Conscious consumption is a social movement based on increased awareness of the impact of purchasing decisions on the environment, your health and life in general. Around the value of freedom often linked to money, this quote “Frugal is freedom” from Vicki Robins and Joe Dominguez, the author of “Your Money or Your Life”, helped me reframe 'frugal' in an empowering way. I associated frugal with penny-pinching or being stingy before - now, this has shifted to seeing frugal as a way to consciously consume. We usually link time to money to value our time when we work. That can sometimes lead to scarcity or ‘not enough’ thinking because the belief that is reinforced is that every minute you spend not earning/working or doing something ‘productive’, you are wasting time. And of course, we have exactly 24 hours in a day, this is also a fact.
I prefer to think of earning money, thanks to Vicki Robins & Joe Dominguez, regarding exchanging my life energy – a choice between opportunities of doing something with no pay that I would enjoy or paid work. Knowing the worth of an hour of my life energy is vital in understanding what I am exchanging or choosing to give up in order to work if I trade this hour of my life.
How does one assign a monetary value to an hour of our life that makes sense to one’s individual life? To me, this book made it pretty simple to work out the question. You can read the book summary here.
‘Frugal is freedom!’ One interpretation of this for me is you buy the things/experiences/services you want and spend money on what would give you joy and fulfilment. No blind consumerism here - it is about being connected to integrity and choice when you spend, earn and invest money. In other words, conscious consumption.
Eliminate the expenses that are not connected to your needs like freedom, self-respect or integrity- being mindful of being in touch with your own free choice when buying.
Being on my financial integrity journey, which is a key theme of the book, has meant that I now shamelessly own my frugal nature (I was naturally frugal anyway) and increased my inner freedom and choice around money.
One example, to illustrate further, is on items like food. I used to eat out quite a bit in the week - mostly on impulse or out of sheer laziness. I switched to buying organic vegetable boxes from a local farm. I now spend less time shopping as the food gets delivered neatly wrapped and right at my doorstep. The packaging gets recycled as the farm takes it back with their next delivery; and then because I have really lovely ingredients at home, I don’t end up going out to eat or calling in a takeaway unless I really want to.
I also buy in bulk from a food cooperative called Suma– they home deliver for orders over £250. I can also buy products which aren't necessarily stocked in my local supermarkets. For larger families, buying in bulk makes more sense as time and money saver. I avoided 25 kg bags as we are a family of only two, but you can choose from 1 kg, 3 kg, 5 kg and 25 kg options. If you are in the UK, another bulk food cooperative is Infinity.
I had to create a little cupboard space (hubby's DIY skills came in handy) as I bought bulk shampoo, bulk cleaner, bulk lentils, mint tea, coconut milk and beans. I freecycled a lot of stuff aka junk (items not used for over 12 months) I was holding onto (in said cupboard) that I never used.
Also, I cut back on expenses like buying clothes. I buy nicer (more expensive) clothes less often as I don’t want to support modern slavery practices by purchasing cheap clothes that are produced in inhumane factory conditions. A lot shifted after I watched True cost, an eye-opening documentary that examines the business of fast fashion. I had no idea that fast fashion was the second most polluting industry on the planet, after the oil industry. I also gave away most of my wardrobe, including items I was holding onto in the hope that I might wear someday…my husband was very pleased about this and now keeps hinting about my shoes!
I support some individuals with the surplus money I have, with these savings thanks to the shifts in spending that I have made, in areas that I am passionate about (non-violence, children's education, peace activism, seed sharing). I also invest more each month as I believe in that (or I wouldn't be a great financial adviser) as a discipline and of course, it is one of the ways I care about myself and my future. I also spend more consciously on experiences rather than stuff– I go to a nice gym, I travel, took up some art classes and joined a choir. Things I would normally not consider doing as I was a bit of a workaholic and didn't want to 'waste time' - as I believed time was money!
It gives me an incredible sense of contribution and meaning to support people who need funding for projects that meet my values. It is enjoyable for me to spend in line with my values and feels good to me. I didn't spend money this consciously before. Thanks to some work with a little spreadsheet working out all my expenses, earnings and recording all the time spent in the pursuit of earning, and some software (I like Rescuetime) - I am much more conscious about how and why I spend and invest. I have reclaimed a profound sense of meaning in my work and a lot of freedom in my life.
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