Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Idea #2: Need Less

Catherine posted on the facebook page this:
We, the 99%, are as much a part of the problem as the 1%. Let's not forget that the debt of the 99% are the assets of the 1%. Wanna make a difference? NEED LESS! People need to stop living outside their means. 
Need. Less.  I'm on it.

This is going to be multi-post idea because there's a lot to it, but the first thing it got me thinking about was how credit has allowed me to believe we're a lot richer than we are. And every time we buy what we can not afford by using a credit card, not only do we lie to ourselves, we send our resources over to the very structures that are the problem.

The lie is the biggest problem for me.  The lie that I am rich.  It's a problem because I'm not as rich as a lot of people I'm buying like, and it's a problem because it alienates me from the ones I should be living like.  For a person of faith, there is no avoiding the hard truth that Jesus thought that the Least and the Last were where it's at, and that the Kingdom of God was for them.  When I align myself with the Most and the First, I step away from where my hope lies and that is soul crushing.

It also allows me to start believing that somehow I am an improvement on them, whoever they are.  That maybe it's because of my own wonderfulness that I can have all these markers of Most and First, instead of just because of some odd combination of fate and happenstance.  And if it's my goodness that has landed me here, it becomes possible to believe that it is their badness that has landed them where they are.  And if it's their fault, then there really isn't much I can do to help them until they help themselves.  

But if I feel the edges of my resources, if I bump into my Not Enough more often, if I reject the cushion of cheap credit and have to say no to things because I can't afford it - if I face my own poverty, then suddenly I am them too, and if I'm them then maybe I'm a bit more willing to help them.  Because helping them is helping me.  And we can be as warm-hearted as we want to be, but most of us do good best when we're doing it for ourselves.

So our family....  our family is going to try living within our means.  We have to talk about it, but I think it will look like moving to cash.  Cards not only allow the lie, but they also take money out of the hands of the merchants I am trying to support by charging them huge fees for accepting my Lie Payment.  If I pay with cash I not only know what I can afford but I land an extra 4 - 6% in the hands of my neighbours.  One action, two good outcomes.  I like this kind of math.

I'm not sure how this will go.  We already feel the edges of our resources too keenly.  Even though globally we are the richest, in our world we feel like we're barely making it.  I'm not sure we can do it, to be honest.  And it's not like we're in a lot of debt. If you don't count our massive mortgage, that is.  But we use credit to ease cash flow and justify things that we can't afford in the moment because we may be able to afford them later.  

This one's going to sting I think.

IDEA #2 Response:
What are other ways of moving to life within our means?


  1. Thank you, I have just realized the absurdity of putting EVERYTHING on my credit card to get the air miles. When I actually think we should all try to fly less. What about debit cards, Alison, are they the same? Costs the vendor a fortune to use that system? Do I actually need to carry MONEY around again???

  2. I starting using cash 2 months ago. Everything I buy in a week, groceries, gas, clothes, gifts, cat food, medicine, library late fees, etc....etc....etc.... is cash. It is VERY hard but something about it feels very good and right. It forces me to be aware and conscious of every in and out. I feel like I have been living unconsciously in almost every aspect of my life. I think as a society we live unconsciously. As a result we are not well. In our minds and hearts. I believe that being aware and noticing is the first step to getting well. I go easy on myself though because I cannot fully get there. Noticing without judging. And, cash makes me notice.

  3. I've lived in countries where cash remains king, and it definitely helps to curtail your spending.

  4. @Anonymous 1, I don't know what the fees are, but I'm pretty sure merchants pay a fee no matter what card is used. So if you want to stop sending money to the bank instead of to the merchant, then yes, you probably do need to start using real life money. But if you think of another way, pay it on! As for the Airmiles, I find it tricky because maybe there's wisdom there, but then I wonder if the cost of the lie is greater than the cost of buying my airplane tickets...

    @Anonymous 2, "Noticing without judging" needs to be on my list somehow. I'm going to live with that one more.

    @Darren, why haven't those countries bought into our plastic-based economic system?

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts... I've been unconsciously doing something similar for the past 5 - 10 years. My husband and I have lived in Ontario, France, England and BC during our married life and thus moving abroad makes you realise how much stuff you have.

    Because of the housing situation in Vancouver we live in a pretty small condo and so I can't just store stuff easily. Every time something comes in the condo, I try to get rid of something else and when I shop, I no longer ask myself, do I want this, but rather do I need it. It's amazing how many items you actually don't need...

    TV, hairdryer, perfume, alarm clock, radio, stereo, big fancy car... I have none of this clutter and it feels great.

    The idea of using cash more is new to me. I might have to make it part of my life spending.

  6. @Christine, thank you for your comment. If you do go to cash, let us know what it's like. I hope to post update posts for these ideas where we can hear how/if these adjustments lead to any kind of difference.

    I can't help but think that if the entirety of North America said No More Plastic, those banks that have foreclosed on so many and done all kinds of bad (and good - I know banks do good) would have to rethink how they do business because they'd suddenly be down a LOT of revenue.

  7. Giving up the idea that moving up is not always best for our families. Not saying our path of selling and becoming renters works for everyone, but I think the journey and reasoning behind it for us made sense. Though you already know that since you were part of that journey.

  8. Mamabear, I'd love it if you wrote more about that decision - a friend just mentioned in an email that she and her family are wondering if it's the right move for them. What real difference did it make in your financial situation? Do you feel displaced or less secure now that you don't own your home? I'd love to hear an update and am planning a post about affordable housing soon that would be well-informed by you and your experience.