Want to Help The Economy? Do Not Go Shopping (Too Much)


Image credit: anwerpenR, used under Creative Commons license.

Apologies in advance if this turns into a rant, but I have to get something off my chest.

Only this weekend, I was listening to a popular radio show about money, and the theme was all about downsizing and thrift—talking to Americans about how they had modified their spending habits, and established a more sustainable, mindful relationship with their money. Then yesterday I'm listening to another episode of that same show, and the presenter started talking in worried, even incredulous tones, about why it was that American consumer confidence is at a 2 year low, and folks just aren't spending like they used to. Sorry, but either saving is good, and spending money wisely is a positive move, or we should all borrow and spend like it's 2006.

At some point we have to confront this collective economic schizophrenia. We can't have it both ways.Most Of Us Buy Stuff
I should be clear, I'm not saying we should all stop shopping. From learning to love your stuff, to establishing a personal green stimulus plan, as long as we live in a market-based economy, I see more promise in using our money and our purchases as a tool for change than I do in rejecting the evils of money all together. (This coming from someone who just bought a car...)

Let's Not Forget the Lessons of the Recession
But from finally seeing serious discussion of no growth economics, to countless "consumers" discovering simpler living as an alternative American Dream, and even pursuing radically different ways of life like building themselves a tiny house, this recession has given many of us an opportunity to "grow up" when it comes to our attitude to finances and material wealth.

Money is a Tool, Not a Goal
Money and possessions are not, as so many of us have been lead to believe, an end in themselves—but rather one tool among many to ensure our well-being, health and happiness. The danger is that as we seek a path our of our economic doldrums, the collective narrative is starting to shift to that infamous post-9/11 Bushism—we should all get up and go shopping.

Thrift Can Help Our Economy, and Our Planet
Yes, jobs are important. Yes, economic stability and collective well-being matter. But if we seek those things with more of the consumption-at-all-costs medicine that got us in this mess in the first place, we risk being back where we started in just a few short years. I refuse to see it as a bad thing that consumers are saving more, spending less, and paying close attention to their personal finances. Likewise, seeking to understand the long-term value of the purchases we make is an important step forward for us as a culture.

And we haven't even touched on what this all means for the planet. But you can figure that out for yourselves. Rant over.

More on Economics, Sustainability and Finances
Material Possessions are Not Evil: Learn to Love Your Stuff
Do You Have a Personal Green Stimulus Plan?
Living Without Cash for a Year: Hypocrisy or Heroism?
What Does a No Growth Economy Actually Look Like?
Living Simply as an Alternative American Dream

Tags: Consumerism | Economics | Poverty | United States