Every week, we can easily spend $50 on absolute crap. Food-court lunches, fast fashion that falls to shreds, plastic homewares, gifts people don’t need, and drinks we don’t really want.
Can you believe that $50 a week adds up to $37,000 over 10 years (at 7% p.a. return) or $1.182 million over 50 years?
And if The Dorito Effect takes hold and you eat away more like $200 or $300 a week… Holy shit!
Now, let’s take this idea of compounding to the environmental impact of all the unnecessary stuff we buy. Our generation might live until we’re over 100. Picture how we’re weighing down the planet with every tap and go.
If, like me, you’re late to the eco-party, we need to make up for lost time. We need to take ownership of how much we spend on crap, and how much we’re crapping on the earth.
We all understand we’re in a consumption-driven society, but we need to see how it’s impacting our behaviours.
We have easier access to credit than ever, fast card payments, online shopping accounts that remember our details, and auto top ups on our subscriptions.
We don't have to think, so it’s easy to keep buying more. And more often means cheaper, crappier things that are bad for the planet.
One year I hosted Christmas dinner and for some reason I was fixated that I had to serve dessert in nice matching glass bowls. I walked 3 km to the shopping centre to buy them, then they were so heavy that I could hardly carry them home. I didn’t want them by the time I got back, and no one even noticed them.
This is wasted money that’s now trapped in pointless objects that I hardly use.
How much of this shit have you dragged into your home?
‘Life is expensive’
A feeling that spending is ‘out of our control’ is also impacting our actions. My millenial members often say to me ‘the cost of living is ridiculously high’. They feel they don't have enough money to keep up, so they keep borrowing more, just to buy more crap, that they don’t use or throw away.
Then something comes around that they really value — like a special dinner, a super comfy couch, an awesome holiday, or even a house or a child — and they complain that they don’t have the resources.
Yes, we have lots of expenses that didn’t exist for previous generations. But there are also more opportunities and abundance than ever before.
If we bought less crap, how much more money and headspace would we have for things that we actually valued? And how much more positive could our impact be on the earth?
If you’re on board with what’s at stake here, the good news is that we can absolutely take control. Everyday we can own our choices about how we spend our money and what we consume.
Since making this a focus, I hardly have any transactions each week. It’s just simple stuff. As a result Eric (my husband) and I are doing well, and our lives aren’t so cluttered.
An extra benefit is that we don’t have analysis paralysis. I have a small winter ‘capsule wardrobe’ of pants, jumpers and boots that I keep rotating. Our daily decisions are much more straightforward.
So how can we get more intentional with what we buy?
The age old way is to ask, ‘Did I want this before I saw it in the shop?’
Another is, ‘Can I treat every purchase as an investment piece that I don't have to keep replacing, that’s also good for the environment?’
This might mean buying less but better quality clothing, or saving longer for a car that’s more eco-friendly.
I had to buy new luggage recently and Eric suggested we get two average-sized pieces. But thinking long term, I said what if we have kids in a few years and we need more room? The luggage was quality and had a 10-year warranty, so we got bigger bags so we don't have to replace it (spend more) and throw it out (landfill) if kids turn up.
A third trick is similar to a relationship conflict question. ‘If I look back on this fight in five years’ time, will I still care?’ If the answer is ‘no’, why are you fighting? With our spending we can ask, ‘Is this object still going to be in my life in five years?’ If not, is it worth spending on?
Another good way to get more mindful is to use actual cash instead of cards for a week. We have to think every time we hand it over, so it might make us buy things that spark more joy, and give us more utility so we don’t need to replace them so fast.
Compound the good stuff
Barring disease or accidents, we're going to be on this planet for a long time. If we f**k up the planet, how expensive will the cost of living be in the future? What we have now just won't cut the mustard. We have to start acting like we're here to stay.
Can we put down the Doritos, tone up our financial six packs, and stop filling the earth up with junk?
If we think about the big picture, get intentional with our spending, and compound that, we can all be a force for good.