A Short Guide to Consumer Disobedience

a(Photo: MarkWallace)

I live a minimalist lifestyle for many reasons: for example, I love the freedom, the flexibility, and the financial benefits of not owning a lot of stuff.

But I must admit, it’s also a chance to indulge my inner rebel. I’ve been a straight-A student, model employee, and overall law-abiding citizen; yet when it comes to consumerism, I can’t resist my desire to stick it to the man. ;-)

When I see ads for luxury cars, designer handbags, trendy clothing, and electronic gadgets, I become more determined not to buy them. When I see promotions for loans, mortgages, and credit cards, I become more convinced to stay out of debt.

When politicians implore me to go shopping to “improve the economy,” I’m inspired to swap, borrow, and make do with what I have. When I hear that more stuff means more happiness, I become that much more passionate about living with less.

In short: the more I’m told to consume, the more enthusiastic I become not to.

I don’t know if my contrarian response is a minimalist thing, a frugality thing, or an environmental thing, but I do know this: the purchase of all this stuff is benefiting someone, but it’s certainly not us. And the last thing I’m going to do is trade my financial security, my precious space, and the planet’s resources for a pile of unnecessary material goods.

In 1849, Henry David Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience. The premise: people shouldn’t allow government to overrule their consciences. In our modern world, I think we can use a little consumer disobedience—to make sure banks, corporations, and other profiteering interests don’t do the same.

Are you with me? If so, here’s 14 acts of consumer disobedience for you to consider:

1. Pay with cash. Don’t give credit card companies another penny in finance charges – they grow richer at your expense. Save up for stuff instead of charging it; by the time you have the money, you may not even want it anymore!

2. Say no to logos. If a company wants you to be a walking advertisement, they should be paying you.

3. Be brand disloyal. Check out generic alternatives to name-brand goods; the products are often nearly identical.

4. Ignore trends. They’re just a clever ruse to get you to part with your hard-earned money. Don’t buy stuff that’ll be obsolete, outdated, or out-of-style in the blink of an eye.

5. Be a borrower. Whether it’s a book, a ladder, or a dress to wear to a special event, explore borrowing options before you buy. Check out the library, tool shares, car shares, toy shares, and other programs in your area.

6. Swap. Trading your old stuff with others is a great way to save space (one in, one out!) and money. If you can’t make a swap among friends and family, go online: sites like Swap.com, Paperbackswap, SwapStyle, and Zwaggle help you trade books, CDs, DVDs, video games, clothing, accessories, toys, and more.

7. Go on a spending fast. Select a specific time period—like a day, week, or month—and during this time, don’t buy anything but necessities (like basic food and toiletries). Find creative ways to meet your needs, and make do with the things you already have.

8. Have a gift-free holiday. Instead of exchanging store-bought goods, celebrate the holiday with gifts of service (like babysitting, tax help, or a massage), gifts of charity, or by simply spending time with loved ones.

9. Tune out the ads. The easiest way to stick it to the ad man is to stop listening to him. Cancel magazine subscriptions, turn off commercials (or ditch the TV altogether), and install an ad blocker in your browser.

10. Go car-free. If you can walk, bike, or take public transit where you need to go, consider going car-free. Then you can avoid the expense of gas, maintenance, parking, and insurance as well as a car payment.

11. Right-size your space. Live in the smallest space you need, not the largest you can afford. Not only will you save money on your rent or mortgage; you’ll have less incentive to buy stuff to fill it up!

12. Fix your stuff. Try to repair items before replacing them with something new. Darn your socks, mend your clothes, and take your lawnmower to the repair shop instead of running out for a replacement.

13. DIY. Grow your own veggies, make your own furniture, sew your own clothes, bake your own bread. Use your particular skills and talents to avoid buying mass-produced stuff.

14. Want less. Advertisers, marketers, and corporations will do everything in their power to make you want more. But to be richer, happier, and freer, all you need to do is want less.

If you’re tired of the clutter in your home, the finance charges on your credit card, the commercialization of your holidays, or the pressure to keep up with the Joneses, you don’t have to accept the status quo. Channel your inner rebel, and fight back.

Practice your own version of consumer disobedience, and let your conscience, compassion, and creativity—not corporations—shape your world.

Related posts:

  1. The Minsumer Movement: A Quiet Revolution
  2. Less Consumption, Less Work
  3. Minimalist Living: Movement or Fad?

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