While it is tempting to chase the best “value” for a product, our purchases can end up funding despicable acts on the other side of the world. Tax revenues alone can provide significant support to a regime, but authoritarian governments often have far stronger ties to the exporters from their countries. Knowing this, how many of the behaviours below would be enough for you to choose to boycott a country? Any one of them individually? A grouping of the worst? What if one country committed all of them within the past few years?
The provided sources vary, but any of the major sites could have provided most or all of the same stories included here. No matter your political stances, you should find a handful of sources you trust to corroborate.
While some of us live in close ridings, where only a handful of votes can determine the outcome, most of us have less impact on elections. Voting is still important, and impactful. The power you give to others, through spending, is often greater.
What matters more?
1 vote for the environment; or constantly burning fossil fuels for driving and heating, while importing from countries with poor environmental protections?
1 vote for a higher minimum wage, or buying from companies paying unlivable wages, or outsourcing to cheaper regions?
1 vote for promoting human rights, or buying from countries that actively suppress the rights of their citizens?
I didn’t name specific parties, as it is a subjective judgement to say which candidate or party best addresses each issue. Regardless, the companies we give money will influence government in more obvious directions, and will also directly impact the issues we value.
Actions prove our beliefs, and the more significant actions offer greater proof. If the greatest action we take is a vote every handful of years, how much do we really care?
How does your spending compare to the alternatives? Rather than starting from abstract costs for any category, look at the actual options available. Every city is unique, so you may have different examples, but the cost differences should be similar. I have kept the example to 4 broad, but representative, groupings:
“Paralysis by analysis” is a risk with problems of all kinds. Consequently, people will often ignore issues or apply so-called band-aid solutions, which do little to address the root causes. Any problem will have multiple root causes, better represented in a tree diagram or fishbone. Unfortunately, these deeper analyses can be complicated and time consuming, when most situations require rapid action.
The solution: Find a single root cause, and address it. This is represented as the “5 Whys” in several frameworks. For any problem, ask and answer “Why?”, using each response as the next question; until you find an appropriate root cause, somewhere around the 5th round.
Owning a car can seem like a requirement in many regions. The necessity may be true at this moment, but several forces are reducing the need for, and cost of, car ownership. Even if you decide to buy a car, the following factors encourage spending less. The uses of owning a car are challenged by new alternatives, while the cost of future production faces downward pressure.
To fight the assumption that I need to spend money to enjoy myself, I drafted a list of essentially free, and generally enjoyable, activities. Depending on your supplies and equipment, some of these options will not be free. Plenty are free for anyone. To avoid a repetitive list, I’ve broken the list into broad categories:
Why should you simulate different spending levels? Spending decisions quickly become habit, and normalized to the point where we fear any reduction will ruin our lives. The Stoics, among others, recommend practicing the fates we fear. Preparing for possible changes builds resilience, with opportunities of discovering preferred states. In other words, you might end up enjoying parts of a lower cost lifestyle. You can jump right into the most extreme scenarios, but I recommend looking at $5,000 increments:
You will realize, as I have, that certain levels are easier to reach with different reductions. In my case, housing isn’t as pleasant to reduce, until I make a significant change. Conversely, I wouldn’t add much to housing if I spent more. I’d rather fund experiments and exploration, which I’ve categorized as part of shopping and entertainment. Exploring the examples, I preferred simplifying most of my shopping and groceries. Not only did I save money, but time and energy freed from constantly searching, selecting, and managing purchases.
After deciding how you would live at different spending levels, it is important to consider how much you want to work to maintain your current spending. Would you reduce spending to work less often? Maybe retire earlier?
I stumbled upon Loyal Books when searching podcast topics. They allow you to stream and download recordings in several formats. I like having them with my podcasts, as I prefer the interface. If you would rather have a dedicated application, Loyal Books offers both Android and iPhone apps.
Recorded by volunteers, quality can vary from chapter to chapter. You can go to the website, or use the apps, to see reviews of each recording. In their defense, I have listened to my share of lacklustre samples from Audible. Audible disappoints less from sound engineering than narrator style or interest. Conversely, the variety of volunteers also supports recording books from over 30 languages. I am now considering using them to brush up on my french, and get exposure to other languages.
If you don’t know where to start, I suggest Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. The entire book is a collection of the Roman Emperor’s journal entries. Most people find him through Stoicism, along with Seneca, but anyone should find his insights fascinating.
TextNow is a North American service offering talk and text over internet. In the US, they offer cell phones and data plans, in addition to the usual talk and text. As a Canadian, I only have access to their application, which provides a local number and free unlimited calling and texting to North America.
I pay the 4 USD/month to hide ads, lock my number, and block telemarketers. They also offer call forwarding, for those who want a second line. By having to use their application, certain methods of phone number verification won’t work. I preferred texting through other applications, but contact only a few people through SMS/MMS, so I barely notice. I used to hate fighting terrible reception in my office, but can now use WiFi for a reliable connection. I have noticed some services block VOIP calls, which seems odd.
My Favorite Part
Until last month, I spent $80/month, after tax. I only bought unlocked phones, which allowed me to keep an old talk and text plan with unlimited data. Even with reckless usage, I rarely surpassed 5GB monthly. Only needing data, I converted to a 5GB data plan for a jaw dropping $20/month! With taxes, and TextNow Premium, my new bill is just under $30. I more than halved my bill, without sacrificing anything I used before. If I could stand the ads, and wanted to be careful with data usage, I could reduce my after tax bill to $20.