Household Economies

Consumption choices may lead us to a treadmill of high expenses, stressful work, and an inability to express our core values. We may trade wonderful time with family and friends — and simply being — for unnecessary things. We may move so quickly that we fail to use our values to guide our purchases and investments.

Through its campaigns and spoofs, Adbusters draws attention to the negative effects of over-consumption.

By examining household patterns of consumption and work it is possible to shift them towards alignment with core values. Dollars spent can be carefully calibrated against the time and stress incurred in earning them. It is possible to reclaim a sense of peace, of expansiveness, and of connection to the whole that is grounded in the awareness with which money, time, and resources flow through our lives.

It is helpful to recognize that we participate in three different human economic networks: the gift economy, the complementary economy, and the formal economy. The gift economy is characterized by spontaneous acts of love, nurturing, friendship, celebration, prayer, and Beauty and Play that circulate freely. The complementary economy includes local currencies and trading systems. The conventional economy includes all transactions made in national currencies. It ranges from small-scale businesses to vast corporations.

As scale increases, accountability decreases. Thus, the very freedom that money gives us — to travel, to avoid personal involvement in transactions, to purchase an unimaginable range of goods and services — carries with it the attendant costs of abstraction. We may begin to unconsciously support a wide range of potentially destructive activities.

If we are considering a purchase, we may ask ourselves: Do I really need this thing or service? Is it worth the life energy I must expend to buy it? A sustainable approach to consumption suggests that we embrace the non-monetized economy, which provides a rich source of meaning and community. We can also nurture creative forms of exchange with community members and organizations in the complementary economy. Within the conventional economy, we can support Green Business with a demonstrated commitment to social justice and ecological responsibility. Such enterprises typically employ Product Labeling to document their practices. Understanding the full range of options for fulfilling our Fundamental Needs and enhancing our quality of life gives us greater precision in our consumption choices.

Household economies build Local Assets by avoiding unnecessary consumption, saving effectively, and pursuing ownership strategies. These assets provide a buffer against difficult times, and can provide seed capital for new enterprises or career shifts. They can provide increasing levels of financial independence over time. Ultimately, household economies help stabilize and anchor Local Economies and allow Capital to be held much more broadly and

Regain a balance between time, money, and work. Let social and ecological values guide purchases and investments. Generate more discretionary time, and a greater quality of life, by making more discerning consumption choices. Build household assets over time.