Thursday, May 10, 2007

Better Ways to Spend Your Money

If you haven't done so already, please take a moment to check out a few changes that have been made to the new and improved blog of The Thoughtful Consumer!

On the right side of the page, you'll now see bigger, easy to use subscription links. There's also a handy list of labels for all the blog posts that lets you search previous posts by subject. You'll still find the usual links to a few sites I think are important, including a link to purchase my book on Amazon -- very important! Way down at the bottom of the page, you'll discover a reminder to help you keep things in perspective "because there's more to life than stuff." A glance at the constantly changing news headlines from CNN and MSNBC make it clear that there is a big world out there with lots going on that's much more important than buying another little knick-knack that will sit on a shelf gathering dust.

But back over there on the right side of the page, you'll notice that I've added a list of links to non-profit organizations. It's called "Better Ways to Spend Your Money Instead of Buying More Stuff." One of the things that happens when you stop spending your money on unnecessary things is that you may actually have a little money left over. Now, depending on your circumstances, you may want to use that money to pay down your debt, or save for a down payment for a house or for your retirement, or use for some perfectly legitimate expenses that would improve the quality of your life in some important way. But if you've got even a few dollars to spare, surely you're too thoughtful to spend them mindlessly.

Part of being a thoughtful consumer is unloading all that excess stuff you've accumulated, either by tossing it in the trash, recycling it, or donating it. The other part is making wiser buying choices in the future and thoughtfully sharing whatever extra cash you can spare. Maybe you've already got a favorite charity or two that you like to support; my list is just a suggestion to get you thinking. We all know that there's no shortage of worthy causes in this world.

Believe me, I understand the need for personal indulgences sometimes and I'd never suggest that we deny ourselves a reward for our hard work or just because we'd like an occasional treat. But if we pause for a moment before allowing ourselves that indulgence, we might realize that we'll get just as much satisfaction by making a donation as we would if we spent the money on ourselves.

There's even a good way to make cash donations to charity on-line while you're uncluttering. If you've discovered that you have some items that are worth selling on eBay, you can specify that all or part of your sale price be donated to any of a large number of non-profit groups. Check out the details on this link to Mission Fish, the clearinghouse organization that eBay uses to distribute your profits to the charity of your choice. It's a great way to unload unnecessary stuff and do some good at the same time. I've also used it to donate profits from eBay sales of my brand new artwork. It's very rewarding to create a work of art, sell it on-line and have the money go directly to charity.

Our choices as thoughtful consumers can allow us the joy of supporting causes we believe in, whether we'd like to help cure a disease that affects us or a loved one, help feed the hungry, keep the doors open to our neighborhood library, save an historical building in the heart of our town, donate a musical instrument to a child who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to experience the thrill of playing it, or any of a myriad of other possibilities.

And there's another joy that comes from living an uncluttered, thoughtful life: we're not so bogged down by stuff and the physical and psychological effort it requires from us just to get through our day, so we begin to feel truly free. When we're liberated from too much stuff, we're able to share not only our resources but our time, too, with our family, our friends, and perhaps by volunteering for one of those worthy causes we hold dear.

Less stuff, more time, more money, more generosity. Everybody wins. What could be better?

(c) 2007 Cynthia Friedlob

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