July 20, 2009

Are you a non-consumer?

Are you a non-consumer? A conscious consumer? A Frugalista?

Or do you prefer another name, or no label at all?

Joining The Compact this year has made me somewhat of a non-consumer, but even that is relative since I still consume food, services like haircuts and an occasional pedicure, and dinners out. Also used items and wine. Oh, and I "consume" a weekly yoga class by paying the studio that runs it for the opportunity to be there.

I like the term conscious consumer, which implies a careful consideration of everything one purchases. Maybe you buy from a local bookstore instead of amazon, go to the Farmer's Market instead of the supermarket, or support a family-owned business rather than Wal-Mart. You make mindful purchases that support your values.

Another type is the Frugalista, who wants to live a fun and fabulous lifestyle, but without breaking the bank. A Frugalista, according to the Oxford University press, is "a person who lives a frugal lifestyle, but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying second-hand, growing own produce, etc." This type loves deals and freebies, and lives in a manner that bears no resemblance to deprivation.

Still others refer to themselves as frugal, thrifty, or resourceful. Some aren't ashamed to be called a cheapskate or a tightwad. They consider their habits a badge of honor, and think of themselves as smart.

This year I'm a non-consumer, and a bit of a Frugalista as well. If I'm frugal, it's to support a lifestyle where I can work less and by choice, and do things I love like travel and enjoy a nice dinner out. This article about a group of Maine residents for whom being frugal is nothing new was interesting. But a lifestyle that includes saving up for an Olive Garden dinner for your 50th anniversary 2 months in advance is frankly depressing to me. If you don't have the money, then that's fine. I'm not a believer in debt. But there are all kinds of stories of people who were stingy with their friends and relatives, not to mention themselves, their whole lives and left a pile of cash behind. I don't see that as anything to strive for.

I'm curious: how many of you are non-consumers or Compacters? Frugalistas? Are you unashamed to call yourself a tightwad? Or do you eschew labels altogether? Let me know in the Comments section.


Anonymous said...

I didn't understand it to mean that they were saving up for dinner at the Olive Garden only that they were planning on going there for their anniversary.

I'm also not really sure how you came to the conclusion that they were being stingy with themselves or their friends because they didn't eat at restaurants. Maybe that is just one of those things that they don't seem to value as highly as you do.

Angela said...

Anonymous- It's my fault for being unclear in the writing if it seemed like I linked those together. There is no way of knowing if those people are stingy with themselves or others, I only meant that some people are that way, living almost needlessly frugal lives. And it's true they might not value a dinner out, but then again they did mention it. And you're right- I just looked at it again- they said they were "planning" it, not saving up for it. My apologies.

In general, I thought it was a very interesting article. I guess that just jumped out at me. I remember my girlfriend saying she was glad her 3rd husband liked to save money because they both wanted to be able to afford to go out to brunch at the local chain when they were old. Since we were 34 at the time, I found that depressing. It doesn't mean I'm right, it's just my personal reaction.

But thanks for keeping me honest on the facts. The opinions are just that- opinions.

Lynn said...

I would consider myself a frugal person learning to be a frugalista. I am struggling with food buying, and a few other things, but overall, I am doing very well with my frugal changes.

Ellen said...

I like the conscious consumer tag if anything. We all make different choices based on our values. I love books and love owning them and sharing them. Other people spend money on make-up, which I spent zero on. Doesn't seem like a right/wrong thing. Just make sure that you do value what you're spending on and don't spend mindlessly.

Angela said...

Hi Lynn! Thanks for coming by. I'm glad you're doing well.

Ellen- I agree- it's not a right/wrong. It's what you value. I think there's been a lot of mindless comsumption going on for the past few decades, and I include myself in that. Not considering enough about where stuff came from, why there was so much of it available, why it was so cheap, if we really needed it, and where it would go when it was time to throw it away.

Jen Clean Bin said...

We just finished our Consumer free, waste free year (they seem to go hand in hand). I am now trying to be a conscious consumer. It's hard. harder than buying nothing even because there are so many things to think about.

I definitely don't consider myself cheap - thifty maybe, but not cheap. We splurge on local food and dining out. We spend loads of money on entertainment and traveling. We choose not to spend money on material goods if we don't have to. I think it's all about having different values for ways you wan tot spend your money, not about hoarding your cash until you die.

PS - super glad I just found your blog.

Michele said...

At this point of time, I'd have to call myself the conscious consumer. I haven't joined the compact yet, mostly because I already abide by most of their guidelines. I have never been much of a impulse shopper or a clothes horse, and my house is tiny and my cupboards small so I don't collect much stuff.
About the only things I buy off budget are music cd's and books. Most of the books I buy are paperback, then go onto paperbackSwap.com when I am done with them.
Angela- that was a good article you directed us to. Thanks for shaing it!

Meg said...

I don't consider myself cheap or a tightwad. Those are sort of negative words for me -- especially cheap.

I mostly consider myself frugal, which to me means that I try to use/spend resources mindfully according to what's important to me instead of being mindlessly wasteful.

I'm a bit of a frugalista. I do care about health, my general well-being, and appearances to some degree (but more because *I* have to see my house and myself). However, I'm not big into coupon clipping or thrifting or shopping the clearance racks. It's not that I have anything against getting a bargain, it's just that nowadays I don't like shopping enough to be constantly hitting the racks in search of a deal. I'll certainly look for deals at the store, but I'm not going to come back 10x until I get everything I need/really want at 70% off.

So, I'm a also bit of a non-consumer -- though not compact level. Mostly, I just don't shop a lot except for groceries and I don't buy a lot of extra things I don't need -- even things like paper towels, fabric softener, most disposable products, etc. In fact, I really hate the term "consumer" -- but maybe I should. It's hardly a compliment! I'd much rather be a producer, so long as it's stuff of value and not just more waste.

Jill said...

I'm thinking that I am trying very hard to be a conscious consumer. In this day and age, it really is challenging - to decide when to make those big purchases - I need a car soon - and when to 'make do'. With so much available everywhere we look, it is a difficult lesson to teach our children that they do not really need everything they see. How to move against the current of consumerism? I know others do it regularly, but I have yet to find my own flow.

Non Consumer Girl said...

I don't like the names frugal, cheap, tightwad for myself as I connect them with being mean. However, that is just for myself,as I know that words can mean different things to different people, depending on your experiences in life.

I prefer the label conscious consumer for my self. This year, I am Non Consumer Girl, and it has been a way for me to focus on a previously unconcious consumer, wasteful and unsustainable lifestyle which i had been living.

After my chrysalis year of Buying Nothing New, I believe that I will metamorphosise into a beautiful conscious consumer (mostly) for the next years ahead.

hiptobeme said...

Call me what you like, just as long as I have time to cruise the thriftstore!

Di Hickman said...

I don't like the labels really, mainly because this is nothing new. It's how my family has always lived. Can't afford something, well buy it second hand or save up for it, don't go into debt. That's how we've always been. The only debt we have is the mortgage and at our current rate we should be paid off in 5 years! I menu plan and we eat leftovers. I use what we have and make do with thrift store (I actually prefer thrifted clothes) items. Sure we do occasionally buy new if we have to. We have a big screen TV with surround cos we like to watch movies at home rather than the cinema. But we paid upfront for it all. We got out to eat usually once or twice at weekends but that's our splurge for the local economy and if we don't then we feel the few vegetarian restaurants round here will close so we're helping them stay afloat. It's about choices.

Angela said...

Jen Clean Bin- Yes, I think after I finish my year of buying nothing new, I'll be a conscious consumer. Although I've thought recently about just continuing with The Compact. I'm super glad you found my blog, too! Thanks for commenting. I'm curious about how many people are doing the Compact, but just don't call it that.

Meg- Thanks for coming by. I like the producer/consumer distinction. I guess one can't exist without the other, which is a more positive way of looking at consumption. If my friend writes a book or make a quilt, if there's no one to consume those items, there's no reason for them to do those activities.

Jill- Yes, you have the extra challenge of being a role model for your boys. Many mothers have told me there are certain items that you just "can't" say no to.

Non consumer girl- definitely words have different meanings for different people.

hiptobeme- Yes, I'm just barely getting back into thrift store shopping, after about 20 years.
I'm looking for the good ones.

Di- It sounds like you've made the same "splurge" choices as us. We're movie people so my husband bought the flatscreen last year for watching movies at home (we do like to see new ones at the theater, especially if it's a free screening) and to the local vegetarian restaurant on the weekend. It's been our lifestyle too, although I'm practicing frugality at a new level with my Buy Nothing New year.

Marylyn said...

Except for a few "eras" in my life, I think I've always had to watch my spending. I remember going shopping with my mother for non-uniform clothes (when I switched to public school from Catholic). We bought a skirt, two blouses, a sweater, and some underwear. That was it for the first half-year of junior high. I alternate now between HATING to spend any money at all, and being delighted when I find something that "calls to me" from e-bay or the consignment shop. Or from a friend's art table at the local art marketplace events. Since no one where I work has gotten a raise in four years, I'm on a fixed income. And I just had to buy a car (which I feel bad about, sort of). I spend the way I eat: healthfully, with bursts of deliciousness. I reserve the right to impulse-buy at a yard sale, but I know how to control it. I have no credit card debt at all. And I'm hanging in there until payday right now. I would classify myself as influenced by long-ago experiences of self-inflicted economic Depressions. I lived high on the hog back in the 1970s when I was making $6.50 an hour at a big-city newspaper and going to the disco every night in my one new synthetic-fabric dress and high-heeled sandals. Those were the days!

Betsy Talbot said...

Hi, Angela. I like to think I'm a conscious consumer, though I know sometimes I fall off the wagon. As we downsize and get ready for our big trip (a splurge!) we really do live lean, but not uncomfortably so. We drink wine with our meals, eat out occasionally, and we buy organic produce and healthy foods.

But we also live without television, my husband cuts his own hair and I color mine, we rarely buy new clothes, and we entertain friends at home rather than have big nights out.

Once you become more conscious of where you are spending money and time and how a glut of possessions can weigh you down it does become easier to make better choices. I think many of us just spent a lot of years with blinders on. I know I did!

Angela said...

Marylyn- I love that line; "I spend the way I eat: healthfully, with bursts of deliciousness." That sounds about like me.
What paper did you work on in NY? I love the image of you out on the disco dance floor in your synthetic dress and high heeled sandals. Woo hoo!

Betsy- I agree about the blinders. I'm loving getting rid of stuff. Also love to drink wine with dinner. My husband and I cut his hair- there's hardly anything there to cut! It would be a waste to pay for it, and I actually enjoy doing it.

nicole 86 said...

I would say, I am a conscious consumer. Books come from the library, I try to save energy but... I go to the hair-dresser every week because this charming lady need to work and I feel so great after meetin her ! Whenever I eat out, I prefer good restaurants and enjoy a single glass of wine.
Quality is what I praise for everything.
A Frenchie.