The other kind of consumer is the one who loves a bargain, who hunts for the best price possible and who can't pass up a clearance rack. Yes, this is me. I pride myself on paying what I want for goods, not what the market has determined. I will search until I find a price I can accept. And yes, I have the annoying habit of having to tell everyone how little I paid for an item. This kind of consumerism does have its own pitfalls and challenges. Patience (something I'm generally not noted for) is necessary for the hunter/forager. Just as you don't want to startle your prey with imprudent movement, the hunting/foraging consumer cannot count on getting something immediately or when it is most popular. (This means no buying your winter coat or swimsuit when they first appear in the stores--which is always when you can't really use them anyhow). Just as the forager has to wait until the wild greens grow, or the nuts fall, or the fruits ripen, this consumer has to have the temperance to wait until the right time to pick. That means perhaps buying your new swimsuit at the end of June (when you still have plenty of hot weather to use it) as the stores are making way for heavy wool coats and leather boots. The other pitfalls are buying things you don't need just because the price is good (I generally avoid this one but we all slip up now and again). And the aforementioned habit of bragging about good price. As my father often tells me, if someone compliments me on something I'm wearing I'm not obligated to let them know how little it cost: I can just graciously say "thank you." I need to work on that one!
I know our modern world revolves around a consumerist model, but it strikes me that we can all be more mindful of how we purchase things and the messages we send to our young people about possessions and acquisition. Here are some guidelines I've come up with:
- Think about what is motivating you to make a purchase. Good design--form, color, line and utility, comes at every price range. A good eye is more important than a fat wallet. Are you buying a name brand just because you assume it is better, or because you think it will confer status on you? If the latter is your motivation, then you need to do some soul-searching about your self-identification. If your eye needs training, get some design books from your library and pore over them until you feel more comfortable with choosing well-designed clothes, furniture and accessories regardless of price.
- Clearance racks are fun places to forage. See things with new eyes, perhaps different purposes.
- Don't be too lazy to use your store discount cards (especially at grocery stores). I cannot believe the number of people who forego savings. If using a store credit card, pay it off when you get home with online banking.
- Don't buy what you cannot afford. Period. (Just as you wouldn't hunt more animals than you could possibly eat or store).
- Shop in your own home. I do this regularly. My daughter and I swap clothes, or find something in the house that could be better used elsewhere or in a new way. She recently converted a play room into a study. We used a desk that was sitting in the corner of another room, recovered a tattered office chair, found an unused poster still in the packaging, and bought new decorative elements in the clearance party supplies section of a craft store. A cheap room make-over!
- Use your library! Books, music, movies. Free instead of $20 plus each! And, libraries often have book sales (ours has two per month). I walk out with a grocery bag of books for under $20.
- Consignment and vintage stores offer some unique things--just watch for overpricing.
- Don't be afraid of curb finds. Some of my favorite furniture pieces were pulled off the sidewalk with "free, please take" signs on them.
- Have a freezer/pantry food week. This is where you inventively eat only out of the freezer/pantry/fridge to use up things before they go bad. No store runs.
- Make a trade with a friend! One person's trash or white elephant may be another's treasure. Exchange books, music--give away bulk food you know you aren't going to use in due time.
I like to think that employing these hunting/foraging techniques allows you to spend your money on travel, education or artisan goods. Instead of spending hundreds on a "designer" bag, get a hand tooled one from a true craftsman. Same goes for jewelry. Art. Furniture. The whole point of mass-produced is cheapness and convenience, and where quality isn't your biggest concern, this works well. Spend your real dollars where they will support years of learning and honing skill. See the recent film below:
Go beyond seeing the New Age Paleo lifestyle as just relating to food--see it as a mindset. One that avoids waste and seeks that which will serve efficiently and thoughtfully so as to preserve resources for everyone.
I'm off to the latest clearance sale!
Lisabeth (p.s., See my Budget Punk Paleo guide under Resources)