Mar 24, 2008

Origins of the green gazelle

I am a spendaholic. It never really seemed to affect my daily life, although every few months I’d have an emotional breakdown, complete with tears, as I attempted to pay the bills and figure out where all my money went. But my debt kept increasing. And I’d spend $100 every time I walked into our local big box, even if I only went there to buy an ink cartridge for my printer. $100. Every time. Clearly, I had a problem.

I wouldn’t consider myself a capitalist, and yet I’ve always just gone out and bought what I needed or wanted. That doesn’t really fit with my environmentalist, social justice beliefs, but there it is. I prefer to purchase things made in the U.S. because I don’t want to support sweatshops, but a girl’s gotta buy underwear. I mean, where are the choices? This is America, for pete’s sake, and I should get to choose whether I want underwear sold at a big box and made by baby hands in China, or I want underwear sold at a small independent family-owned store and made by well-paid union workers in the good old USA. But the reality is, in most towns, that choice just doesn’t exist anymore.

So we go on spending, trying to ignore the history of the item we’re purchasing (whether its a necessity like underwear or the season’s cutest boots). But even if we are successful at ignoring that, at some point our own debt is no longer avoidable. I realized one day that I might never get out of debt, that I very well may owe someone else for the rest of my life. That wasn’t acceptable to me. So I began reading books on finances and debt reduction.

Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” was the only one I really needed. He tells it like it is (although if you’re like me you’ll want to jump over his religious comments). You know when you finish his book that there isn’t a quick-fix to the financial mess you are in. You have to work at it. You have to have gazelle intensity. And I did. Still do.

So I made a budget. I did the Debt Snowball (which I highly recommend). And I started reading “frugal” and “thrifty” blogs. They help, but ultimately they sacrifice everything for financial savings. They tell you where to find cheap purchases, whether it be clothes or food or books or something else. Unfortunately, it is our culture of cheap that has lead us to this place. Everything is cheap. So, ergo, we should be able to have everything. But all of this cheap stuff is making us unhealthy, unhappy, and lonely.

It’s not easy to break the addiction of wanting and buying. We all need support and ideas. But with those things, we can do it. In the last 12 months I have paid down $14,000 in debt, began walking to work each day (and lost 15 pounds doing so), went from 4 cars to 1 (that sits in the driveway most of the time), and almost completely stopped purchasing clothing made overseas. We can change how we react to our capitalist society, and be happier with our choices and our lives for it. I hope that through this blog, I will remind myself to stay on track and you will get some tools that might help you find your inner green gazelle too.

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