My spending habits will tighten as the economy worsens. I've calculated the order in which I will reduce or discontinue discretionary expenses.
My gut tells me the economy will to continue get worse for the remainder of 2008 and all of 2009.
I do not consider myself a consumer. I tend to buy what I need and only a little of what I want. I consciously strive to live within a small economic foot print. I prefer to have friends, family, food, shelter, health and a few baubles, everything else goes away.
Consumers who buy everything they want use too many resources. In my experience having more stuff has not produced happiness. There is the danger of being trapped unconsciously in the habit of working harder to get more stuff.
Who can correctly predict how long the economic downturn will last? I have set a two-year window and have set my budget accordingly. I wanted to lose weight anyway so bring on the belt tightening.
I want to rename Gil Scott Heron's song, "It's Winter in America," to "It's Winter on Planet Earth."
We will cut back, though I to do not see myself as a consumer and not sure
from where we have to cut back. I do think that there is an upside in all this, as it causes us to slow down, think about what we do have and maybe humble us a little. The poor will be with us always, but until we feel our own pocket books get hit, we rarely see them. But we may consume ourselves into being them. I think for anyone with food on the table a roof over their head and health among themselves and family members it is a time to be greatful.
Although the questions and topic imply consumer spending as related to products in general, I believe the current source of the problem needs immediate attention and hopefully the new presidential administration will set new regulations and standards to effect a quick recovery. Not just a false economic stimulous check, so-called failed "bailout" to banking and CEO thieves or a perk to buy a new Christmas toy at a discount to temporarily passify us.
WHat is seriously needed, would be to create meaningful jobs and return the housing purchasing process to an affordable state again. After losing my home n foreclosure through wrongful banking practices/fraudulent loans/greedy bankers late last year, the home that I designed and built 20 years ago, that I planned to stay in for life, tens of thousands of dollars of landscaping cannot be re-grown after 20 years of careful maintenance. Although the bank gave me back $100,000 after I forced the issue with help of an attorney, now the banks and the current President are allowing a moratorium to stop foreclosures as they see that the damage of our credit systems has gone full circle and thus the entire world duffers because of the American CEO greed factor syndrome. I receive an early retirement pension in a few months. Do the banks recognize me as an asset in our local area? Haven?t I earned my Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property in my local home town? Will they discount a new home for me that I will design and build again?
Will they allow a person who holds $100,000 in his pocket, now rendered homeless through foreclosure, to rebuild by giving say a 20% ~ 30% of that sum back to the bank to rebuild my lost home? And why not? What am I to do with $100,000 now? My home was also my art studio that I produced award winning astronomy art at. Will the banks now give away property at the old land prices of 20 years ago to rebuild homes on? That would help. Do not want to irresponsibly spend my compensation to rebuild the home, on instead needless products because they are now at give-away prices.
I for one, never found much reasoning in spending on useless trendy products. The general American novelties of perceived wants of I-pods, video games, the over-purchasing of material goods that are never really used or benefited from, a certain obnoxious Hollywood poll of who drives what car syndrome; ie; a thousand channel satellite dish TV or an I-phone that I see people using to call across the office room instead of walking over to talk to a real person.
Americans have become drugged on the perceived notion that any new product that hits the store shelves in discounted price, is open fodder and reason to throw money away for.
Instead of running out to purchase redundantly, needless electronic products from China say, We should influence the new generation to aspire to invest in a home and participate in the local community in artful projects that improve the local community.
We are known for these standards in Oregon. As a local Portland Oregonian artist, I have always put those standards of quality and excellence first in our local area. We have the image to set the standards for the world but will they rise to the occasion to learn from us? Or merely follow the old business and commerce failed traditions in history that the old school conservative partisan government wallows in?
-Mark Seibold, Artist-Astronomer, Portland OR
I purchase food staples, as few ready-made processed foods as I can, and gasoline. In addition, our income supports the payment of the city utilities, taxes, the electric bill, and insurance on our home and autos. We get our teeth cleaned. We purchase clothing, furniture, and housewares from thrift stores or using Craig's List. We grow a big garden and gather our own firewood. We have no consumer debt but will have to mortgage our home to obtain the line of credit we'll need for business inventory next year.
Generations of Americans have lived in a similar fashion although it is currently out of vogue. I'm not saying we should ALL live this way, but I do think we have to reject the idea that we're somehow helping the economy by buying things we don't need. There are so many things we DO need: We all need automobiles that aren't burning fossil fuels, power systems for our homes and businesses that are reducing the carbon footprint of our communities, foodstuffs that are produced without huge inputs of fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers/pesticides etc. What we really need is to rebuild our wasteful country into a lean, strong, intelligent world leader in the technologies that will sustain the enormous human population of the world. But how will we do that when we the "consumer" populace have no savings and those who have ruled our financial system have squandered our national wealth through unscrupulous and short-sighted business practices?
Shame on us.
My wife and I are already frugal. Not out of necessity, but choice. We've made the choice to be very selective about our purchases for a long time. This is what has enabled us to enjoy the money we do spend. I think it's wise for people to save, spend wisely and sparingly, and to always have enough money in savings to cover most minor catastrophes. The current economic crisis is a disaster. I would love to see an accounting of the $700 billion that has already been allocated to alleviate the crisis. I'd bet if someone looked they would discover a lot more money gone than has been actually spent to help the crisis. And now we're going to throw another bunch of billions of dollars at it???? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Why don't we wait and see if the first $700 billion are going to do any good before we throw more money down that drain?
My family and I are not buying anything but the basics. We are part of the working poor. It would be nice for the common people to get some of this bailout, the banks are getting the money and they are rasing the interates on their credit cards while saying that they are in trouble and need this to help them out. They seem to be winning all away around, they get our tax dollars and they get what little spending money we have.
D Portland, Oregon
Things are very tight for us this year. We buy some food stuffs, but have also had to go to a food distribution several times, and ask for help from our church. After all our bills are paid (and we are grateful that we can pay them) and we make a small payment on our medical bills, we will not have money left for presents for the kids for Christmas.
So, we have gotten creative. We have been bartering for presents. We have been able to barter my fudge and truffles, and my husband's woodworking (bookshelves, cutting boards, carry-alls, blocks, etc.) with other small businesses, so that we have something to give our children for Christmas. I think that the barter part of the economy is growing, as people simply don't have the money to spend, but can barter things they make.
I definitely think that this change in spending habits will stick with us, although I do hope at some point to be able to pay all our bills, and feed our family without having to ask for outside help. I am not sure we will add back in the things we cut out, like cable premium channels, my husband driving to work instead of taking the bus, and horse riding lessons for the kids. Those things are gone for good.
This slight economic downturn is an opportunity to LEARN how to survive the coming changes. Fundamentally, USA consumer spending habits must transition to meet the changing political and demographic profile. The bailouts, + proposed fueling of infrastructure and public project spending + 2 continuing international wars must all be financed by our debtor nation. These bills will be borne by fewer workers who will also be burdened with increasing Social Security demands and a large number of destitute retirees who have just lost their savings nest eggs and have no chance to rebuild. This will continue for decades, so get prepared.
It is a bit tough to cut back when you drive a $35 car that gets 50 mpg on waste fryer grease, and limit monthly discretionary spending to $1/day for each spouse, as we have done for 28yrs. But, having been laid off 3 yrs ago we have found additional ways to conserve. This year's gifts will be directed through humanitarian aid.
Simply put we have a society where too many people do nothing but push paper around.
If you don't produce a product or provide a NEEDED service you are essentially sucking off of the rest of us. A good example are the millions of bankers and financial thieves that orchestrated the theft of the US Treasury that is taking place right now.
Another example are the millions of people that make their living in the insurance industry.
These people need to go do some REAL work. Only then will the economies of the world turn around.
why are the powers that be encouraging us to spend on credit and worried banks won't extend us more credit. part of our predicament in that we are living beyond our means, tapping home equity to pay of prior purchases, filing bankruptcy etc.
are we ever going to get out of this debt spending cycle to help the economy. we have the lowest savings rates in the developed world. i think we should tighten our belts, stop spending on useless items and living way beyond our means. do we really need hand knotted rugs and 35,000 vehicles?
The killer gift of this year ought to be pieces of coal!
Every Conservative Republican deserves a piece of coal in their Christmas Stocking for what they have done to the US and world economy with their idiot-ological and fanatic De-Regulation and prevention of Regulation of the Financial sector in specific and overall in general. And for their constantly un-requited love for and unfulfilled faith in the idea of "Free Markets" that brought us to this current New Great Depression.
If you can't get real coal, consider giving them a BBQ briquet. But wet it first so they can't get any heat out of it.
Retail growth... sad. Not buying... sigh. Irresponsible?
We look too much to the health of our economy to things that focus on our spending what we don't have. There is an old saying that is never-the-less
The borrower is the lender's slave...
To: "Rebecca Lurie: Owner, Kush Hand-Knotted Carpets";
Traditionally when the economy is down, businesses advertise, advertise, and advertise. That's tough to bet on when the money is going out and you're betting that it will bring people in. This program ought to be of some help to you, I sure hope so.
What role does consumer debt play in this. Over the past few years many people have incurred debt that is beyond thier means. Isn't this part of the problem?
We aren't giving gifts across our extended family this year in the traditional sense. Instead, we are each (family wise) giving extra comparable amounts to "people helping" charities (such as Compassion International and the local Union Gospel Mission). It?s less under our own trees, but more for those who are doing even worse than we.
Our family rotates gift giving every year, so we only have one family we are giving gifts to. Several of my siblings asked for donations to their favorite charities. Others are so tight that most of the things on their lists are socks, clothes for the kids, etc. It is always understood in our families that used items are better than new.
We already buy used for ourselves. In a disposable economy, it's sad that we often look at the now value in deciding if it will last a year or two, rather than a decade or century...
I'd like us to have a society based on something other than our economy. I don't know what that would look like, but many of our problems would solve themselves if the dollr were not always our bottom line.
I run a small business in Portland repairing electronics for musicians. The last two months have been very difficult for me. I'm paying my bills about a month late, my rent about 15 days late and many of my customers can't pay me for service I've performed, because many of them are in a similar boat. Cel phones getting shut off, as I've attempted to call to collect money from them. People paying several weeks after service performed. While this business cab be lucrative, during this time, I'm realizing how far from necessity this particular nitch of business is. I'm not buying anything at all for Christmas, as I don't see myself caught up for several months. And this on top of not having had health insurance for nearly 6 years. I'm not feeling particularly optimistic these days.
Have you thought about bartering at all? I don't know if it would work for your business, but it seems that more and more that is where our other friends who run small businesses are heading.
Absolutely. Not only would it render a source of "repayment" much sooner, it would be helping perhaps the other person bartering with me, and therefore two people benefit.
Be careful what you say, the IRS and local tax types will still want the government's cut... the more barter, the more you risk the April surprise.
There's an irony in that phrase, in that businesses have to "Con" people into desiring things and then con them into buying those things to satisfy their newly installed desires.
Consumerism really is a "Con".
So, consumer confidence in what? That buying things will give them "good feelings"?
We are a very dysfunctional society, aren't we?
And those sub-prime mortgages were sold, not bought! Those were a real hustle, a con, a grift!
Tom, I think your comment gets at the heart of the challenge before us. Of course many people struggle to get their basic needs met, so buy only what they need. But most of us are going to have to change our desires and our buying habits simultaneously. What else can we do to get those 'good feelings' that consumer goods and advertising promise us?
A free public conversation series on consumerism starts at rontoms in Portland next Wednesday if anyone here wants to continue the discussion live. Check out www.oregonhum.org for more info.
I read your post.
I have thought about consumerism for many years. I'd like to see more respect for humans and less respect for material un-goods.
My spending habits have definitely changed. I am self-employed in the service industry, and people are spending much less on themselves for things they see as a luxury (like bodywork, dance lessons, manicures, etc.). As a result, I cutting down my spending, especially for Christmas. I am making presents, shopping Goodwill, as well trading services with other self-employed people to give gift certificates to my near and dear ones. Another thing my family is doing is to give to charities instead of buying gifts: we don't need a lot more stuff than we have, but other people do. By giving to a charity, we honor a family member AND provide more for someone who needs more than we do.
The character and values of American consumerism are obvious any time one visits a store or looks at the glossy advertising supplements. We are not being urged to "buy good quality things that we need" generally. We are instead being urged to buy a newer, faster, feature-laden, bigger set of items. At the home improvement store a dozen or more BBQ cookers are lined up with various added features. Essentially, they all cook food and the more fancy the rig the more arcane the explanation as to why this one is necessary. In fact, we are constantly encouraged to 'keep up with the Jones's" as they said in my youth. The majority of people don't have the income to do that---though they try. How many poor neighborhoods are full of people who've got inflatable lit ghost tableau in their fron yard at Halloween--just as an example. Choosing to buy quality, well made goods that will last for years is not 'consumerism'. If most Americans chose to buy things based on values like that would not support our economy as it's structured. The consumer economy at this moment is dependent on discarding the one you bought six months ago and getting the new one, whatever it is, with this season's colors, features, and styles. I am happy to say that I have all the 'things' I need, that I've had most of them for years, that they're very good quality, and that I put money in the bank because I am not constantly buying 'new stuff'. Consumerism of the sort our culture has adopted isn't good for us or the economy.
A book about the beginnings of consumerism is "The Essence Of Style, by Joan De Jean. I found it very interesting.
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