Movement Six: Economics
Money is one of the top stressors for many people and ranks among the top subjects couples argue about. And yet, money is just a tool, a way to keep track as we move goods and services around in our communities and our world. But this tool has a lot of mystique around it, and many of us were not educated in how to use this tool. There are many organizations and individuals who exploit us in our capitalistic society as well. The system is set up to encourage the average individual to spend more than they can afford and to get into debt. It can be a vicious cycle, and hard to break free.
“The Economy” has also become an almost mythic idea for many of us. And yet humans have not always lived with this understanding of that word. Economy comes from the roots “eco”, meaning home and “-nomy”, meaning management. So another way to think about the economy is that it is how we choose to manage the resources of our home … Earth.
So how can you be more sustainable and resilient in your relationship to money and the economy? What money education have you received, and what would you like to get better at? Together, let’s explore this sometimes tricky topic.
“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”– Seneca
“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” – George Lorimer
“That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.” – Henry David Thoreau
“Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed.” – Gandhi
“We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.” – Gloria Steinem
“I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that financial literacy, economic empowerment, and wealth building is going to be the last leg of the civil rights movement. Because one step toward financial literacy takes you two steps toward personal empowerment.” – Russell Simmons
Exercise One: A Prosperity Altar
Try creating a prosperity altar to honor abundance in your life. First choose a location. You might want to consider the feng shui of your space in selecting the location, but anywhere in your home or business is fine. Then build your altar, with the following as possibilities:
- An altar cloth, maybe green or gold or of a sumptuous fabric
- Green or gold candles
- Statue of a prosperity Buddha or other allies you feel called to
- Crystals or semi-precious stones you’re drawn to
- Cash or gold
- Anything that brings to mind prosperity for you
Set up your space with care and attention, and then set an intention for the space. A simple prayer would do, such as the following:
May I/we be blessed with much
As we are grateful for the abundance
All around us. May we know
Prosperity and true well-being
As we also know generosity
May it be so
And then revisit your altar often to keep it tidy and free of dust, and to set new intentions or wishes.
Exercise Two: Tithing
Many spiritual and religious traditions have a concept of charitable giving built into them. For a Christian it may be the duty to tithe to the church, for a Muslim it is zakat, or the paying of an alms tax to charity. Whatever your religious or spiritual leaning, generosity and charity can be a part of it.
So try this out. Set yourself a goal of how much you want to give. It can be a percentage of your income, or a set dollar amount. Aim for generosity but not so high that it hurts your own well-being. Once you have your goal number, you can decide where to donate. What causes match your values and vision for the world? Donate there and know that your money is carrying your values into the world.
Exercise Three: Money Mapping
Where does your money go? If you don’t know exactly, try an exercise called a Money Map. On a large piece of paper, pencil in circles for the known expenses: home, car, food, etc. Leave yourself space for unexpected or unknown expenses to come as well. Now, for a month, place a little pen mark in each location that your money “goes”. You can put the actual number there too and add it up at the end of the month. This more visual way will give you a realistic idea of where your money goes.
Exercise Four: Make a Budget
After you’ve mapped where your money currently goes, your next step could be to make a budget. There are a lot of budgeting tools out there, but in its simplest form a budget is just a plan for how you want to spend your money. These resources may help you get started:
Exercise Five: Join a Non-Consumer Group
Money is just a tool, and there are other ways we can organize ourselves to exchange goods and services. Look in your local area for a mutual aid society or a Buy Nothing Group (they may be on Facebook). It’s incredibly satisfying to have a group where you can post a need or a want and have others respond to you. Explore other ways to create alternative economies: Little Free Libraries and Pantries, Food is Free programs, and neighborhood swaps. Or go really simple, and just ask a friend for help, or offer your help.
This exercise will be most powerful if you really engage in trying to get some of your needs met in a non-consumer way and you engage in helping others. I have found it really powerful to loan and borrow goods. We don’t all have to own a full set of camping equipment or every specialty tool – we can share!
Exercise Six: Help Create a Better Economy
With whatever resources you have, you can help create the economy you’d like to have. Here are some ideas, (based on the work of Della Duncan), what works for you?
– If you own more than two homes (primary and vacation home), transition your other properties into a community land trust home.
– If you steward land, convert all or some of it into a land trust.
– if you own a for profit business and make more than 100,000 per year, contribute 100% of your profit (after your income and expenses are paid) to a non-profit of your choice.
– If you own a business and have employees, cooperativize your business and bring them into the profit sharing and decision making.
– If you work in a nonprofit, adopt a horizontal governance structure and become a worker-self-directed-nonprofit
– If you bank with a corporate bank, move to money to a credit union
– If you invest in the stock market (even if it’s “socially responsible” investing), move your money and invest directly and locally.
– If you need a ride, delete Uber and Lyft and take a cab or public transportation until a platform cooperative alternative exists.
– If you need to order anything, delete your Amazon account and purchase it directly from a
small, local, and independent business that delivers. And if it takes longer, see it as an
opportunity to practice patience.
Debtor’s Anonymous: Debtors Anonymous – Meetings, Support, Groups and Programs | Debtors Anonymous
The Foreign Language of Financial Literacy: https://youtu.be/ny5sciZoyHc
Break the Social Taboo About Money: https://youtu.be/5j33a8c1o-c
Money Shame: The Silent Killer: https://youtu.be/RxBfPDq8VF4
The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb
Inspired Philanthropy by Tracy Gary
- What money stories did you learn as a child? When did you start managing money for yourself? How did it go?
- What lessons have you learned about money and the economy? How equipped do you feel to manage economically?
- What relationship do you have with money now? What parts of your relationship with money need some work?
- Do you find anything problematic about our economic system? How can you work around the parts of the economy you don’t like? (For instance, do you shop a certain way or do trades or ?)
- How could the economy be more fair and take care of people and the environment? What do you envision as a possibility?
Next: Movement Seven