Monday, March 19, 2007

The Solution to the Consumerism Trap

I promised something positive this week and here it is: there is a solution to the consumerism trap! Most of us, most of the time don't need to live beyond our means and, if we want to, we can be truly generous - with our time, our stuff, our talents. How? It's simple, really. Rather than allow the media to dictate our desires, we need to think about what is really important to us and then set a budget that reflects our values. Or, if you don't like budgets, just change your heart (but believe me, it will be easier not to "cheat" if you commit to a budget!). The first step in this process is to realize that big companies pay big bucks to advertise their products and plant the idea in our minds that our lives would be better (so much better) if we could just figure out a way to own their product. Do they think we're STUPID? Well, actually - they do and not for no reason (not to be negative but remember that we are citizens of the country that is $752 billion dollars in debt for "stuff", much of which we don't need!). So, knowing this, we can begin to match cunning with cunning. We can look at advertising with a skeptical eye and gradually train ourselves to resist the lure. Really, how many times do we need to say to ourselves, "it's not really making my life better" or "it wasn't as good a buy as I thought" or "I really didn't need it but I just couldn't resist"?

I heard a story on CBC radio a few months ago about a neat elderly couple. They're multi-millionaires, but had decided that they could live comfortably on $30,000 a year. So, they kept $30,000 for themselves and gave the rest of their investment income away! Notice that they didn't start with a commitment to give 10% to charity. They evaluated their needs, kept what they needed for themselves (to live comfortably but not wastefully or extravagantly) and they just gave the rest away. They spent their days meeting with people who needed money for various projects and they donated - $1000 here, $100,000 there - all for projects that they felt would help other people.

I've thought about that couple a lot over the last few months. They're an inspiration for me and I don't even remember their names or where they live. I just know that I love what they're doing. For me, it's all about living simply, giving generously and practicing hospitality. I can't help wondering what the world would look like if this model were to catch on. It won't be easy - we need to learn how to stare down our greed, but if they can do it, maybe I can do it too. And maybe you can too!

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