Thursday, September 27, 2007

Think before you buy! A wallet-sized reminder of your priorities

I stumbled across something online recently that I think is absolutely fantastic: a credit/debit card sleeve [PDF] from the Center for the New American Dream that serves as a reminder to buy less and think about your values while shopping.

Just click on the link, print it out, cut on the dotted line, and tape it up. Then put your card(s) inside, and you'll see the questions every time you pull out your credit/debit card to charge something. This is what's on the sleeve:

Every dollar I spend is a statement about the kind of world I want & the quality of life I value.
Sample questions to ask before buying:

• Is this something I need?
• Do I already own something that could serve the same purpose?
• Can I borrow one, find one used, or make one instead of buying new?
• Was it made locally?
• Was it made with environmentally preferable materials?
• Was it made with fair labor practices?
• Will it serve more than one purpose?
• Is it made well enough to last a useful length of time?
• Will it be easy and cost-effective to maintain?
• Will using it require excessive energy?
• Does it come in excessive packaging?
• Can I recycle or compost it when I'm done with it?
• If I'm still not sure, can I wait a month before deciding to buy it?

I personally think this set of questions is really fantastic and spot-on for me, so I'm going to use the wallet buddy as-is. I ask myself some of these questions some of the time when shopping, but I certainly don't think about all of them all the time, and I could use a handy reminder. This is the kind of conscious consuming I'm aiming for.

But if you have different questions you want to ask yourself, you could make your own sleeve. They could remind you about avoiding bad habits ("Will I enjoy this in the short-term but regret it in the long-term?" or even "Am I buying another X even though I know I shouldn't?"), being selective about credit card use ("Can I pay this off at the end of the month?"), not using your credit cards at all ("Is this an emergency? Is this worth the interest charges I'll have to pay?"), or whatever else fits your priorities.

Of course, I'm sure that the effect of seeing the questions on the sleeve will wear off after time. And by the time you're pulling out your card to check out, it's an awkward time to stop and reconsider! But I'm hoping that the repeated exposure will keep the questions in my mind.

What do you think? Corny or effective? And more importantly, what questions belong on your sleeve-- or your mental checklist-- when you're shopping?


Sandy507 said...

Great post! This is a pretty comprehensive list of questions and ones I try to ask myself. In fact, just the other day, there was a sale on a new product from Perdue called "Perfect Portions." They are individually wrapped chicken breasts of the size you are supposed to eat, I guess. I picked it up and saw how much additional packaging there was and selected something else even though it was more expensive. The other thing I try not to get are aerosol cans. I guess that would fall under the "environmentally preferable materials" question.

rhbee said...

I just started receiving your posts via email and I have to ask if you have written anything about the less than frugal approach of our government in regard to credit. And I'm wondering if you think that the bloggers of the personal finance world are going to have a say in our next election?

Also, on another note, I can't help but note that the email delivery by feedblitz doesn't have a comment link. Is that a choice on your part or is it just not available on their service?

Sheri said...

Fabulous post and a brilliant idea. This flows nicely with a post I wrote for my November newsletter. I then posted it on my blog. I am going to share this with my clients.

Great idea. I am always talking with my women about needs vs. wants. I actually faced such a decision for myself last week and it was really difficult. In the end my back injury won out and I made the purchase! I did put myself through my own process questions first!

Thanks for some great suggestions!

abstractannie said...

Brilliant post - it took some of the questions I ask myself that bit further - especially from an ecological point of view.

kristi said...

So funny...just last night I was telling my husband that inside my wallet I was going to put pics of things I was saving for (like a minivan) with hopes that it would make me rethink what I was spending money on at that moment. Same concept here. Great minds think alike!