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  • Writer's pictureSharon Bryce

Slow and Simple Money Management

My husband and I have read a number of good books in our efforts to find helpful ways to get our spending under control and organize our finances. Fortunately, there is a lot of wisdom out there. One interesting book was by Richard Denniss, chief economist and former executive director of the Australia Institute.

Curing Affluenza: How To Buy Less Stuff And Save The World by Richard Denniss

Richard Denniss describes “affluenza” as a disease afflicting the modern world - like a social virus that causes waste, massive debt, a work obsession, and after the initial high, a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction. Interestingly, he doesn’t have a problem with materialism - the love of things. Deniss’s problem is with consumerism - the love of buying things. He notes that most of us have a strange compulsion to spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we probably don’t even like or know. It is an inevitably unfulfilling pastime that he maintains damages relationships and communities because we are too busy accumulating belongings and wealth to invest time, energy and money into the world around us. And it is taking a toll on the planet.

The author suggests we buy less, learn to value well-made things, and care for them so that they last. Repair them when damaged and gift or sell them if our need for them ends. He believes this frees up more time to do things we love and are passionate about.

The Brisbane Tool Library is a great space where items, including plastic, can be re-purposed. It is a vibrant community. There are also repair cafes springing up all over. A great way to reuse and recycle whilst building friendships with like minded souls.

Denniss extols the benefits of working less and he is not the only one. Apparently more and more businesses are finding that part time workers make good financial sense. Microsoft Japan found that the 4 day work week boosts productivity!

Going part time boosts jobs. Wealth is shared more evenly, the unemployment rate drops and there are more working people to support the economy.

Working fewer hours has helped us slow down and save money. I can’t speak for others but I have definitely noticed that the more I work, the more I spend. I have been a stay-at-home mum and a working mum at various points in my life but I think I managed to save more money when I wasn’t working and it was not because I worried about money. I was just able to slow down and live more consciously. Doing stuff for myself instead of outsourcing. Making considered, well chosen purchases. Making meals. Thinking up cheap but enjoyable outings that enriched our lives. Can’t talk for the rest of mankind but it feels like the more I work the more corners I cut and the more money I seem to spend cutting those corners. My purchasing choices are often hasty and poorly considered and I live to regret them because I settle for a lower quality or something that is not quite right but I buy it anyway because you know - I have no time.

When I slow down, I become more thoughtful about how I live my life and what I buy. I have the time to think about who is punished and who is rewarded when I purchase something. I had time to consider if my purchases will help produce a better society and this way of thinking reduced my spending.

Denniss does not feel that GDP is a good measure of a country’s wealth, health and happiness. He likens it to bragging about a car’s top speed. The inherent problem being that it doesn’t really tell us if life is getting better or worse. Consumption raises GDP but often damages other aspects of society. We can increase the GDP by buying consumer goods that elevate our status or by giving money to fund worthwhile charities, kickstarters and community events. We can invest in renewable energy that allows our planet to heal or subsidize fossil fuels that pollute and degrade land.

Each stimulates the GDP but has a vastly different impact on the world.

Bottled water is a great example. It’s great for the GDP creating jobs and increasing spending but has challenging environmental consequences. When we buy less bottled water we save money and have a positive impact on the world. Small changes for sure, but capable of creating great change when made by millions of people. Now I go by the motto that if I have to buy something new: "Buy less, pay more, buy stuff with meaning". For example, I married at 22. Back then I bought a good quality Oroton bra. I am now 52, it still looks good and I still wear it.

Therapist, Eleanor Payson, says people often embrace work or consumerism as a way to self soothe because of unresolved issues in intimate relationships.

I had a spending blitz on our last return from working in a remote area because I felt like I didn’t fit in and I thought if I had the right stuff I would blend better. Classic “keeping up with the Jones’s.” In time I returned to my values and realized that if folks didn’t accept me and my home the way it is they probably aren’t the folks for me. I remembered that vibrant relationships, community and experiences are what brings most meaning to my life. Keeping my values foremost helps me say no to the next great thing. This in turn slows down, simplifies my life, and helps me save money and the planet.

Next week my husband reveals the financial secrets of self-made millionaires and they may well surprise you. Please free to comment below.

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