A Short Guide to Consumer Disobedience

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 Don’t buy stuff that’ll be obsolete, outdated, or out-of-style in the blink of an eye.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.

77 comments to A Short Guide to Consumer Disobedience

  • […] minimalism can make the world a great place to live. It supports sustainability, simplicity, controlled buying, and conservation of resources; all good things that can have a powerful effect on the world in […]

  • […] – day 63….I wrote about minimalism. I quoted froma book, and recommended a blog post, A Short Guide to Consumer Disobedience.. I seriously need to read that specific blog EVERY […]

  • Wow. Great post, very inspiring. I am working on going green and minimalism has a lot of green advantages from where I’m sitting.

  • […] try to live with less and practice consumer disobedience. I refuse to be simply perceived as a  walking wallet and as an economic statistic. If I buy […]

  • Ami

    Another awesome post. While I’m not in a position to do all of these things yet, I do most of them. Though I started out of necessity, I’m amazed at how much happier I am doing things the minimalist way rather than the “right” way.

    It’s a cycle. I stopped buying things because I didn’t have the money, then I realized that the things I have work just fine. Then I started making my own things (mostly detergent, cleaning products, and foods), and I found they work BETTER than what I was buying. I was confused, but then I thought about it and realized your point number two. A lot of things are manufactured to break or be out of style so that you have to buy more. Light bulb moment. I’ve broken as free as I can and never looked back!

    As for point number 8, I did that one on accident. I was unemployed last year and was seriously stressed about how on earth I was going to afford gifts for everyone and anyone I’ve ever known and who has known me (not including stocking stuffers, etc.). I realized I just couldn’t do it. I narrowed the list down to people I actually wanted to give to (no more “obligation gifts” for me :)), and I baked something for everyone. I figured if they don’t like it, they won’t get something next year. Well, those baked goods turned out to be the most popular gifts I’ve ever given, by far. Made me wonder why I bothered all those years. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I look forward to reading more posts! :)

  • Sheryl French

    Fantastic blog note. I’m liberating my inner rebel – the family are in for a shock. Can’t wait for the next post.Sheryl

  • Just a thought about the growing your own veggies, baking your own bread, making your own clothes, ….permit me to think aloud for a sec.
    I love growing veggies in my garden,….but when it actually comes down to efficiency and going green and
    “saving” the planet, I would think that it is actually more energy efficient for machines to plant, water, and harvest crops than for each individual to work countless hours on a tiny yard garden. Corporate thinking is not all bad.
    Baking bread by large corporations is probably more energy efficient than us each as individuals baking our own loaves.
    There’s something awesome about doing things ourselves, such as making my own laundry soap, which I love to do, or growing green beans. But if I look at things globablly, it is probably more economical and “green” to allow things to be done “en masse” by larger organizations…….
    instead of each of us making all our own stuff and growing all our own food.
    Appreciate your blog. Keep it up.

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  • Tina

    I don’t remember buying anything new except the futon for our guest room some months ago.
    Mostly we just pass things around in the family or go to a thrift shop or rummage sale. I just gave away more craft supplies. I am trying to empty a cabinet. I have more to look through for the public library. So much is not needed.

  • Tina

    Cleaning out the closet of a dear relative. Have taken out 8 garbage bags full of clothes that could not possibly fit her. I would like to go through shoes and purses but don’t know how to do that. Also there are big plastic bins full of socks and underwear. Hoping her husband will give the clothes to a women’s shelter.

  • Tina

    I hadn’t bought anything new in ages and I had a gift card so I waited until there was a clearance and I had a coupon, I bought my husband a tie and myself 2 pairs of earrings. Then because I noticed 2 of my tops had holes in them I bought 2 tops on sale reduced and reduced again and 2 tops for 90 0/0 off. I have pretty much all I need for the next 6 months and I filled another give away bag. Then my mom wanted hand lotion so I filled a small bottle from my big bottle so she can carry it in her purse. I was at my favorite thrift shop and bought some books to give my mom for her birthday. I still have more to give away so that will be some scarves my daughter gave me which I never wore.

  • Tina

    I just gave away a lot of beautiful china tea cups I had no use for. My husband had insisted they belonged to his mother but his brother and sister in law agreed with me that they had never seen them in her house. I have 1 small hutch with pretty china in it and that is enough.

  • We have been retired for many years. We never lived on all our income, preferring to save as much money as we could. For many years, I have been telling people not to charge things if they can’t pay the charges off when they come due. Paying interest defeats the purpose of buying things on sale. I have always known people who ran out of money before payday, but my son met people in the Navy who ran out of money before payday even though they were aboard a ship. He said they had credit counselors aboard ship to help crewmen with finances. When I see people gambling I am troubled even more, but I can’t help unless they ask.

  • Tina

    A friend of a friend has a house which will be demolished. She moved out a year ago. It is still packed with clothing, books, china, and hobby items. She has given me a few things. She has given away a few things. But there are still 5 rooms full of stuff. I keep recycling her junk mail, news magazines, and cardboard. I have thrown out old makeup, spoiled food, and perfume. Bottles and bottles of vitamins that expired in 2011 were also thrown out as were dead houseplants and broken vases. My mother was a hoarder, but this is worse.

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