“The economy can be seen either as the most powerful and visceral display of human selfishness, or as the manifest dynamic potential of human connectivity and community.” Sakyong Mipham, The Shambhala Principle
It’s easy to forget that there is great power in every penny we spend. In living simpler, I’m going to have a lot less income and I want to make (nearly) every penny count. Rather than tracking daily expenses in the usual budget categories, this year I started tracking a daily “who did I support?” list. Looking back on the day, I evaluate the choices I made and this influences my shopping in the future.
My vote with my $ includes:
- Buying local at farmers markets.
- Choosing organic products from smaller companies rather than supporting agri-business.
- Buying fair trade coffee beans and chocolate.
- Buying cruelty-free body care products.
- Buying environmentally-safe household cleaning products.
- Bringing attention to all my shopping by looking at where an item is made and researching companies online to avoid supporting sweat shop laboUr.
The outcome has not been that I spend more $. It’s that I buy less stuff and I buy stuff I’m more likely to appreciate and that won’t end up unused. It’s a budgeting choice – I believe I get more for my $ and I ultimately feel good about my purchases. From large expenses like hiring an independent local company for home renos to small purchases like buying one handcrafted wooden mixing spoon rather than a bundle of cheaply-made ones.
For example, an actual list* of my out-of-pocket expenses for one week in June 2014 (pre-SL) looks like:
- Café at work: great to see they’ve posted a list of local farms they support!
- RFI – Starbucks: they’re working on it, but I don’t think they’re at 100% fair trade coffee yet. Hey, how about remembering to take your ceramic mug to reduce waste?
- Whole Foods.
- Massage therapist.
- RFI – Chipotle: not great for my waistline, but at least they emphasize environmentally-sustainable, organic, local, hormone-free ingredients. Find out why they use foil lids on the take-away containers though (update to self: the lids are made of 95% recycled material).
- 2 farmers markets: 3 small veggie and berry farms, soup maker, organic cheese maker, flower farm (good for bees!).
- Local bake-at-home pizza shop that emphasizes local, organic, seasonal ingredients.
- Local Mexican grocery store.
- iPic Theater: Maleficent – showed Hollywood we would pay to watch a movie with a female protagonist.
As I become more intentional with my shopping, I slow down and am more likely to make a good purchase/no-purchase decision. It is natural to feel overwhelmed by which cause(s) to support. And it’s easy to think that the shopping choices I make – one person – don’t matter. They do. I won’t spend every penny ideally, but I am viewing shopping more and more as economic, environmental and social activism. “Who did I support?” is a powerful budget for me now and in preparation for simpler living.
* The list certainly shows areas where I can cut back expenses for simpler living – like eating out!
The Shambhala Principle: Discovering Humanity’s Hidden Treasure by Sakyong Mipham
SL = simpler living
RFI = room for improvement