Provision #144: Change your Consumption

LifeTrek Provision

First, I want to welcome our many new subscribers andfriends. At the end of last year I invited my 300 loyal readers to send me thee-mail address of one other person who might enjoy receiving these tips. Your responsehas been generous, encouraging, and humbling. So far I have received anadditional 50 names and they keep coming in, just about every day. I’m pleasedthat so many people read these tips and want to share them with others in thenew year, the new century, and the new millennium.

Second, I want to remind everyone (especially our newsubscribers and friends) that you are in no way stuck on this weeklydistribution list. A simple reply, with REMOVE or UNSUBSCRIBE in the subjectline, will take care of things in short order. This is not spam but rather apersonal attempt to peel the onion of life in order to catch wind of its deepermeanings and mysteries. I hope you will enjoy reading them this year as much asI will enjoy wrestling with the topics and writing them out.

Third, after a holiday break, I want to remind everyone thatwe’re in the midst of 10-part series on simple things you can do to change yourlife. We’ve covered six topics already: change your handwriting, change yoursurroundings, change your name, change your focus, change your script, andchange your religion. For those of you who’ve not been with us throughout theseries, you can review these and other past tips at our web site, <ahref=”http:”” “=””>, where wemaintain an archive of all the past Provisions.

Finally, we come to this week’s Provision: change yourconsumption. Following the annual spending spree that sweeps much of the globeat the end of every year, most of it in the name of a first century Jewishpeasant who would hardly recognize himself in all the festivities and carryingon, it seems appropriate to remember that excess consumption gets us into a lotof trouble. When we eat too much we get fat. When we spend too much we get poor.Neither one is very desirable.

Household economics can be boiled down to streams: money inand money out. Each stream can be divided into two tributaries: active income(or expense) and passive income (or expense). Active income, for example, isthe money you earn by working for it. Passive income, on the other hand, ismoney that comes in without your so much as lifting a finger. Interest at thebank and stock appreciation are two common examples.

This tip focuses on the other side of the equation: change your consumption. Active consumption is the money you consciously spend to buy something. Changing that, buying less or buying more, can be harder than it seems. Especially when it comes to buying less. Most of us reading this LifeTrek Provision suffer more from buying too much than from buying too little. There is tremendous pressure to consume more and more and more. Peer pressure and advertising are two of the most common pressures, with the Internet adding yet another venue to bombard us with the message, “Look! You can have all this instantly!”

It’s the pressure to consume that leads so many to pursuewhat Dominguez and Robin call “making a dying” rather than making a living intheir wonderful book, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming YourRelationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence (Penguin Books• New York, 1992).• If you want goodpractical tips on how to do this, read their book. When we always want or needmore, it’s impossible to be happy with what we have and who we are in the presentmoment. So we go off to “make a dying” with our stressful jobs, crazy hours,and impossible expectations.

It’s this very pressure that leads to passive consumption:the money you unconsciously spend to buy something. This is the money thatburns a hole in our pockets. We spend it on impulse, without really thinking,to feel better about something, or just because it’s there. It’s also the moneythat slips away through credit card interest, hidden charges, unplannedemergencies, and other factors that we actually have more control over than wethink.

It’s time to stop the nonsense and to think more clearlyabout the life, and the things, that really make us happy. I doubt, when youdie, that you’ll be thinking about your toys. But relationships with people,the search for meaning, and the making of a better world • now those are thingsworth living for. And guess what? They don’t cost half of what we think theydo. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of attention, effort, discipline, andgrace.

The dictionary says that to “consume” is to “use up, waste,destroy, and squander.” When we change our consumption, when we change frombeing consumers to being citizens, we have the opportunity to “give back,rescue, create, and save.” Stop worrying about what the neighbors will think.Center yourself in your true values. Change your consumption. It may be hard atfirst, but you’ll be glad you did.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC