I recently watched the documentary Affluenza, which talks about the culture of overconsumption in America today. Not living in America, I can only base my opinions and thoughts on what I see of my own country and of the media of other countries, but it does seem to me that this documentary hits the nail right on the head.
This comes as no surprise to any of you. Why would you be reading this blog if you didn't at least have some small interest in the commitment I've made to a simpler and more frugal life?
I agree that there's a huge culture of overconsumption in the more developed countries today. I'm also thankful that there are people out there who are working to fight it, or at the very least to not be as big a part of it. Every time you buy second-hand, that you recycle or reuse, that you acknowledge that you don't need the biggest newest product, you're doing your part against that overconsumption. Even if nobody is really listening, you can rest with a clear conscience, and you can tell yourself, "I didn't contribute to a problem."
I see a lot of people participating in "no spending" challenges lately, on the various blogs I read. For a certain number of days during this calendar year, they are trying to not spend a single penny. They limit themselves to spending money out of maybe a third of the year, and I admire then for it.
The biggest reason I didn't bother participating in such a challenge this year is that it didn't seem fair. I'll have a job starting on Monday, but before that, I had no money, and aside from borrowed money for groceries and other essentials, it didn't seem fair to participate in a challenge where I wouldn't be spending purely because I have nothing to spend. It would be like a vegetarian participating in Meatless Mondays. Not much to brag about when it's just a part of your everyday life.
(On a side-note, I have found employment again, evem if it's only for 3 weeks. I'm very thankful for it!)
Being unemployed has taught me a lot. For one thing, as much as I said before that I wanted to have a simpler life, I didn't have a great amount of motivation to do so. I was trapped in a consumer spiral. I worked, I had plenty of money, and I spent the excess on fun stuff to fill the void. And the void got bigger, and I knew that to fix it I had to simplify, but maybe I'd do that after this next paycheque, because there's a new book and a new video game that I want.
Next time, next time, always next time.
But being unemployed taught me, more than anything else could, that I've got plenty, I have even more than I knew I had, and I didn't need to keep buying more. I'm a stockpiler by nature, but I stockpiled all the wrong things. My stash of yarn will keep Rachel and I in socks and scarves for years, no doubt, and my video games will provide endless hour of entertainment, and so will my books and my burned DVDs of podcasts. But oh, there's that pesky manner of food.
I got so used to food being always there, and always more than I could eat, that I didn't really seriously grasp the thought of being without it, having it limited. My video games won't fill my stomach. My yarn won't make dinner.
I've learned to take stock of what I have and to be more appreciative of it. And I've learned that when I get regular steady income again, I know my priorities have been re-arranged. First, I pay my allotted amount into the joint bank account that Rachel and I pay our rent and bills from. Then I pay money toward my debt. Then I buy any medications I may need, since I do need a steady supply of some kinds.
Then I start looking at two main things. The first is storing and preserving food for lean times. If I ever lose my job again, it will be a great load off our minds to know that we've got enough food to last us for a few months without real worry, for example. The second thing, and equally important, is to start an emergency savings fund. Stored food won't do us too much good if we have no way of paying the rent. I'm pretty sure our landlord won't accept a bag of dried apple slices in lieu of $535 each month.
It's funny what having so little can do to make you realise just how much you actually have, and to help you put your priorities in place.