Financial Fast Reflection: Why We Spend

Have you been following or joining in with our 21-Day Financial Fast?

I confessed last week that my financial fast has been messy. And although I have not been as disciplined with the fast as I had hoped, my efforts to think more about and cut back on my spending have made me reflect on my spending habits, hopefully in a way that will help me save money while also cultivating a more fulfilling (and cheaper!) life.

For me, when I started to look closely at what I was spending, the next natural question was : Why? Remember, we’re not talking about essentials here, like healthy food for you and your family, the medicines that you might need, or the spending necessary to keep your house going. But what about all those little extras? What’s behind some of that extra spending?

There’s no doubt that we will all answer that question differently. For me, I’ve discovered that the bulk of my extra spending (which, by the way, is on: coffee, eating out, and little purchases to appease my kids) has one purpose for me: it is a treat.

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Stop “Agent Orange” Corn

Here at Green America, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on our next issue of the Green American, which features a set of articles about the human health and environmental concerns around genetically modified organism (GMO) in our food supply. Among the numerous concerns we discuss in the article is Dow Chemical’s current application to plant a new type of GMO corn, one  that is resistant to herbicide 2, 4-D, a major component of Dow and Monsanto’s infamous  and highly  toxic Agent Orange.

According to the Center For Food Safety,

Exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to major health problems that include cancer (especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), lowered sperm counts, liver disease and Parkinson’s disease.  A growing body of evidence from laboratory studies show that 2,4-D causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity and immunosuppression.  Further, industry’s own tests show that 2,4-D is contaminated with dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemical compounds that bioaccumulate, so even a minute amount can accumulate as it goes up the food chain, causing dangerous levels of exposure.  Dioxins in Agent Orange have been linked to many diseases, including birth defects in children of exposed parents; according to EPA, 2,4-D is the seventh largest source of dioxins in the U.S.

Currently, about 88% of corn grown in the US if genetically modified, virtually all of it being Monstano’s Round-Up Ready variety. Round-Up Ready corn is resistant to Monsanto’s Round-Up herbicide, meaning that farmers can spray the herbicide on their fields to kill weeds without fear of harming their crop of corn. However, despite early claims that GMO crops would reduce pesticide use, studies indicate that pesticide use has actually increased by millions of pound per acre.

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Financial Fast: Leave the Credit Cards at Home

Last week, Tracy asked: One of the two rules of the Financial Fast is to pay for every necessity you buy with cash, not credit cards. How has this been going for you? Does counting out dollar bills when you go to the store make you more cognizant of the fact that your purchases are having an impact on your finances?

I’ll make a confession right away: my financial fast has been messy, and we’ve broken some rules. I planned to walk side-by-side with Tracy as we both embarked on the 21-day financial fast, vowing to spend money only on essentials and forgo using credit cards. And  though I was excited to take on this challenge and use it as a jump-start to organize my financial life, the rest of my life has kind of gotten in the way. A series of events in my family has necessitated a certain amount of travel, and my financial fast went largely off track in exchange for ease during a rough few weeks.

But even though I haven’t been hard and true with the fast, my best efforts have definitely taught me about my spending habits, helped me to develop some great alternatives to spending, and start important conversations in our house about budgets. And it’s also taught me about the importance of cash!

I’ve been meaning for a while to tuck away my credit and debit cards and start using cash, and I know I’m not the only one. As we’ve learned through our popular Break Up With Your Mega-Bank campaign, a lot of those credit cards are owned by megabanks that use our fees and interest payments to invest in dirty energy and unfair lending practices. And as I try my best to support local businesses struggling through this recession, handwritten signs they’ve posted on cash registers often reminds me that each credit card purchase means additional fees out of their bottom lines.

And using cash instead of credit cards can make a purchase feel more “real,” and makes it easier to think carefully about the importance of each purchase. So, if using cash keeps money out of the hands of the Mega-Banks and can help me make better financial decisions, let’s go for it!

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Plastic (free) Monday: Getting BPA Out Of My Kitchen

Most of us are all too familiar with the dangers of bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been used commonly as an additive in plastic products. BPA, which is an endocrine disruptor linked to an assortment of frightening health effects, including heart disease, reproductive problems, and cancer, started making headlines a few years ago when study after study indicated that BPA can leach from food packaging (including baby bottles) and that it was found lurking in the bloodstreams of a shocking 93% of the adult population in America.

That last statistic really makes me stop and wring my hands — more than likely, I have some estrogen-mimicking BPA moving through my body right now. But worse, it’s not just in my body, but in the tiny, vulnerable bodies of my two young children.

Like many Green America members, I worked to purge our lives of BPA a few years ago, ditching any water bottle or sippy cup that didn’t bear a “BPAfree label. And avoiding BPA has gotten easier many large brands have done away with their use of BPA, and 11 states now have laws on the books prohibiting the use of BPA in products designed for children.

But while researching the current state of BPA for the “Plastics Challenge” Green American, I was reminded of one of the other ways BPA is making its way into my kitchen — in canned goods.

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