No, I’m not becoming a tree-hugger. I’m not about to start avoiding disposable pads or diapers, and I do not plan to issue chalk and chalkboards to the kids for drawing.
I’m talking about the green stuff we all hope is in our wallets. Yeah the “M” word. Money, Mammon… you name it, we want it.
It just occurred to me today that we hear a lot about “disposable income”. I think this deceptively innocuous word holds a huge explanation for a lot of spending waste in American families. We are the disposable generation. We dispose of everything from paper towels and plates to toilet bowl scrubbers and last year’s wife. We (this is a collective society we, not personally or implying that everyone does this) buy new cars every five years and even inconvenient children are quickly disposed of before they have a chance to be born.
So, when economists and marketing projectors talk about ‘consumers’ or disposable income, it really does fit into a mindset that has slowly brainwashed our nation. I know what it means. I know this is an issue of semantics. Disposable income is simply the income available to be used as we’d like after our obligations are met. Technically speaking it isn’t talking about tossing it away when we no longer want it. However, I remember my English lessons in PACEs. They clearly deliniated the line between denotation and connotation. Denotation is, of course, the dictionary definition of any given word. The actual meaning. Connotation, is the implied meaning of a word in the context of speaking. I can say, with sarcasm, that I love paying a fortune for gas. In context and with the inflection of my voice, the connotation would lead you to understand that I do not mean that I (denotation) truly do love to pay high prices for petroleum.
There is also the power of suggestion. If someone tells you, often enough and especially if very subtly that spending money on xyz is wasteful, it is likely that eventually, you’ll come to hold that position unless you are of tremendously strong mind. There is a saying that “fiction, repeated often enough, becomes fact in the public mind.” We can all see where this is true in our every day life. Advertising makes a killing every year promoting this very concept. They flash their information on the screen, magazine, or in the radio spot often enough, that it’s hard to forget that people ever got by without Direct TV or Verizon wireless.
Disposable income is a potentially scary terminology because it has, at its base, denotation that can subtly override connotation (just as connotation often overrides denotation). We hear it often enough in a society that has disposable everything, and then we find ourselves treating it as if it was truly disposable.
I wonder what would happen if we all woke up tomorrow, looked at our bank balance, and realized that we truly do have no guarantee that any more income will come trickling in. I wonder what would happen if when we started placing things on conveyer belts at the grocery store and discount store and department store and craft store and toy store and clothing store and…. What would happen if we looked at each thing with a futuristic eye. Some questions that I plan to try to learn to think of in my “going green to keep the green” are…
- Will I have this item, the memory of it, or the benefits from it, in a month?
- Will I know that my money went to this item when I look at the bank balance next week and still be glad I bought it?
- Will this truly enhance my life?
- Is it likely to make me desire to spend more in the future?
- Is it “in the budget”? (laughable since we don’t have much of one but still… it’s something to think about. If we had one, would it be in there?)
- Will I miss it if I don’t buy it?
- Is there somewhere that I can get it free, rent it, or otherwise reduce the cost of it?
I don’t want to start being “penny wise and pound foolish.” I don’t want to turn money into an idol by making the use of it ‘holy or not’ but neither do I want to make it an idol in letting its use run my life and encourage me to waste. Neither are prudent or wise.
I want to rethink how I spend money on the following things:
- educational supplies
- craft supplies
- treats (especially treats)
Basically, I want to ensure a bigger return on my financial investment whether it’s purchasing a bottle of water, a pack of scrapbooking paper, or a new couch.
Now… how to do that. Anyone have suggestions? Websites? Ideas? Come on people, share with me!