Category Archives: consumer culture


Do you know anyone with affluenza? 
Can you relate to the symptoms of affluenza?
Do you suffer the consequences? 

Here’s a preview trailer for a documentary on the epidemic:

How do you think we can shift from affluenza to sustainable abundance?

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

Swap Mamas

As any modern American parent knows, kids come with a whole lot of stuff. While we have tried to keep our consumption in check, there is the simple fact that these little people need a whole lot of stuff!

We’ve tried to share the wealth. Instead of having everything collect dust between children, we lent out our co-sleeper, bouncy, boppy, exersaucer….out to new-parent friends. They were eternally grateful, and we felt like the favor was mutual: less stuff = greener planet.

With our Girly in wobbler-hood I’ve been thinking about all this stuff in our basement again. I even started a Google Doc to share with my local Mama friends, but the problem is that most of them are already Mamas and have duplicates of the same gadgets themselves. 

I was elated to finally find a mama bartering community online, Swap Mamas. It keeps tabs on how much “Swap Karma” you’ve earned by giving, swapping or getting. I love that!

I’ve been saving much of my stuff with the hope of my Twin Sis finally settling down from her African safari-like career, but I think I may just save a few special items and figure that when it’s her time she’ll just have to join the swap community! (Hint, hint sis 😉

Have you tried swapping your kid stuff?
Has it saved your family money?

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

Living in Bliss

I bought the The Geography of Bliss  at Powell’s for my nomadic Twin Sis, conveniently for our birthday. She was kind enough to pass it along to me, and I finally finished reading it this past weekend.

The author, NPR correspondent Eric Weiner, has a humorous writing style even though it’s research-based non-fiction. Plus, happiness research isn’t exactly the toughest subject to delve into.

Without going into a full review, I would highly recommend the book. He writes about the American trend away from happiness, despite our amassed wealth and stuff. While money is important to have a decent standard of living, research shows that money itself does not make a country or oneself happy. 

Without giving away the punchline, it’s no surprise that trust, gratitude and social connections are the genuine bliss breeders. Here’s a brief video where Weiner describes landing in Iceland in the middle January. I reminds me of my Twin Sis’ high school exchange to Finland where she saw the sun once during the entire month of December!

Where is your happiest place?

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

Cable Costs

Want to save your family at least $500 a year? Cut your cable.

I have to admit that not having cable is pretty easy for me, considering I’ve never had it. With my back-to-the-land parents I was 7 when my family bought a used TV (ironically my parents do pay for satellite now!). Hubby grew up in a typical pop culture family, and his college football obsession has tempted him to buy cable before, but we’ve never succumbed.

It looks like more people are opting out of mindless channel surfing: 800,000 Americans cut their cable in the past 2 years! Living cable-free has perks, like with only five real channels we can see if something is on in about two minutes. 

Obviously this trend has more to do with the advent of online TV programming and Netflix.  We’ve been Netflix fans since our BigGuy was born, when we no longer had energy to walk to the video store. We haven’t gotten into watching much online, but I’ve heard from Mama friends that it can be a great way to limit so-called screen time.

Speaking of screen time, this week is the “Screen Free Challenge“. I was pretty blown away to learn that kids average 8 hours a day, that’s way more that ours get in a week! On a typical week they get to 2-3 hours, and while not always easy to resist whining, I’d rather have a fit before watching TV than after. Our BigGuy used to watch a bit more and he had awful meltdowns.

There’s a great essay of Barbara Kingsolver’s about the process of weaning her daughters from TV. Plus, there are so many more fun things to do than watch TV. Read some cost effective TV alternatives.

Does your family pay for cable? Are you ready to go screen free?

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

Cost of Costco

If you had asked me prior to kids whether I would ever shop at Costco, I would have scoffed. In college I even wrote a paper reflecting on my thoughts of disbelief at the scale of consumption Costco enables and perpetuates. I couldn’t fathom that people would actually pay money to be a member of such a “sales” club. Who really needs a gallon of olive oil?!

I grew warmer to idea when I read an article about how they treat their workers, and how they are a liberal NW business. Yet, it was actually the diapers that sold us our membership. After getting a case of disposables as a gift, we were intrigued by the concept of being able to purchase staples every few months and then get our local organics delivered weekly. Very appealing indeed to a family who really rather do other things with our spare time than go shopping. Now that we use cloth, the diapers are no longer a draw and I’m thankful not to have to spend extra $40 every visit, but the case of baby wipes is still a must.

After three years as members, I’m beginning to question the true convenience and savings of Costco. 

  1. Because we try to go infrequently we end up blowing our monthly budget every time, although it does equal out over time as we don’t have to purchase items. Items average $10, so they add up very quickly!
  2. The nearest Costco is 22 miles round trip, although I do try to chain trips together.
  3. There are always temptations to buy more than your shopping list. My last splurges were new kiddie jammies and Easter dress, a case of wheat ale and organic Oregon wine, and some perennials. Extra price: $145.

Yep, I’ll admit it, neither very finaance nor eco-friendly. Are you a Costco member? 
Do you feel like your family really saves?

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