reality cracking
Anti-consumistic frugality tricks
Reality Cracking
Some tips you can use to cool down the buying frenzy
by Hedwig Blastock
(slightly edited by fravia+ ~ 15 July 1998)

Ok, it's about not exchanging your life for some consumable products. This is not to say we believe in deprivation, we definitely DON'T! We like good life just as much as the next guy. But you should realize that if you overextend yourselves making $2000 or $4000 a month, you'll also do the same thing at $10,000 or $20,000 a month.
Therefore take a hard look at what is really necessary in life, and settle on eliminating wasteful or unnecessary spending, which only incurs more debt, and implement a comfortable attitude of PLENTY and "savvy thrift" within your means of money, time AND energy. You may even use what you'll spare through all these tricks to drink some good champagne, it will always be better than wasting it dancing at the whips of the advertisers...

[Tricks 'n Tips] ~ [Must know] ~ [The 'buy nothing day' initiative]

Be a Consumer Hero!
Stand up against the pressure to BUY! BUY! BUY!
Did you know that each European produces on the average about 1.7 kg of garbage each day? Did you know a lot of this garbage comes from 'careless' and 'inducted' purchases (ex. chocolate bars, candy, etc.) as (through the advertisement hidden persuasion) addiction to buy goods even if one doesn't really need them?

Since to SPARE is the semantic contrary of to SPEND, I have decided to list some easy spare-tricks in a first 'project' for fravia's reality cracking section. As usual any reader my add or correct or point to errors or suggest new paths, whatever...

I would like you to understand the PHILOSOPHY behind all this... even if some of the tricks are a litle lame (Aunt Ann advices :--) most of them can be (at least I hope) pretty useful for many readers... see:

"A frugal approach to life is a correct Zen disposition: enjoy poetry instead of paltry"
"Living on less means -most of the time- living better and smarter"  
"Living frugal is almost like being rich"
"When you start off with excess, less is not deprivation: it is freedom."
There's no need to fall ALWAYS prey of the consume society, some banal tricks may be pretty useful in order to live a little more your own life instead of obeying blindly all orders you are subjected to.

Living on less takes some ingenuity. Little things you do around the house, for instance, can save a lot of money in the long run. Learn how to repair and fix whatever you can.

Here are the tips:

*  Use those free AOL disks that keep coming in the mailbox. 
Be sure to always check the data on your disk first to make 
sure you are not erasing something important.

*  Close doors and turn off heat or air conditioning to rooms 
you are not using. Close off heat and doors to unused rooms. 
Keep your closet doors closed, since there is no need to heat 
or cool them.

*  It is more economical to use one large bulb than several 
small bulbs. For instance, a 100-watt bulb gives as much light 
as six 25-watt bulbs but uses less than 2/3 the power.

*  Save the water you use to wash your vegetables to water 
your house plants.

*  If your paint brushes have hardened, simmer in full-strength 
vinegar and remove the softened paint with a wire comb or brush. 
After cleaning your paint brush, a few drops of oil worked
into the bristles will leave the brush soft and ready to use.

Make a note of your paint color name and number, and the date when 
you painted the room and tape it to the back of your switch plate. 
When it's time to repaint, you'll have an easy reference to match 
the same paint color. Often it is NOT necessary to repaint the whole 
room... if you kept the references...

*  When disassembling something with many small parts, use an empty egg 
carton to put the parts in. Number each compartment in the order you 
place the parts in and when it's time to put it back together, just 
go in reverse order.

*  Use toothpaste to fill up those small nail holes in your drywall.

*  Analyze your insurance coverage to make sure you're adequately covered at
the lowest price. Comparison shop for premiums, which vary widely.

*  Check to see if you are eligible for earned income credit on your tax

*  Cancel book club memberships and don't renew magazine subscriptions,
especially ones you read infrequently. Borrow magazines and books from the
library.  Public libraries are among the best money-savers around. By 
borrowing instead of buying, you'll save quite a lot of money. Alternatively, 
use the Web. All books are on the web and if you find a place where you 
can print for free (at work, at school, wherever) then you have found 
your own Eldorado.

*  Keep track, item by item, of where your money goes every day, week and
month. Review your spending record with your family, and decide together where
you can  and should cut back.

* Consignment stores are a great place to find good quality children's
clothes and toys. You can also sell the clothes and toys your children no
longer use.

* Consider buying products you use frequently paper towels, cereal,
laundry detergent in bulk supplies. The cost is often less than buying one
at a time and a lot of large grocery stores now sell in bulk quantities.

* Check your tire pressure every time you fill up your car's gas tank.
Properly inflated tires last longer and increase your gas mileage.

*  Use your old film containers to hold soap powder, safety pins, 
bobby pins, and other small items for travel.

*  Shop where the locals shop. Tourist places tend to be overpriced.
When booking a hotel room, always ask for the least expensive room. They 
will always quote you a high price and usually will have something 
cheaper, yet not less nice, if you ask.

* When ordering prescriptions, ask your doctor if you can get the generic
version. Generic drugs generally cost about half as much as their brand-
name counterparts.

*  Use credit cards only if you can cover the bill in full each month. Each
time you charge something, subtract the amount you spent from your checkbook
balance as if you've written a check. When the bill comes, it's already
covered. Use only credit cards that you can have for free (almost all of 
them now, see below) 

*  With spring comes yard sales. Look around for used furniture, toys and
clothing (especially for children) at bargain prices. With sturdy toys you can
sometimes buy them, use them until your children outgrow them, and resell

*  Decide on menus a week ahead and make your grocery shopping list based on
them. When you shop, you'll buy only the items you're sure you'll need.

*  Check your local library for programs to entertain and educate children
during the week.  Many libraries have regular story hours each week and a
variety of other activities ' and most are free. Don't buy ANY newspapers, 
it's all on the web anyway and newspaper favour the intrusion of advertising 
into people's consciousness -similar to television- through the massive bundle 
of advertising pulp that masquerades as a Sunday newspaper. So people fail to 
protect themself, or worse, their children from being seduced by it. Convinced 
that their self worth is based on $200 athletic shoes or designer clothing, 
children are already on the road to spiritual dissatisfaction and resentment 
as well as a perception of diminished self-worth. When they become adolescents 
they are probably not going to be happy or productive even were they provided 
with an endless supply of things that few parents could afford. An extreme example 
of this is when some, usually poor adults, who could often better use the money 
for education, nutrition and improved housing, demonstrate their self worth and 
strength of character by turning themselves into human billboards in plastic 
clothing advertising millionaire's sports franchises... next time you see a guy 
with an adidas or nike logo on his T-shirt you know what you should think of 

*  If possible in summer, do your cooking early in the day or late at night to
avoid adding more heat to your house during the hottest hours.

*  Because of air resistance, you'll get better gas mileage by keeping windows
closed at speeds of more than 35 mph.

*  When you shop with coupons, make sure the item is worth buying with the coupon. Unless
you have a strong brand preference, you might still get a better deal without
a coupon. For example, brand-name paper towels might cost 75 cents even with a
coupon, but the store-brand towels might be 65 cents regularly.

Fresh produce is plentiful in every season, either from your own garden or 
a roadside farm stand. Consider canning fruits, vegetables, jellies or sauces 
to give as gifts later in the year. Instructions for canning are included in 
many cookbooks available in the library. Your local Cooperative Extension 
Service may also have tips. To dress up your gift, look for baskets on sale or 
at discount outlets, yard sales and flea markets. Fill them with homemade 
canned and baked goods, and add some ribbon or colorful tissue paper for a 
festive look.

Stop buying on credit if you cannot cover it. Interest charged by credit 
card companies is extremely high.

*  Consider writing instead of calling. Make long-distance calls only in 
emergencies. Or at least call during off-peak hours when rates are lowest. 
Cut all frills, such as call-waiting, out of your phone service. Get the 
cheapest calling plan available. Cut out non-essential moronic services 
like cable TV.

*  Reduce your food bill. Think of inexpensive and tasty meals instead of 
buying always the same stuff. Make a list before you go shopping and don't 
buy on impulse.

*  Sell what you don't need. Have a yard sale or sell clothes and children's
toys at a consignment store.

*  Buy used clothes for your children. Consignment stores and yard sales are
good choices. You may also find some good buys for yourself.

* If you're planning a holiday trip, ask the hotel if any special rates are in
effect, such as a discounted weekend rate. They mostly have such rates, yet 
they seldom advertise them.

* Many businesses that offer discounts to senior citizens don't necessarily
publicize them. It doesn't hurt to ask.

*  This winter, wear sweaters around the house and cut back the heat. For every
degree you lower the thermostat, you'll cut your heating bill by about 3%.

*  Ask your credit card company if you can get a lower interest rate on your
credit card. Due to the extreme concurrence on the market, many credit cards
companies offer their cards for free now, without any fee at all.
No annual fee: Many cards now are available without an annual fee. But
make sure the one you decide to take never has an annual fee. Some cards
are free only for the first year. After that, you may be automatically
billed for an annual fee. If the card you want has an annual fee or adds one
after you've accepted it, ask the company to waive it. Some card
companies will eliminate this charge to keep from losing you. Otherwise,
shop around for a free card. There are plenty.

Sell your television set! It's a completely useless piece of furniture 
anyway! Time, the precious shrinking commodity of our lives, is exchanged 
for money to buy things that there usually is little time to enjoy. What 
time is left after work is often devoured by television, basically a 
series of ever-more mediocre filler programs inserted between 
ever-more-spectacular commercials whose purpose is to stoke further 
desire for more things. When these insatiable material desires fail to 
be satisfied, people grow unhappy with their lives and in extreme cases 
riot and loot to get that they have been programmed to want. 

Planning a wedding? Here are some ways to save money (weddings and 
births have been turned into consumer events with their own hierarchy 
of demands for the things which assume a life of their own. For example, 
the bride's dress and accessories assumes far more significance in the 
telling than the bride's state of mind... you should REACT against 
* Check bridal shops for display or discontinued wedding gowns 
  at reduced prices. Modes and trends are for zombies, you can 
  always save money (and often look better as well) following your 
  own taste instead of being compelled by trends.
* Check out classified ads for gowns that have been worn only 
  once or not at all. 
* Consider renting your dress. Also, some consignment and
  vintage clothing stores  carry  wedding and bridal dresses.
* See if the dress your mother or grandmother wore can be 
  altered to fit you.
* Select bridesmaids' dresses that can be worn again at other 
  social events. A wedding gown that you can use only once in 
  your life spells absolute stupidity.
* Don't overlook antique shops, pawnshops and heirloom jewelry 
  sales when buying rings. Older rings of the liberty and 'deco' 
  times are often MUCH nicer and valuable than the crap designed 
  to day (and the stones are often more clear when cut in the 
  old fashioned deep way).

* Never pay cash. Use a check (payable to the company, not a 
  salesperson) or credit card so you can stop payment if necessary.
* Pay as small a deposit as possible, and get a receipt.
* Avoid signing blank receipts. Draw a line through any blank 
  spaces above the total when you sign.
* Destroy carbons and voided receipts immediately.

* Prepackaged, individual-sized snack foods such as chips, cookies 
and candies are convenient but expensive. Instead, buy healthy 
goodies in bulk quantities and package them yourself.

* Avoid buying prepackaged snack cups. Instead, buy a few half-cup leakproof
containers and pack your own applesauce, gelatin, pudding, fruit or yogurt.
Cut down on trash by sending a spoon that can be brought home and washed.

* Think about school lunches as you plan your dinner menus for the week, and
make extra portions of those foods that can be made into sandwiches. Some
school cafeterias now have microwaves for reheating leftovers.

* Canned beans cost about three times more than dry, and contain
more sodium. Actually this is true for anything canned, always 
prefer fresh or dry products.

* Buy next summer's bathing suits and clothes at end-of summer

* Store eggs in the carton rather than on the refrigerator door, 
they'll keep longer.

* When taking the family on a summer outing, take snacks, drinks or even
lunch along. Kids get a kick out of eating lunch at the park and you don't
have to spend a fortune for plastic fast food or awful concession stand 
snacks. Eating with the kids at the restaurant is mostly not a great fun 
either, since they tend to get annoyed pretty quickly. Bring along a wet 
washcloth in a plastic bag to wipe hands and faces.

* Household bleach is an inexpensive way to clean your kitchen sink and
garbage disposal. Bleach kills many kinds of bacteria found in sinks and
costs less than the new antibacterial cleaners.

* Leftovers can make a simple, inexpensive soup. Just toss leftover meat
and vegetables into a container in your freezer. When you're ready to make
a quick soup, add the leftovers to canned broth and simmer.

* Send postcards instead of traditional greeting cards.

* You are a target. Tobacco companies need new smokers, so
they spend billions of dollars on ad campaigns designed to
make smoking look desirable. The reason is simple. Some
smokers quit, many die. Tobacco companies need to replace
the customers they lose. Once you start, you are likely to
remain a customer for the rest of your life, so the
companies find the billions of dollars they spend recruiting
users to be a worthwhile investment.

Before buying an item, ask yourself:
* Can I do without it?
* Can I postpone its purchase?
* Can I substitute something else that costs less?
* Can I use my own skills to make it myself?
* Do I already own one?
You'll surprised how effective this is if you do.

Some elementary must know
Did you know that 
	* advertisers spend an average of 200 ECU/year on every 
	  person to get them to buy their stuff? 

	* American consumers get hit with three times that? 

	* advertising is a $200 000 000 000-a-year business? 

	* the average European spends 60 minutes on average per 
	  day listening to, reading, or watching advertisements? 

	* by the time someone turns 70 years old, he will have 
          spent 3 years of his life watching advertisements? 

Greetz to Lasn and the "buy nothing day" initiative

And a big greetz to Kalle Lasn and his great media foundation... join the "buy nothing day" initiative on november 29
"Don't Be a Turkey on the Day After Thanksgiving!"
"Buy Nothing Day" does strike one as a deeply subversive idea. Why go along with it?

Maybe because you want to demonstrate your independence from the marketers who manipulate you every day. Because you know life is not about consumption. Because you don't need the stress of traffic jams and crowded stores and garish holiday glitter. Because you don't want to burden the planet or your credit card by buying stuff that no one really needs.

Or, the best reason of all, because you want to return the holiday season to its original meaning: a day where YOU do what you really want and like... and this will NOT be buying along.

Some alternative ways to spend the day after Thanksgiving:

"Have a 'Great Give-Away' party and pass on everything you don't use.

"Pay off a credit card. Then burn it.

"Be a grassroots guerrilla against obsessive spending: buying nothing can be a gift that keeps on giving."

(c) Hedwig Blastock 1998

reality cracking
Reality Cracking

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