel like things are never enough? That there is an incessant pressure to have the newest electronics and furniture, bigger cars and homes, latest fashions, etc.? Once you buy a highly coveted object, how do you feel? Are you happy for a short while and then depressed and looking for the next great thing or are you satisfied with it for as long as you have it?

Chapter 4. Chronic Congestion: In the attempt to always be at the cutting edge of well, pretty much everything, we buy a lot of stuff. But that stuff doesn't satisfy us like we thought it would, so we buy different stuff, hoping that will help solve whatever insatiable need is driving this desire to acquire more and more. When did "declutter" actually become a word we all started using?

Do you feel stressed in your home, office or car when it's full of junk? How do you feel after going through the house and recycling and donating all the things you don't want or need?

Chapter 5. The Stress of Excess: Many people are overwhelmed by the number of choices when they buy something and spend a lot of time worried that they made an incorrect decision. Additionally, when people have excess spare time, it oftentimes is spent watching television which fuels the desire for more stuff. These "swelling expectations" force us to keep up with the latest products and work more to afford them. In turn, we sleep less and are more strung out as a result.

How stressed out are you by the feeling that you need more? The desire to have the huge home with the granite counter tops and the lowered baking center in the kitchen. The master suite with separate closets, a soaking tub, dual jets in the shower and a separate room just for the toilet. What feeling do you get when you think of catalogs from Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel? What about the fancy car, even if it's choosing between the Toyota Camry hybrid over the Honda Civic hybrid? Can you step back, look at what you have and be satisfied with it or, if you do really need something, is getting a used version or the low-feature model okay?


Whew! That was a stressful introduction. I better go buy something online...


Deb G said...

To start off with, I would say I'm a recovering victim of Affluenza. Been in recovery for a couple years now.

Chapter one: Don't go to the mall, the mall is very uninteresting to me. Have to say though, used to love going to University Mall in Seattle. It's a court yard type mall where all the stores face outdoors. It has/had different stores (a few more local) than would be found at everywhere USA Mall-don't know if it's still that way. I would get something yummy to eat, sit by a fountain on a sunny day and watch the birds and the people and window shop. Very rarely bought anything there though.

Where do I shop? Mostly online (seeds and organic material for clothing have been it this year) or at local stores. I canceled all my clothing catalogs about a year ago. Don't miss them :)

Chapter two: Credit cards have been a problem. It started out with car repairs, shoes that I "needed," the dentist. Classes that I need for work, but that work didn't pay for. Things that didn't seem optional. And I'd think I would be able to pay them off, but then something would come up and get added to the pile.

Best thing I ever did was sell the car. When it really came down to it, it was something that I couldn't afford. I haven't bought anything that I couldn't pay off within the month purchased since I sold the car.

Chapter 3: "Keeping up with the Joneses" doesn't concern me much. Not having a TV or listening to commercial radio helps with that, sometimes I have a hard time keeping up with what the Joneses are interested in!

Chapter 4: Oh yeah I have clutter! Mostly a huge stash of magazines (mostly craft oriented) and material scraps that I'm sure I'll be able to do something with eventually. I'm working my way through my stashes and trying to get them under control.... But I think this is a different problem. It's not really the result of having stuff from over-shopping as much as being a pack rat.

Chapter five: Don't feel a huge need for more. Again, not having a television helps with that. If I'd stop getting art/craft magazines I'd be pretty good shape (Just added another type of paint to my wish list!)

My parents did a pretty good job of role modeling used is okay. Most of my furniture is used, tools that I get, books, and whatever other items I might want/need. A year ago I made a pledge (Wardrobe Refashion, don't know how to do links in comments) that I wouldn't purchase new clothing, but rather buy used or make my own.

Whew! That is a lot. One of the interesting things about Affluenza is that it covers a lot of ground. It is a book that I'd recommend reading.

Chile said...

Shopping Fever: I hate malls. Even as a teenager, I detested them. Full of mindless shoppers. Ick. We shop online when we can't find an item locally, such as the steel tubing needed to build my new bike. We pay attention to quality and merchant reputation rather than presentation, and don't shop online for entertainment.

Rash of Bankruptcies: One credit card, paid off each month. I put far more on it than we used to, but only because it gets us free credit at REI. No debts, but lately nothing going into savings as we have been investing in items for increased self-sufficiency.

Swollen Expectations: I don't give a rat's a$$ what the Jones' have. Really. They're in debt up to their eyeballs and I am not. I don't shop to feel good, I shop to get what I need.

Chronic Congestion: Our clutter seems to result from our changing life. What was once important and useful becomes unnecessary a few years later. Had we known about peak oil and climate change ten years ago, our purchases, and subsequent need to declutter, would have been vastly different.

Stress of Excess: Kill your television. Marketers hate people like me because I refuse to succumb to their manipulations. Not only is used fine, I often prefer it because things were made to be more durable with the ability to be repaired.

The only stress I currently feel to "have more" is my own bit of land for gardening, a house that can be as self-sufficient as possible, and the necessary materials and tools to achieve this. When is enough "enough" for that? I don't know yet.

Thanks for the discussion!

DC said...

This is a great book. Both of the Affluenza movies (Affluenza, Escape from Affluenza) are also excellent.

Chapter 1

The nearest mall is 40 miles away from our home, and we do not go there. Even aside from the rampant consumerism they represent, I’m just not a big fan of malls. They’re loud, crowded, kitschy architectural monstrosities. This notwithstanding, it might be interesting to live in one for a little while like these people did for four years (unnoticed). The home shopping channels are also extremely obnoxious. I’m generally opposed to the development of “star wars” style weapon defense systems, but if there’s any chance that the home shopping network satellites would get caught in the crossfire during target practice, I might change my mind.

Chapter 2

We do have a credit card that we got from our local credit union. We use it for convenience only, not financing. We always pay off the bill in full at the end of each month. Co-op America published a good article in the past year on good and bad credit card companies. Many banks issuing credit cards finance projects that cause great harm to the environment and people. Please choose your issuer carefully. If you have a lot of credit card debt and own a home, consider the possibility of taking out a home equity loan to pay it off. You may be able to get a much lower rate and save a lot of money this way. Interest on home equity loans is often (though not always) tax deductible.

Chapter 3

We try to keep up with the Crunchies, not the Joneses.

Chapter 4

There is a really interesting book called Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Pulitzer prize winning photographer Peter Menzel. He and other photographers went around the world to take pictures of all the stuff that a typical family in a particular area owns. They put all of the families’ material possessions outside their homes, and took photographs. It really makes you think about how much crap you have that you don’t need.

Chapter 5

I am not stressed out by the feeling I need more. I am a little stressed out by the feeling that so many other people think they need more.

Anonymous said...

I'm not reading the book, but I just had to comment. I work in retail, and I cannot stand how much stuff people buy. Then they end up with so much stuff they "have" to buy plastic storage containers to put it all in. I don't think retail is my calling, I frequently feel the urge to talk people out of buying things.

Segwyne said...

I am not reading the book either (just found this blog a couple days ago). But I wanted to answer the questions.

1. I hate going shopping, especially at the mall. It is crowded and angsty. I do like to browse through an occasional catalog, but it is usually one that sells sustainable products.

2. I have never had a credit card. My parents taught me that they are evil. I did have student loans from my two years of unfinished college, and I have a car loan debt that I haven't been able to pay on for nearly 6 years. They haven't been interested in repo'ing the vehicle, so we still drive it every day. 200k miles and counting. Unfortunately, we still live paycheck to paycheck trying to support a family of 7 on a single income of $24k/year, so no savings.

3. I am not worried about the Joneses. I will confess that our weakness is electronic. My husband is always bringing home yet another DVD (the only thing our TV gets used for), and I like to play computer games, so I asked for more RAM out of the tax refund this year. My wish list of stuff to get with the tax refund contains a lot of sustainability items.

4. My house is incredibly cluttered. I keep everything. I can't bring myself to get rid of the clothes that are horribly stained because they don't have holes in them, but no one wears them. I have a hard time saying no when someone offers me something that I delusionally think I will use (usually clothes or food). I am extremely stressed in my house from all of our "stuff", but then I get all worked up about waste. Flylady helped for a while, but I can't just throw things away. I want to give them to someone, but I have a hard time finding someone to give them to. Sometimes I daydream about having a house fire so we can just start all over again.

5. Usually when I go shopping, I know what I want. I also browse online a lot to find exactly what I am looking for. There often isn't too much excess variety in wringer washing machines, or grain mills, etc. I am quite happy with used items (see the problem I mention above).

Anonymous said...

I second the recommendation for Material World. It's such an inspiring book!

1. The Mall is an icky place full of loud, rude people. I only go there if I have a specific thing I am looking for. I think I've gone once in the past year, for a Fiestaware pitcher (can't find one secondhand).

What I am guilty of is shopping for fun at bookstores. I can avoid the mall but the local bookstore? I'm such a sucker. I go in to "browse" and I come out with four new books. I should buy used books, or get them from the library, and I'm working on this habit.

2. Credit Card debt is a hard one, as my husband and I are at a point where we are trying to get out of debt, but we aren't far enough out that we have a Savings Account that could rescue us from emergencies. We owe $2500 in Credit Card debt, and I can tell you what it all is: Emergency Vet Bills, Rental Car for when DH's car was in the shop, Rental Car for visiting a relative on her deathbed, Rental Car for a funeral 400 miles away, the black dress I wore to the funeral, and some small, "insignificant" charges we made when we were so stressed out we "needed" some toys . . . plus a few last minute (over-budget) trips to the hardware store while we were remodeling the downstairs. We have always had a problem with Credit Cards; we began as stupid teenagers with some debt, and just as we paid them off, there was an emergency and we whipped out the cards again. Almost paid them off . . . another dying relative or automotive disaster. I am trying to build up an Emergency Fund to cover these disasters so we don't always reach for the Credit Card when something goes wrong. But it's hard, because just when I make headway, something knocks me back.

3. I have never recovered from my High-School-Outsider scorn for the Joneses. It sometimes holds me back, professionally, that I try too hard to NOT look like a Jones, when really I could present a nicer image without becoming a Jones, if I just got over my scorn.

The only thing is, when I visit my family, I feel them judging me for not having a status career and status lifestyle. While I still don't want those things, I also still want my affluenzic family'a approval.

4. Yes, I do feel stressed by my clutter. I actually beat myself up a lot for not "decluttering" enough. We bought our house a year ago, and I meant to declutter then, but came down with Bronchitis. So, all of our clutter moved with us. Then, the housewarming gifts started to arrive . . . ACK! I deal with it all by having a section of each room dedicated to "limbo." If I'm not sure that i need it, when I unpack it, it goes to limbo. If it's still there a year later, I give it away. I am determined to have less junk!

5. When I most feel the need to own more is when I am reading Peak Oil blogs (blame Sharon, the crazy blogger made me do it)! I am good at resisting pressure from TV ads, but if someone mentions stocking a years worth of food in case of rising prices or food shortages, I am down at the local hardware store looking at pressure-canners. And if anyone even says the word "Lehman's" to me . . . I'm just pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I almost never go to the mall, and when I do (very rare) I'm affected by it for a couple days at least. I try not to buy anything I don't need (haven't bought any new clothes in over 2 years - the undies are starting to fall apart so I guess I better start thinking about buying some soon), and the stuff I need I tend to buy online - cuts down on impulse buys that way.

We got rid of all our credit card debt (our goal of 2007) so all that leaves is my husband's car payment and the mortgage. We still haven't been able to save any money due to the wicked jump in fuel prices - we live in an old house (drafty) and it's out in the country so getting rid of our fuel bills is not in the cards. Since restructuring our lifestyle (by me quitting my 9-5 and driving a school bus so I can stay home w/ the kids) we have only been using 1 vehicle (the second is broken and we haven't fixed it yet), so that cuts down on gas but still it's a half hour drive to the nearest grocery store (the only shopping I do on a regular basis) and the only hardware store in town went out of business so we're looking at a 20 minute drive to the nearest hardware store (old house remember?). The jones are not located around here so there's nothing to keep up with. Our neighbors and our friends are pretty much in the same situation we are, old houses, secondhand vehicles, homebodies - there's a slight fued between my two neighbors over who has the better looking flower garden, but it's not a materialistic quest.

Who doesn't have clutter? really? Don Aslett has a section in his book clutters last stand about farmers and their clutter - the more room you have the less ofetn you throw things out. Couple that with the usual and sundry kid clutter and extend that out becuse our 3 girls are 8 3/4yrs apart each so the clutter has lasted forever. We totally have clutter. We're working on it though - that's the 2008 goal - so far we've had8 bags of donations to goodwill and too many that I'd like to admit to the transfe station - more will be leaving once the snowed in swapshop gets cleared (hopefully soon!). It's hard though, with the inlaws stuff and the stuff that was here when we moved in, plus our stuff and the kid's stuff it's just so overwhelming, and really slow to sort through.

I'm not a fan of the kill your TV mindset. I think TV has a place. We don't watch network TV - mostly alternative cable channels like the history channel and animal planet, and PBS. I have learned a whole lot by watching these channels I think it's a shame to discount that service. Yes there are commercials, but being cable they are mostly for local restaurants and car dealerships which we really don't frequent too often. Sure if all you watch is network TV and Nickelodeon and MTV you're getting blasted with consummerist fluff, but Nova and This Old House and Historical or Nature documentaries are far more beneficial than the commercials you are exposed to are detrimental. And as an aside, this book was written based on a TV show aired on PBS

Chile said...

Tameson, I agree that TV can have a place, but I would venture to guess that many people are not able to restrict their use of TV to only the "good" programs.

When we gave up our TV, we found we had a freedom in our schedule we hadn't felt in years. There was no urgency to get home at a particular time for that PBS show, or guilt about missing something that would have been so educational if we'd gotten home in time. Yes, I know today there are all kinds of options to record, but it still induces a feeling of obligation to watch the shows. Besides, many PBS shows end up on video to be borrowed from the library, including Affluenza.

I think everyone could benefit from at least unplugging and packing away the TV for a week or a month, but that's just my personal opinion. ;-)

Lisa Zahn said...

This is extremely painful to admit, but in the last few years we ran our credit cards up to $15,000. This past fall we consolidated them into a loan from our credit union. In 4 years, at 9% interest, we will have paid those cards off. It seemed like our best option because we were drowning in debt (one of the items on there was a $3000 car, stupid I know). I don't even know what all was on there (besides $2000 worth of furniture and a $1000 high efficiency washing machine), but we just could not pay them off and often hundreds of dollars were going toward the card payments each month--almost $1000 in payments a month! The $400 payment is doable and reasonable for us and allows us to save about $200/month, and it's a huge relief to know that in 4 years the card debt will be gone. We cut up all but one card which my husband has for emergencies. Don't trust me with a card! After all, what's another $7 for lunch when there's so much on there already? That was my OLD way of thinking!

The funny thing is, when you look at us we don't have anything extravagent (except maybe a nice couch and a great washing machine); the cars are used, our clothes are merely okay, and we only travel once a year to my in-laws where the food and lodging are free. But, my husband is a teacher and I only work part-time, and I guess we have tried to keep up with other "professional" friends who, because they aren't teachers, tend to make more money than us. (Trying not to whine about that!)

This year we are going with The Compact, trying to buy nothing new all year. The Riot for Austerity has changed our thinking, or at least has helped get our actions in line with our thinking. Too much stuff stresses me out anyway!

Thanks for all you do, Crunchy Chicken. I'm glad I finally checked your blog!

Lisa (hard to even put my name here, debt is so embarrassing!)

Oldnovice said...

Just read something about how so much stuff is the reason why the organizational products are selling so well. Doesn't make any
sense, does it.

Chapter 1 - I consider poking around in a brick and mortar store recreational. Never results in me buying anything I didn't want
before leaving the house and rarely results in me buying anything at all, but opens my eyes to what's available in the marketplace, and is a REAL eye-opener on what's made in China. I usually get my fill of this while visiting family/friends out of town. If my daughter needs to buy some CDs to record music, I'll go along for the company and end up checking out other departments.

I buy a wide range of things online: printer cartridges, bulk baking supplies, underwear, small appliances, gifts for other people.
I like being able to compare prices and read the opinions of people who have purchased the things I want. Both the opinions
on the product and the opinions on the vendor are available for my perusal. No shopping channel for me, and we're definitely NOT
impulse shoppers. We tend to OVERthink every purchase for maybe a few years after we really should have bit the bullet and bought the thing.

Chapter 2 - We have no debt. I donated my car last year and we're down to one for both of us and it works out just fine. House is
paid for, too. We have a few credit cards, use them pretty often and pay the complete bill whenever we do. We save everything we don't spend, so it's not a conscious effort to save, but a conscious effort to spend less, I think.

Chapter 3 - We're retired, so don't need to keep up with anyone. I like to look as cute as I can, though, so make a monthly trip to the thrift store for "new to me" clothes. When I grow tired of these clothes or they stop fitting well, I donate them to the local mission. Sometimes I find a necklace I like or this week I got us both slippers for the cold days. We hadn't had slippers in 20 years or more, so they were a novel purchase for us, yet practical. Buying the recycled is a good way to try things on for size, IMO. It gives you a chance to see if that's really something you'll like/use without spending much money on it.

Chapter 4 - Can't really identify much with this one except to say that my husband is such a minimalist that he needs one or two
empty cabinets in the kitchen along with one or two empty drawers to feel comfortable. That's definitely a controlling factor for me. :-)

Chapter 5 - I think there's a lot to be said for excess choice in our society. I like wearing lipstick, but sometimes I wish I could just go into a store and buy the one lipstick in the color that looks good on everyone instead of spending 15 minutes deciding between 200 colors.

"Additionally, when people have excess spare time, it oftentimes is spent watching television which fuels the desire for more stuff."

We watch a fair amount of TV and it's never fueled a desire for more stuff. Was that the author's opinion, or yours? Can't say I can
relate to anything in this chapter except for the thought on too many lipstick choices.

There's online viewing of a three-part documentary that was done on why/when/how the US became a disposable society. I blogged
the videos maybe a month ago, but I'm too lazy to go over and get the links right now. Much like The Story of Stuff, though, once
you see how you've been "played", it's a whole lot easier to mentally reject the propaganda.

Thanks for the breakdown of what's in the book. I NEVER buy new books, rarely buy used books, and it's too difficult to engage in reading along in a library loaned copy of the book. From what you've already presented of this one, it won't be something I'll bother putting on call.

Tara said...

We've been off the gerbil wheel at the mall for a while. We go about 3x a year to get the skin care stuff my daughter uses from Body Shop, but it's in and out. Browsing around in there gives me a headache. I can't believe I considered it something fun to do at one point in my life, but I did.

Most of my shopping is done at smaller markets, online or at second-hand shops. I realized that I do still sometimes like to browse, but then it's at a second-hand or antique shop. Mostly I just enjoy looking at interesting things and collecting ideas. I realized that's the part of "shopping" I like, not really the buying part.

We do struggle with credit card debt which is mostly due to medical bills. Even though we have insurance, medical costs are killing us. That is another post – or blog – entirely.

I have to admit I sometimes wish I could keep up with the Joneses in certain areas of my life. It would be great to travel a little more or afford to fix up the house some with better insulation or a kitchen floor that isn't peeling up. And when I do buy things I like to get decent stuff that will last.

Less certainly is more when it comes to time, freedom and the stress of organizing, hauling away, etc. A small but meaningful example is having less in my closet. It's now way easier to get dressed each morning and miraculously seems as though I have more options because I can FIND things. Although I did have to do a lot of decluttering to get to that point.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm reading this book as materialistic consumerism is the current 'it' thing to do.

1. Hate malls. Love catalogs and online. But I attribute this to strongly disliking crowds, or people in general. I don't necessarily feel like I'm getting a better deal because of tax and shipping costs, but then I have a bit more control from whom I'm purchasing.

2. No credit card debt. Use as convenience card, pay off each month. Only debt we have is our house. I put $ into savings on average every other month.

3. Don't care about the Joneses. More than one neighbor has commented on my husband's 1994 Chevy pickup truck... "You guys earn a good living, can't you afford to get rid of that eyesore?" We own the crappiest cars on the block, don't have a plasma, LCD or whatever TV. My stereo is from college. I do have an iPod though, for running. We tend to splurge on items we use for ourselves like food, running shoes, hiking boots, knives, pots and pans. Things no one ever really sees.

4. Average clutter. Mostly my mom's though. She's dying of cancer so I'll let it go for now.

5. I go through phases of wanting more, then wanting less. To go along with that sometimes I stress alot about the amount of stuff I want, alternating with not even thinking about it.

This may sound stupid, but Sheryl Crow said in one of her songs, "It's not having what you want, but wanting what you have." I think about that alot.

Thanks for the book club, Crunch!

Christy said...

Chapter 1 - I used to see the mall as a social place and something always got bought when I was there. Growing up, shopping was how I got to spend time with my mom (still is). When Logan was a baby and I was home with him all day we went to the mall often just to have something to do and be around people. Now we rarely go to the mall. I shop online most of the time now and only after really thinking about the item and sitting on it for a month or so to see if I really do want/need it. I also shop at the fabric/yarn store a lot since taking up sewing and knitting. I never buy from catalogs and have cancelled all of them. If I have to go find the item online somewhere I'm less likely to impulse buy.

Chapter 2 - We pay off our credit cards every month. They are used for gas and food and that is it. My husband puts 15% of his pay in his 401K each month. We contribute to our son's college account every month and anything left at the end of the month goes into savings. That usually ends up being $200 or so. Any bonuses or tax refunds go into savings.

Chapter 3 - I've never really had a problem with this. Most of the time I think the Joneses are idiots so why would I want to keep up with them?

Chapter 4 - We do however have a lot of stuff. A lot of it was gifts over the years. My family goes overboard at Christmas and I've been guilty of that in the past too. Especially when my son was younger, I liked getting him stuff. We are all doing much better now about not getting stuff. My son who is 8 didn't want anything for Christmas this year so he got money from everyone and put it in his savings account. He collected $450! That is how overboard my family goes, imagine if that money was translated into stuff. We are decluttering big time in preparation for a move and just because it is crazy to have this much stuff. But at least we don't have a storage unit or a garage full of stuff. So maybe by comparison we don't have that much?

Chapter 5 - I do get stressed by the number of choices. Right now I'm researching grain mills and there are way to many to choose from. I just want an easy way to grind wheat. As for all the things you mentioned wanting in this question, none of those things are of any interest to me and never have been.

My only real shopping weaknesses are books, toys for my son and craft supplies. I've cut way back on all of these things. Not going into stores helps a lot with that!

Anonymous said...

Chapter 1 – shopping as recreation

I’d rather lop off a limb than spend any time in a mall, so no... my preferred social events revolve around making things, rather than buying them.

I don’t really “shop”, per se... I only go to a store when I need something specific (although that doesn’t prevent me from making impulse purchases while I’m there... especially tools or art supplies). I’ve tried to reduce the number of catalogs that come into my house, but the ones that still do arrive usually go straight into the recycling bin. I used to peruse some of the better ones for ideas... see the picture, make it myself... but my project list is too long these days, so why add to it unnecessarily? Watch the Home Shopping Network? I can’t imagine anything more mind-numbing.

Chapter 2 - Debt

Our one credit card usually gets paid in full each month... we use it for gas (my husband has quite a commute, unfortunately), internet purchases, travel expenses and the like.

We don’t get to put money into savings each month, but we try.

Chapter 3 – Wanting vs. Having

That let-down after buying a highly coveted object is what led me to start searching for wanted items second-hand. If the desire survives the quest, there’s usually no let-down... but it’s funny how many items simply fall off the list because I decide they’re no worth the effort after all. As for newest gadgets or latest fashions... yawn. My wants are usually tools or how-to books. I don’t bother keeping up with the Joneses because the Joneses are boring.

Chapter 4 – Clutter

I’ve made several passes through our house over the last couple of years and we’ve flea-marketed/donated several room-sized piles of stuff. It feels great to get rid of things, but then of course the holes we made by getting rid of the crap have since filled up with tools, books, and project supplies. The space once occupied by a random selection of boxes and junk is now occupied by a floor loom, which means I still can’t walk around in that room, so I’m not sure that any real progress has been made...

Chapter 5 - New Hotness vs. Old and Busted

Mostly we’re immune to the desire for the high-end lifestyle (now that we’ve canceled the Crate and Barrel catalogs and stopped watching home decorating shows), but my husband still craves a few of the electronic goodies. He was beginning to make noises about getting a flat panel HDTV, but I found a very clever solution to the problem. I talked him into buying a TV at a thrift store, which the sales clerk said we could have for $5 because it was broken. He’s an electronic genius, so a little poking around in the innards and a $3.57 part later, we have a perfectly good television for $8.57. He is getting more satisfaction out of telling friends how little he paid for it than he would ever have gotten from hanging a $1000 HDTV monstrosity on the wall.

Now if I could just talk him into canceling the satellite service... but I’m afraid that’s a battle I’m NEVER going to win.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 1- I haven't been to the mall in 2 years, but I do find bookstores are my place to browse and buy impulsively. Same with the warehouse store. I go in to buy organic milk because it's cheaper and walk out with convenience foods I really don't need. And maybe a bushel of white socks.

Chapter 2- I do use my credit card because I try to do most of my shopping via eBay.

Chapter 3- I don't feel the need to keep up with the Jones for material goods, but I do feel pressure for lessons and the "right" school for our kids. Like I am a bad parent not willing to make the appropriate sacrifice to have my kid in preschool 5 days a week so she's properly prepared for full day kindergarten or not having my son in soccer, Boy Scouts, and iceskating, so he's well rounded. Are lessons really necessary for a 3 year old? Does no one just stay home and play anymore?!

Chapter 4- I actually have very little clutter. What we do have is cheap toys from grandparents that I am constantly weeding through.

Chapter 5- need for more. I would normally say no, I'm happy with what I have, but my friend recently purchased a McMansion with a jacuzzi tub that I can't help but imagine soaking in every night, so maybe it's more of an issue than I think.

My one criticism of the book is it draws a lot of conclusions from correlations. Just because 2 things correlate doesn't mean it was cause and effect. I don't find it very scientific and feel the authors are pretty loose with their statistics.

Otherwise I find it very insightful and thought provoking.

Jennifer said...

I hate the Mall et all..
but I LOVE thrift stores and pawn shops and craigslist/freecycle. It's the thrill of the hunt for the thing I need that is cheap, used, and of natural materials.

I have a credit card. I do NOT ever carry a balance on it. In fact, I rarely use it... mostly for online purchases since there is greater protection for a credit card rather than debit card.

We have always been like this... the two of us only make $40,000 a year combined, but we have no debt except the house.

We simply don't buy unless we can afford it, and buy as cheaply (and high quality) as we can... I'd rather buy used high quality items instead of cheap new crap.

We have a savings account with about 3 months of salary in it and have invested in retirement accounts... but there's not much else at the end of the month. It would be nice to save more.

In spite of all we do above... I still feel an occasional twinge. NOT for bigger houses and newer cars, but for traveling.

Interestingly enough, I wanted an Ipod for YEARS. I am a musician with a HUGE library of vinyl records and CDs... multiple copies of symphonies, etc. I wanted an iPod to have it all in one place. And, I wanted one because it was "cool". My over generous in-laws gave me one for my birthday a year ago, when they realized that EVERYONE else in the family had one but me (and DH). It was almost disappointing to finally get it! I haven't used it very much at all... and I"m SO glad I didn't spend my own money on it.

I do feel so much better getting rid of stuff. T here is so much I don't NEED! (or want). I'm getting better about saying "yes this was a gift, but I don't need to KEEP it. I can give it to someone else in the spirit of giving!".
I feel very down and discouraged when it is cluttered and full of crap that I don't know what to do with!

Stress of Excess:

YES it's OK to buy the budget model.. as long as it's quality. We have a old Corolla that will run forever. It has power nothing... manual windows, locks, etc. 2 speeds of wipers. Factory radio with no clock. No cruise, etc. But it gets 40 mpg and RUNS... and we plan on running it for years to come.

I am often able to step back and look at what I have as good... and reframe my mind. I think it is one of my strenghts!

OF course, we don't have TV at our house. That may help. :) It's too expensive to buy anyway!

Mrs. Gray's Class said...

I do not go to the mall, but I do shop online - a lot of ebay - so I am having a negative impact on the environment because of the effects of shipping. I ordered the book online so I am waiting for the high I get when the mailman/UPS driver delivers a package.

I am a person who WANTS - I don't remember a time when I didn't want and I also don't remember a time when I didn't have everything I needed. I am blessed, I married a man who gently reminds me about want vs. need, and I am doing much better. I do not make spur of the moment purchases anymore - I labor over everything I buy and talk myself in and out of things on a daily basis.

For good reason my husband does our finances - we do have an emergency credit card he pays of monthly.

I don't think my problem is keeping up with the Jones' as much as it is keeping up with the life I envision in my head - full of images the marketing geniuses created - my head is a dangerous place that rarely sleeps and creates problems where there weren't any the day before. On a rational level, I know my life is good - real good - but then a thought creeps in about some THING I should have to make it a bit better.

I am very good about getting rid of and re-purposing things. The problem is I get the same satisfaction from getting rid of things as I do from getting something new.

I am a work in progress - but as they say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Theresa said...

I've been reading this book voraciously since I got it last week. I quite like it, although there are some moral judgments in there from time to time I could do without, but that could be just me.

1) Shopping Fever: The older I get the more I avoid malls. Too crowded, noisy and obnoxious. We have a really big mall here, "West Edmonton Mall" that people who visit us often want to go to. I hate those trips to that mall - it has a dolphin display, a casino and is a veritable altar to excess. I do some online shopping (I got this book via mostly for things that I couldn't buy around here. I lived for years under the poverty line as a student and learned good frugality then. I had a bit of a relapse when I got my first job, but have since resumed my relatively frugal ways. My weaknesses are books and tea.

2: Bankruptcies

This year we will be able to pay off all of our debt apart from our mortgage - hooray! We have just made arrangements to do this with our investment guy. We have been able to pay off our credit card debt each month most of the time, although it has not always been this way. We've made it a top priority lately though, to buy less stuff and get out of debt, especially since reading blogs like Sharon's and this one, and GreenPa's too. We put money in RRSPs and pension funds every month. We have no kids, so this is easier for us than for others, I'm sure. I worry a lot about family members who are still in a lot of debt.

3: The Swollen Joneses

I've never been one for needing to live up to the Joneses. I had my period of insecurity while in high school, but since then I really don't care much about what others have. I drove a 1984 Chevette for 18 years after high school and just loved the little thing until it died, no matter what anyone said about it. I did make a really stupid purchase though about a year or so ago: A palm pilot/PDA thing, that I was sure I needed and would get lots of use out of. Well, it's a glorified address book really, it just sits there on the shelf until I need someone's mailing address.

4: Chronic congestion/clutter.

We do have too much stuff, although I think we do have less stuff than a lot of people. Lots of it is packed in boxes in the basement. My husband is a bit of a hoarder, and keeps things from way, way back as nostalgic souvenirs. And the CDs, oh the CDs. Whenever we try and do a purge of some kind, we usually just end up reorganizing things instead.

5: Stress of Excess

I'm getting better about it, but there are still things I yearn for. This yearning causes me some stress, but since I know that having the thing doesn't reduce the stress, I'm getting better at dealing with the yearning. Mostly I tell myself that just because I want something doesn't mean I have to have it.

Looking forward to discussing the next set of chapters!

Anonymous said...

DC (in reference to Chapter 2):
Wouldn't declaring bankruptcy be better than possibly losing your house by getting a home equity loan? What if your a debt slave and have no hope of ever paying off the credit card debt? It's odd that no one mentions bankruptcy.

crstn85 said...

I'm going to try to answer all of these questions with one story:

I graduated from college and got my own apartment in August. I had to furnish/equip the entire thing and buy a car. The one item I was most excited about buying over the endless days of shopping: an adjustable wrench. I love tools because they allow me to build things! I got to put together my own furniture (which also made it affordable so I didn't go into credit card debt). My time spent on the floor of my new apartment putting everything together with my mom was the best part of the entire experience.

DC said...

Anonymous, regarding declaring bankruptcy vs. taking out a home equity loan to pay off your debt, it really depends on the situation. If you're so up to your ears in credit card debt that you won't be able to pay it off even with a lower interest rate, then bankruptcy may be a more attractive option. If, on the other hand, you don't have an overwhelming amount of debt, and paying it off at a lower interest rate would lower your monthly payments enough that you could make them, it might be worth taking out a home equity loan.

Let me give you a concrete example. Suppose you have $10,000 in credit card debt, and you are currently paying 19 percent interest on it. Let's assume that you are on a course to pay it all off over 5 years, and your required monthly payment is around $260. If you took out a home equity loan for $10,000 with a fixed rate of 8 percent interest that could be paid off over 10 years instead of 5, your monthly payment would drop to around $120, and you would still end up paying less interest over the life of the loan. If having a monthly payment of less than half of what you were paying would mean you could make the payment, this might be an attractive option. If, on the other hand, that's still too much, and you would just keep going deeper into debt, it's probably not the best solution.

I'm not a consumer finance professional, and I'm not advising any particular course of action for anyone specifically. I was just pointing out one option that might be good for some people to consider. Each individual's situation will be different, and interest rates, etc. change daily, making certain options more or less attractive at any given time. I would suggest that people who want to get out of debt and need help doing so see a certified financial planner that can look at their specific circumstances and suggest a range of options.

Unknown said...

Chapter 1: I HATE shopping. Hate it. That said, I AM guilty of buying extra things that are on "sale" when i do have to go to the store. For instance, I'll go to the store to buy socks and end up with a couple of clearance tshirts for the kids (when they already have too many clothes) just because they were cheap. And I'm definitely guilty of buying things to make my daughter feel better. she's having trouble with a bully at preschool, so I took her to lunch last week. Afterwards, we stopped in Old Navy to get a bouncy ball, and she fell in love with sparkly gold shoes. They were on sale, so I let her get them because I felt bad for her that day. Did she need them? no. She has worn them evry day since, though, so that's something.

Chapter 2: we pay our credit cards off every month in full. I'm considering getting off the credit cards entirely, but we seem ot be stuck in the cycle. We put away $300/month - $100 to each of the kid's college funds, and $100 to our savings. We usually get about $4000 tax return back and that all goes to savings, plus any of my husband's summr income that hasn't gone to home improvements (his salary doubles for two months every summer)

Chapter 3: We are NOT keeping up with the Jones's. Our cars are older, our house is smaller, and our clothes are further out of style than most of our peers (I'm a faculty wife - my husband teaches at an Ivy League University) and I've actually gotten some snickering comments from the Alpha mommies about the fact that our cars are so old. I think the key is to find the Jones's you want to be around. I've gone out of my way to spend time with local farmers, activists, and other townies, and to get involved on a local level, too, so that, if I opt out of the whole "faculty wife" thing, the pressure is much less.

Chapter 4: Stuff is so stressful (well, except for yarn and fabric and canned goods. those make me happy) I love going through our stuff and purging. I run our local freecycle group so I can help others do the same!

Chapter 5: We recently bought a new-to-us car, and the whole process was beyond stressful. It wasn't the money - we had cash, so we had a specific budget, and specific requirements, but the worry that we'd make a huge mistake with all that money we'd taken so long to save was enourmous. Yes, we also get envious of friends with fancy homes, gadgets, etc, but we've gotten around it by befriending people with means more like ours. I've also learned to suck up my pride and ask friends for their cast-offs. We have a really poor kitchen faucet. My friend is (needlessly, her kitchen is gorgeous) planning a kitchen renovation soon. I've put dibs on her faucet when they rip it out. Win-win.

Katie said...

Thanks for the discussion Crunchy. I read this book a year ago and it was great to read it again and see how far my little family has come!

Shopping: Malls strike fear in me. Overpriced crap.

Credit Card: Use one card that gets paid off every month. Always have the cash to pay it off. I feel credit is safer than swiping your bank account-linked ATM card somewhere.

The Joneses: I honestly feel bad for the Joneses. Life is so much better when you don't feel the need to constantly consume, but can stand still and enjoy the moment. The journey IS the reward!

Stuff/Junk: We have so little stuff and are constantly giving it away (my family of packrats likes to think of my house as a storage area. My dad used to literally drop stuff on my porch and drive away). I had a friend come over to my house once and ask, "Where is all of your stuff? You're house is empty." Such an awesome compliment!

More: We have a nice house in a desirable neighborhood because we worked hard to get here and plan to live here until we can buy land and retire in our yurt...but all of our friends think we've made it! I think we'll make it when we downsize and simplify into something smaller and more simple.

Weird how that is.

JacquiG said...

I've never participated in a book club before so this could be interesting. I first saw the videos Affluenza and Escape from Affluenza about 4 or 5 years ago and they did make quite an impact on me, if only in small ways. There were images in those videos that are stamped in my memory.

Chapter 1: After I saw the movie I decided that I no longer wanted to use shopping as recreation. Unfortunately the result of that was that I don't see my friends as much as I used to. That was what we used to do. One would come from out of town and the other and I would meet here and we'd all go shopping. I didn't buy a lot, but I did buy things I didn't need. It's sad that I don't see them as much, they still go shopping when they get together, but I'm not going to visit malls just so I can visit my friends. I do by myself every couple of months, and I still sometimes buy things I could do without. Need to work on this.

Chapter 2: I didn't used to know how to handle money, but since meeting DH I've learned an awful lot. He's great with our money and we save a lot towards our retirement (we both started retirement savings late). We managed to get my credit cards paid off and now I pay it off every month. I use it a lot because my bank account has cheap monthly fees for a limited number of transactions so I use my credit card instead of my debit card. One bank transaction instead of many. I also started my own savings in a mutual fund and I'm really pleased with myself that I'm getting quite a little nest egg out of my monthly spending money.

Chapter 3: Fortunately for me I've never really suffered from keeping up with the Jones'. My ex-best friend and her husband are DINKS (double income no kids) and I was a poor single mother. If I had the "keep up with the Jones' disease" I would have been bankrupt many times over. Sure, I suffer from hankering after things, but they are different than they used to be, it's not just about clothing and stuff for the house. I want a pressure canner so I can preserve food, and stuff like that. But I know that I can live without them and having them won't change who I am or make me feel better. I really think that I do have enough, I just occasionally want more. Again, something I'm working on.

Chapter 4: I've never believed that bigger is better, and new isn't always improved. I'm quite happy with second hand. Most of the furniture in my home is previously loved and that's the way I like it. But I have managed to accumulate an awful lot of "stuff" over the years and I have a hard time letting go of things. The result is clutter and chaos all over the place. Must get a better handle on this one.

Chapter 5: Commercials on TV don't make me want more, in fact I believe most of them insult our intelligence and annoy me to no end. I watch home improvement and decorating shows and I renovate my house in my head many times over, but in reality I'm OK with the way it is, I love my old little cottage (except the windows, but thats slowly becoming a need and not a want). I watch fashion and make-over shows and sometimes want things but realistically I know I don't need them and I'm not left feeling like I'm missing something. I enjoy those kinds of shows and don't immediately go shopping for things I see (except maybe the right colour lipstick!).
I look through catalogues but I'm seldom left feeling a strong desire to possess what I'm seeing, I think of it more in terms of one day, even if I know that this particular "one day" will likely never come.

I don't want a big house (too much to clean!), I don't want a big fancy car (never owned a new car). The only thing I really would like to have is a hybrid when we replace DHs car (we live in the country and only one car is proving to be difficult with our schedules). But I know that we won't get a hybrid because we simply can't afford it. But that's OK because a nice small economical car is just fine.

I often wonder if my feelings on a lot of this would change if we were to win a lottery and I could afford to have all the "stuff" I sometimes think about. If money wasn't a problem, what would I do then. I hope I wouldn't stray too far from the direction I've been slowly heading in for the past few years. Not much chance of winning the lottery though. Gotta buy a ticket first!

Anonymous said...

I am not reading the book at this moment but plan to pick it up at the library within the next couple of weeks.

1. I hate the mall. Hate shopping, unless it is a thrift store I have to have something I need to even browse and then it takes me forever to research it. My most recent purchase was a compost tumbler and that took several months to decide!. I used to buy online a lot but now I cant justify spending money if I don’t need it. I still buy online and have been addicted to but I usually don’t bid but only ‘watch’ items. Anything I buy here is justified by the fact that it is reused.

2. I have one credit card and pay it off every month. The money I save from no longer buying junk online is going into my savings. This is a much nicer reward!

3. I don’t care what the Jones’ have. I am going to live in my small house as it will be paid for in 7 years. Living within or even below my means gives me security and the feeling that I will not have to work all my life. This is worth not having the fancy home and cars.

4. I cant stand when my living area and car are a mess – it makes me feel like my life is chaotic. I cant stand a bunch of knick knacks and clutter. Makes me crazy!

5. I love TV and my new years resolution is to watch much less of it. It does make you feel inadequate and that you need to keep up. When I do have the thought that maybe I should upgrade to a larger home, I try to remember that in most parts of the world, my home would seem like a mansion and I have all that I need to survive. Happiness comes from within and not from ‘better’ things.

Phyllis Sommer said...

i read this book a long time ago, and i thought i would just lurk through but i just felt compelled to comment! after reading this book years ago, we definitely stopped the "social" shopping in place of very focused and directed shopping. i do sometimes end up "looking for bargains" at target occasionally but i try not to make the mall a social place...i think in most ways, chapter 1 causes all the other chapter "problems", don't you?

katecontinued said...

No malls, no credit cards, no keeping up, no clutter crisis beyond ongoing purges & no real needs, though I'd like a solar oven and a wonder washer - both from Peddler's Wagon.

I haven't read the book, but it sounds really timely.

I wrote "Bigger is Not Better" at my place today. It applies.

Heather said...

I haven't read the book, but just wanted to comment on what you wrote about chapter 5. I really struggle with all the choices there are. When I invest my money in something, I want to get it right, but all the options tend to make me panicky and sometimes I just jump to get the decision over and done with. I'm a bit of a nightmare with restaurant menus that way, and it almost always leads to making a poor choice, too :-(

I think this is worse in the US than in lots of places. At least worse there than here in NZ or in Switzerland, the other two places I've lived. In the US you want to order coffee and you have to choose the kind and the size and whether you want milk or sugar (same here), but then you have to make other decisions - soy milk or cows milk? Skim or full cream? I forget the others, but I often was ordering food and felt like saying "You decide, I don't care - I just want to eat!".

So, I feel for you people. I don't know why, but you've ended up with structures that make living so much more complicated than it needs to be.

Susan M.B. Sullivan said...

katecontinued, I love the tiny house on your new post, and my Grandma's house defines home for me too. When I see that tiny house video, I feel my lifestyle is positively bloated.

We stay away from media mostly, but I am susceptible to Home and Garden TV, plants, and craft supplies. I have been able to give up my magazine fetish since I realized I was spending more time reading about doing things than doing them.

We went to the mall tonight, which was where Lizzie chose to go "because my snow boots don't fit and it's going to snow tonight". Turns out what she really wants is fashionable snow boots with heels and big fluffy balls. Her snow boots still serve, it turns out. There's a new store at our mall "All Things Renewable" which sells biodegradable plastic and reusable shopping bags, and other useful and nonuseful things. After we left the mall with nothing but a teeny reusable bag for my purse, we went to the thrift store, where Lizzie had a great time and left with some yarn to make crafts with her friends. We did have a good time with our rare "just girls" time.

I am usually resistant to credit but I really want to get a more carbon-efficient car and energy-efficient technology. What irony to consider going into debt to do my part for the world. I'm afraid the rebates available in CO are going to dry up if I wait. I haven't solved this one, but no harm done as of yet.

I do have too much stuff, but not too bad.

Am enjoying the book and the discussion.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading a book called The Circle of Simplicity... it was written in 1998, but it applies very well to now, even a decade later. We have gotten to a mass consuming phase, and forgotten how to be humans, in touch with ourselves and instead material products make up our lives. However, we know money and products won't make us happy... everyone thinks they will be the exception to that truth, but we have just been groomed by mass media... *sigh*

good post :)

Anonymous said...

1. I do not like malls at all and visit them very infrequently. I do my regular grocery shopping locally and seem to visit the same stores for needed products though I live in a large city with many, many stores to choose from. The only catalogs I get are seed catalogs. I do make some purchases online when it is something I need and can find a good price.

2. We have no credit card debt. We do save some each month on top of retirement savings.

3. I try NOT to keep up with the Joneses. If they have it, I don't want it. Less is more!

4. I am constantly organizing and getting rid of stuff. Especially at times like now when Christmas and birthdays have passed. We have two small children, so it's a constant weeding out process.

5. I am one who is overwhelmed by too many choices. As someone earlier stated, even just going out to eat is a chore with all the choices. I prefer simplicity in all instances. So the less to choose from, the easier and better IMO.


Haybug said...

(1). I like malls. Before me moved we lived reasonably close to a large mall in a very nice part of town. When the temp would reach over 90/100 we would load up and head to the mall. Did we shop?? NO! We looked for change. The food court had a strange floor and the money would blend in with it. Also, if you went into the stores geared to teenagers you could always find money on the floor. Not so much in the ladies stores, they all paid with plastic. Also, if you find the strollers for rent left by a door because they didn't want to take them back we would go turn them in for the money. Couches & seating areas always had change in the cushion. This mall also had a survey place at one end. I always did a survey, got my check and went to deposit it in my bank. So, malls have their place in a thrifty life after all. On a good day we could find $5 that would go straight into the kiddos savings acct. Since moving we are 70 miles from the nearest mall and this mall never seems to have much change. So it's a bit of a disappointment. Now I only go to the mall for eye appointments.
(2). We have 2 credit cards that both have a balance. Some from moving and some from a vacation we took last year. They are both 0%. When I run out of 0% if they aren't paid off, I will pay them off. I only carry a debit card or cash. I don't take the credit cards anywhere. We do have savings I just wanted to let the interest pay down the cards as long as possible
(3).When we moved to another state it took the largest uhaul they had plus 6x12 enclosed trailer. I have gotten rid of so much stuff since then. My goal is to have it all fit in a smaller truck for our next move. There are 4 of us. I am sure there are Jonese around here somwhere but because we stay home, we haven't met them. We don't have tv so my kids don't want the "latest" thing.
(4). Congestion - It is minimal now. I still plan to purge more. In fact I have 4 bags and a large box ready for the thrift store. I used to have too many books and movies. We have gotten rid of most of them. We do still have some books but mostly for the kids and when they have read and outgrown them, out they go!
(5). I don't really feel the need for anything more than what I have. This is a full 180 from me 20 years ago in high school. In fact, we have quit buying clothes until they are worn out or outgrown. I pray for contentment dialy. Staying home really helps.
Just my .02¢ Love the blog!!

Jane said...

I could relate to each of these chapters on some level. And, like Deb g, I would say I am a recovering victim of Affluenza. A few years ago I read a fantastic book on Feng Shui called Move Your Stuff Change Your Life and I started looking at the value of things in a whole new way. At the same time, since moving to LA I have found that the malls have pay parking garages. So, while I might spend $100 in the mall, it kills me to spend $3 to park and it is a turn off that keeps me away.

I do not catalog/online shop unless I need something specific. Again, I think the small shipping cost turns me off from the process. Being cheap at heart helps!

Jason C said...

I'm debating whether or not to read this book. My wife (who is a loyal Crunchy Chicken reader) just finished it. A co-worker of mine has been telling me for years to try and find Affluenza and Escape from Affluenza and how much I'd love the PBS shows. Finally - I found the orignal on YouTube. Just do a quick search and you can find it. My first take away was that this documentary is 10+ years old and its the same things we're just talking about today.

Watching The Story of Stuff - - gives me a similar feeling to Affluenza - its almost like an abridged version.

Anyway - great discussion here and keep up all the great work!

As Tim Gunn says, "carry on."


Natural Louisville said...

I got over alot of these affluenza symptoms a number of years ago. I really did.

For instance, I put money in savings even though it's earning less than my credit cards are accruing (and let's not even talk about those student loans).

I also shop for many critical items: lipstick, beer, jeans on sale at Anthropologie. I tend to buy impulsive purchases that aren't really impractical at all, if you get right down to it:

"Hey, I bet those stove burner covers might keep the cats from burning the house down like they tried to do last night ... yeah!"

I think "In Defense of Food" might be a more instructional read for me. Clearly -- CLEARLY -- I have this Affluenza shizzit covered =)

Anonymous said...

Just started reading a variety of blogs. I love what you have to say, as it reflects many of my thoughts.
I won't be reading the book, as it will depress me... We are up to our eyeballs in debt and I'm trying to get it controlled. I have 2 years until the mortgage rate changes and we are completely screwed, so I have to take drastic action NOW. I have to monitor our spending so that we are not adding as much or more to the debt as I pay down each month.
I'll be writing more in the future.

Anonymous said...

Malls-- I believe they are one of Dante's levels of hell--I loathe the mall and when forced to shop- I only go in stores that have outside access to them (ie Target) I cannot stand the "hallways" of the mall.
I can't understand my 14 year old boy- wants to be dropped off at the mall w. his friends. We have acres of woods, tools, dirtbikes, paintball...and they want to go to the mall? No, it's not girls. They could walk to the beach and see, they would rather go to the mall. I refuse to partake in it.

2. Credit Cards. We have one for convenience, but pay off the balance every month.
3. Those Pesky Joneses... we live in an exceedingly affluent area, but both me and DH are teachers, so we tell the kiddos- we have summers off- that's our luxury. It is nauseating the consumerism rampant amongst teens. A student at my school (who is failing my class btw) drives an H2 Hummer. I try to convince my boys that the contest should be on who has the most recycling and least trash...oh, baby we kick the Joneses' butts!
4. The Clutter. We moved 3 years ago- so I did a lot of decluttering then and have vowed to not take on more...but we do have tons of books and school related materials that I don't know where to put. I give away stuff on craigslist and freecycle. Check it out in your area.
5. I occassionally fall into the want trap-- but (laugh with me not at me) the things I want right now are a nice kitchen compost bin (but I wont pay $40.00) a good covered rain barrell, and garden/plant materials. OK, a nice patio set.
Early in our marriage we read Your Money or Your life, and I don't mind paying and purchasing things that truly make you happy (continuously) like XC skis (go from our back yard) my kitchenaid mixer (I love to cook and bake). But I don't want to buy stupid stuff. When I do shop- I am the queen of the locatus bargainus species.
I do watch a fair amount of TV- but the commercial general repel me away from purchasing!

Anonymous said...

#1. When I was in high school, the mall was a major social event, mostly because I lived in a rural area and the mall was the closest thing to "civilization" we had. I don't know that we ever really shopped, though. These days malls just leave me feeling disoriented and sad. I hate the idea of every mall across America having more or less the same stuff everywhere. I don't really have catalogs or anything either (in fact, I just signed up for a catalog cancellation service). I just don't really shop, I guess--except maybe seed catalogs and yarn stores!

#2. We do have credit cards, two of them, but they're both empty. One has a really high available credit that we keep in case of a true emergency. The other I mostly use to make coffee purchases for our Equal Exchange coffee project at church, for which I'm reimbursed. We also use it on those rare occasions when, for some reason, the debit card isn't a good idea, but we pay it off immediately.

We also hold a mortgage, but one that we can afford. But I have *huge* student loan debt, almost as much as our mortgage. That's the most significant source of our own debt. Further, they've changed the rules such that they *can* sieze our house if I default on my student loans (didn't used to be the case). Right now we're reasonably financially stable, but we don't have a lot of margin. My husband's job contributes to his IRA at a rate of 10% his gross income, which is very nice, so we don't worry too much about that. But we probably only manage to put away between $50-200/month (often closer to the $50 side). I'm guessing we've got enough padding to maintain our lifestyle for about 2 months if we lost our job, assuming nothing else happened (i.e., need a new car, major medical, etc.). We also have almost no equity in our home yet.

#3. One of the best things we ever did was get rid of broadcast/cable/satellite TV. That, all by itself, has alleviated nearly all of my "keeping up with the joneses" needs. I don't have a distorted view of how people in my class live, because the only people I see in my class ARE people who live in my class! Furthermore, when I find myself in consumer lust, it's typically over something that someone I know has and uses, and I've seen that I like it. This is a far better basis, I think, for desiring something than the manipulative effects of commercials. When I want something based on how I see my friends using it, it's typically veridical--I really do want it, and it really does improve my life when I have it.

#4. For years we moved from one corner of the country to the other, in grad school and then in one-year academic positions. This prevented most stuff-accretion, as we just couldn't manage to take it all with us every year. Now that we're settled in a house, and have been for about 3 years, I'm happy to say that we're still not in serious stuff-accretion mode. I used to be very bad about it, but all the moving really cured me. I had to do a major stuff-purge during one move, and while it was scary at first, it ended up being so cathartic and satisfying that I've never wanted to go back to having a lot of stuff.

#5. This comes back mostly to my answer to #3. I just am not as exposed to consumer desires and inadequacy of stuff, so I don't feel very affected. I really enjoy that, actually.