Tag Archives: economics

Emulation and “Taste Cultures”

I picked up a book from the library today, Not Buying It: My Year without Spending by Judith Levine.  I think that pretty much explains the premise.

Anyway, in my reading this afternoon, I was struck by how differently we choose to spend our money: the author compares herself dropping money into the hat at a library reading to neighbors who buy snowmobiles and guns. In her eyes, the way she spends her money is superior…because she thinks her likes are superior.

That’s probably not earth-shattering, but I had never approached it quite like that, and then she explains further that we spend the way we spend to emulate those who care about what we care about.  A child wants a certain lunchbox because everyone else has it; I want to have a garden, can my own food, etc. because people (specifically bloggers) who I admire do the same.  We emulate what we see in others in hopes of getting what we think they have.

I like the way she puts it here:

“I’m not keeping up with the Joneses who drive the big trucks, but the Joneses who grow organic carrots and drive beaters like ours…In our little sub-culture, not consuming gives Paul and me cachet.  Soon our Joneses may be keeping up, or down, with us” (35).

I think she states it more eloquently than I have, so I’m sorry if I have been confusing.

In the end, it brings me to the interesting question: just who are my Joneses?

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Surviving Without a Salary?!

Did you panic just a bit for me when you read that title?  When I picked up How to Survive Without a Salary by Charles Long, I expected it to be about ultra-frugality and living on basically nothing after losing a job.

handful of euros{photo credit}

That premise enticed me, but what I got was even better: a book on living–and making a living–without a 9-5 job through simple living and pursuing what you really want.  I already quoted the book once, with Long’s point that we can choose stuff that will cost us money (and therefore require us to work more) or we can choose time with loved ones, gardening, visiting on the front porch, things that add meaning to life without denting the pocketbook.  McMansion or tiny house…or somewhere in between.

Now, this is not new stuff to me, or to most people.  But Long makes you think about all the things you’ve assumed.  Here are some of my favorites:

*This Will Rogers quote–“There’s nothing dumber than an educated man, once you get him off the thing he’s educated in”–made me wonder what skills I (or my husband or anybody) have beyond my schooling.  Sure, I hold a BA in English and can write and edit, but could I also build furniture?  Do people’s taxes?  Kick butt washing windows?  Maybe we all need to think about how we else we could support ourselves, beyond one job.

*This one then goes hand-in-hand: “It’s the casual nickel and dime stuff, the once-a-week-if-I-feel-like-it jobs that are easiest to start and stop that provide the freedom only dreamed about by desk-bound nine-to-fivers” (16).

*In third world countries, farmers build their own houses and barns, they save their seeds, plant the seeds themselves, choose what and how to feed their animals–they do it all.  In America, farmers hire all sorts of experts from builders to nutritionists to do these things for them–we all need wider skill sets.

*This quote from page 24 only kindled my desire to build my own house someday: “Any peasant can build a wall.”

*We need to weigh the cost of everything: I need clean, dry clothes.  A dryer needs fabric softener sheets, special wiring, etc.  For us, a clothing rack works just fine…especially since the dryer in our apartment building is overpriced and hardly works.

*Fashion is the “obsolescence and the creation of artificial need” in our closets.  If hem lines are long this season, they won’t be next…but if I keep the same skirt, it will come back in vogue eventually (56).

*I don’t recall the story behind this quote, but I loved the phrase: “the material fast–buying nothing but essentials during a predetermined interlude of Spartan discipline” (78).

*When choosing your own work and setting your own pace (and really, who wouldn’t want that?), it’s important to have some physical work and some creative work in your day.  As a stay-at-home mom, I have that: I clean and cook and keep house but during Pookie’s naptime I write.  The Professor longs for the day we can move onto a farm of our own so that he’ll have that same balance when he comes home from work–we can’t have that now, but every day is one day closer to his PhD!

*Long makes a very interesting case about how freelancing and 9-5 work are pretty much equal in terms of job security.  The longer I think about that, the more it makes sense, but freelancing is tougher to get started in; I imagine once you’ve built up a portfolio and clientele, though, for whatever it is you do, things get easier.

So, that’s how to survive without a salary…in a nutshell, anyway.  Oh, and the entire chapter on auctions makes the book worthwhile.  The Professor and I might start going to auctions…just for fun!

Reader friend, do you think you could live without a salary or a 9-5?  And if you already do, tell me about it!

Each of us could choose…