I think that it’s very important to watch where my money goes. Too often people carelessly spend without thinking about the aftermath of their purchases. Growing up on Long Island, where life is most condusive to hopping in a car and heading to the mall, I spent most of my time outside of school shopping with my friends. Looking back, I’m appalled: not only did I throw away a LOT of hard-earned money, but it was on things that I no longer have. I can’t think of anything important that has survived that period of time, except for a few thrifted tee shirts and a handful of books and CDs. The interesting thing is that I would give away my nights so that I could babysit, so I could spend more money on clothing, make-up, etc. And so, I lost that time that I could have been spending with friends working so that I could maintain some sort of lifestyle. It really makes me sick to think about now, but also makes me glad that I’ve realized this and have changed.
In this vein, I decided to commit to a photo log, sort of, of my consumption. I don’t work very often now, because of school, but the little money that I do pocket often goes a long way because I really think about where it goes (most often, to my savings account). Of course there are always little frivolous things that I’ll undoubtedly want, but now, when I go into a store (which is not often, at all), I ask myself the following series of questions: do I need this? will it enhance my life? will i have it for a really long time? is it really useful? who will be getting the money that I’m spending? is my purchase going to positively benefit me or anyone else? what are the ecological repercussions of my purchase? These questions, along with others I’m surely forgetting, all factor into parting with my money.
So, this is all I’ve spent in the last week (except for groceries, but as food is essential, it doesn’t count in this ‘experiment’). Books don’t really factor into my list of questions, mostly because I love to read and think that knowledge gained supercedes any environmental impact; plus, I keep my books, and pass them on/loan them to friends. Win-win. The Rybczynski book is for school, and the Elkins book is for pleasure; I’ve been wanting it for ages, and recently got my tax return, so I’m thrilled. Both are from the Harvard Bookstore, an independent, long-standing business that I love supporting. The Rilke and Baudelaire are upon the recommendation of my best friend, and both were bought from Trident, another local, independent, Buddhist-inclined bookstore. I like to see places like this stay open. The green yarn is from work, and is from a company that works to provide jobs for female artisans in Uruguay; I happily support that. The meditative quality produced by knitting the scarf–the combination of the smooth wool/silk and the earthy pattern–is worth more than anything money could afford me, it puts me in a trance (supplemented by free listening to Nick Drake). The one thing I’m ashamed of is the little ‘candy cane’ yarn there, from a sample pack of cashmere yarns bought from the UK. The environmental impact of shipping it here is likely grotesque, but I suppose in my own defense, I’m making something for my mother and am looking for the most cost-effective option. Still, I’m somewhat upset.
I’ll try not to give such an exhaustive explanation of my purchases every week, but, for my own records, I think it will be interesting to watch where my money goes. Somehow seeing a week’s worth of consumption on the screen will hold more gravity than having things scattered around the house, or in cupboards. With the exception of the cashmere yarn, all of my other purchases will benefit local businesses, and none of the sales required the use of plastic, because I always bring my own homemade bags. The surplus of books this week is only because of my tax return, otherwise I’d have a whole stack of library books (which I do, anyway). The snow will keep me inside today knitting, reading, and watching lectures for school, and if the weather keeps up, it will prove that life can be maintained in the confines of an expensive city for very little money.