I'm listening to all this economic recession/depression talk quite closely. I'm thinking about the U.S. trade imbalance, the fact that we manufacture so very little here anymore, and the continuing concentration of business in a few mega-corporations. Several months ago, I went back to very strict budgeting (thanks to Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University
), so I'm putting something in savings every month. I wiped out my small credit card balances, so my only debt now is on the 2002 car that I bought used in 2006. I am no longer "running out of money before I run out of month," as the saying goes. Somebody recently asked me how I made this turnaround, and I replied, "I finally taught myself the difference between 'I want'
and 'I need
.'" I go into stores with a list in hand, and I do not look left or right as I gather the things I truly need. It would be so easy to be lured by the "bargains" and special displays. I just don't look. I am on a mission for my own financial health.
At the same time, I'm paying more attention to environmental issues. At the moment, I'm sitting here in a t-shirt, flannel shirt, and hooded sweatshirt, as well as jeans and wool socks, so that I can keep my thermostat at 65 while I'm home. [My programmable thermostat drops it to 60 degrees at night and during the workday.]
On the road, I'm generally a speed-demon, most comfortable when driving about 75 mph (or more) on the highway; but I'm now driving about 60 mph when time allows, not just to save money, but to reduce my consumption of gasoline. And I'm buying my gas from the BreakTime stations, operated by a farmer's co-op based here in Missouri. No national chains for me, thank you very much. [I picked up several other simple ideas from Jan Nunley's How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change a Christian
. Please buy it from Church Publishing or your local bookstore.] I'm not just doing this to save money. I'm doing it because I realize that every gallon of gas I buy, every kilowatt I use is consuming fossil fuels that will not be replaced within the next few centuries. Faithful stewardship requires that I do what I can to reduce my impact on the environment.
I'm also paying more attention to where I spend my money. To paraphrase a slogan, I'm trying to think globally, but shop locally. A couple months ago, I had to buy glucose test strips for Scotty (my diabetic cat), and I couldn't find them in any of the local stores, so I had to go to WalMart. When I walked in, the store had been completely remodelled and rearranged. I realized it had been well over a year since I had been to WalMart. I essentially "quit" WalMart a couple of years ago, when I became more aware of their anti-labor practices and began to recognize how they were devastating American companies like Rubbermaid. [Hat-tip to Joe Bageant
and his book, Deer Hunting with Jesus
Today I was catching up on some blog-reading, and read a dear friend's comment about hearing of a new book and going to Barnes & Noble to order it. I wondered, "Why???" I'm in a relatively small town [population about 40,000]. B&N moved in here about 3 years ago, but I don't think I've bought a book there yet. For we are fortunate to have an independent bookstore here. For fiction and other non-theological books, I either buy the book there, or I have them order it. If I need a theological book, I either order it from that store or I buy it through the Cathedral bookstore
. Why? Because I care where my money goes. I care who is making a profit. I am dismayed by the increasing homogenization of the U.S., where every town has the same chain stores and the locally owned stores are going out of business. I want to spend my money on folks who live here.
And when I eat out, I also try to eat at the locally-owned restaurants instead of the increasing number of chains that are moving in here.
I'm not entirely sure what has gotten into me. But I know I'm sick of the mega-corporations. And I am sick of hearing American citizens being defined as "consumers." And this devoted NPR listener was appalled last week when I heard a "Morning Edition" anchor say that we had entered "the Christmas shopping season." No, I am not in any kind of "shopping season." I am trying to live my life, spend my money responsibly, and – God willing – enter into a holy Advent season.