Category Archives: consumer culture

IKEA land

My first IKEA experience was in the suburbs of Copenhagen. It was intriguing as a foreigner, and I was fascinated when I learned that IKEA culture was being exported: t he awe-inspiring parking lot, the maze-like wonder of home goods, and the cheap civilized cafeteria.  

As a Scandinavian lover, I can’t help but adore IKEA. But I’m also always a skeptical shopper, as everything is so tempting and cheap at IKEA. It’s all too easy to suddenly feel like you “need” a whole lot more than your shopping list. IKEA shows how simple Scandinavians live, and how you don’t have to be a millionaire to live the good life. Likewise, IKEA does have some innovative sustainability practices.

IKEA opened in Portland right around the time we bought our home. Since we were moving from a much smaller house with minimal furniture and not much cash on hand, our best option was to turn to IKEA decor. In our first trip, we bought a dining table, four chairs, tv armorer, coffee table, kids’ bed, two bar stool chairs, plus miscellaneous stuff! Our house was literally empty for a few months before we finally furnished it (sorry to our friends who sat on the floor to visit!) We obviously would have preferred to have bought higher end more eco-friendly furniture, but we also knew that young kids would be hard on it. The fork marks in dining table prove the point, that we just weren’t ready to buy an heirloom quality table…although we hold hope for the Joinery dream.

Aside from cheap kitchen gadgets, IKEA has lots of great kids’ kitchen gadgets. Honestly, I was a bit frustrating when I bought a bunch mini-whisks and spatulas at a local toy store for a pretty penny only to find them later at IKEA. Really, a baby whisk shouldn’t cost $5!   But my favorite IKEA thing is the kids’ organization stuff!  They are so colorful and creative and they really help tame the clutter beast. Then your challenge is to resist all the cheap toys…

Are you a fan of IKEA?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Whole Living

My favorite magazine for several years now has been Body & Soul (now Whole Living). I first came across the publication while I was pumping milk on work breaks. There were tons of old parenting type magazines in the lactation room, but the articles were all so repetitive and thin. I also felt like I needed to focus more on my needs, not constantly trying to school myself on modern mothering trends. The magazine was like a breath of fresh air, and I inhaled every page.

I loved it so much that I kept talking about the articles with my Twin Sis. Then along came the holidays, and my desire to give something to share my love and appreciation (that’s not too inexpensive). So, for the past three years I’ve given Whole Living to my Moms and sisters (and myself!)…5 subscriptions cost only $30.  

Even though printed magazines aren’t exactly eco-friendly, I’ve gotten (and hopefully shared) such inspiration from the magazines that it’s worth the trade off. Plus, I always pass mine along to friends and hope they have a long happy life.

Do you subscribe to any magazines?
Do you give them as gifts?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Zulily Shoppping

OK, so I may not be a Black Friday shopper, but the lure of so-called Cyber Monday caught me. Recently I signed up for Zulily for “Daily Deals for Moms, Babies and Kids.” I was curious about what kind of deals they have, and the only way to find out it to sign up to  Zulily .

We had already decided that our gift for Big Guy should be tag along bike, since he has clearly outgrown his $10 second hand bike but isn’t ready to ride long urban trips yet. Plus he loves bike commuting, but takes up 2/3 of the space and is a 56 pound lead weight.

But I hadn’t figured out what could be equally appealing for our Girly. So, when Zulily had a 40% off sale on Smart Gear toddler bikes for $50, I couldn’t help but get one. She loves the walking tricycles at her school and over the weekend had a blast trying out a borrowed tricycle. The problem is that her hand-me-down trike of Big Guy’s ready never worked that great…either too small for it or suddenly too big! Plus, on our last trip to REI, we had to coerce her off the display bike! Plus, I’m pretty sure that once Big Guy is on the ridealong we’ll be able to fit the push bike in the trailer for some special trips and she can ride on safer paths and parks once she’s ready.

Zulily has lots of other eco-oriented toys on sale right now:

  • Green Toys – trucks, teacups, planting sets and more…(on the kids’ wish list!)
  • Wooden and cloth toys by Wonderworld, include a mini-ecocar
  • Le Toy Van wooden creative play toys
  • SIGG stainless water bottles for kids
The deal with Zulily is that products are on sale for only 72 hours (usually 30-60% of retail), so you have to buy when the sale strikes.

Are you signed up for Zulily?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Buy Nothing Day

With all the hype of Black Friday, we’ll be honoring Buy Nothing Day this Friday. 

Yes, we’ll miss some ridiculous sales, but I guarantee you we’ll save money…kind of like the age old financial savvy of spending less than you earn. 😉

Here’s a 30 second ad by Adbuster to remind of us how glutinous we are and why Mama Earth needs us to limit our consumer craze. But you won’t see this ad on any of the major networks between shop-til-you-drop commercials, because it’s been rejected by ABC, MTV, etc! I can understand wanting to monitor content to a degree, but this is plain and simple censorship.

Have you ever honored Buy Nothing Day?
What will do instead of shop with your family?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

I heart REI

I think the outdoors is in my blood, maybe it’s because my grandfather started kayaking in his 70’s  and my other grandfather spent his weekends photographing Yosemite . I worked at the Outdoor Program through college, and spent virtually all my spare money buying outdoor gear and traveling. When Hubby and I met, we were a match made for the outdoors.

With kids and a family budget to stick to, it means that REI trips are rare. The high end brands are still too rich for my blood, but the quality of the REI brand itself is really unbeatable. Both of my rain jacket (one light weight, one for cold weather) are a few years old and in perfect shape. 

  1. It’s the only true corporate scale co-operative. 
  2. I love getting an annual dividend of 10%.
  3. REI-outlet is a great place to shop online sales.
  4. Buy the “generic” REI brand and you’ll be happy you did.
  5. If you’re not, they have the best return policy on the planet – no questions asked.
  6. Shop semi-annual Garage Sales of slightly used returns and you’ll really score.
  7. Shop out of season, stocking up for the next sport year if it’s a must-have.
  8. Like anywhere, go with a shopping list and steer clear of temptation…which is plentiful at an indoor playground like REI. 

Now that we have a family of campers, our gear are more practical than adventuresome. We also try to only purchase what we need, which is why we didn’t visit REI the entire camping season. We went this past weekend to pick up some rain pants and brighter lights for rainy weather bicycling. 

I’m also an REI fan, because they are way ahead of the green business curve in designing eco-sensitive products. Remember, green is the new black.

Check out this interview on Corporate Responsibility at REI

Are you a co-op member of REI?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.