Off the beaten path

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I've had some thoughts rolling around in my brain the last few weeks and I think it's time I get them out. I'm not sure where they will go or what they mean, but they are there and I feel the need to share.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has grabbed not only my attention but my hope. I have hope that the change that has been needed for so very long will be acknowledged. I have hope that Americans will see that all that is shiny is not always good. Unfortunately, I don't have too much hope that our government will change for the better. For too long corporate lobbyists have used their super PACs to buy off politicians to get what they want at the expense of Main Street America.

So where does my hope lay you ask? Well, in the people. Those same people who gave all of their money to these corporate giants they now are protesting. True that laws were created giving corporations the same rights as people and there are tax loopholes a plenty that they get to take advantage of to avoid paying not only their fare share but also what I feel is their duty to pay. Let's not even go into how corporations get away with stealing retirement benefits from workers to give the executives huge bonuses and "Golden Parachutes" while those who did the actual work are laid off and told there is no money for their own retirement. No, my hope is that with this movement, people will realize what made America the great country it once was is still there. It's there on Main Street where they are having their protests. It's in the small businesses of America that are the other option for your money. It's the corner diner to take your family for that Friday night dinner instead of Denneys, it's shopping at a local supermarket or grocery store instead of at Wal-Mart or Target. My hope is for people to realize that going back to basics is what is needed not only for our government but for the citizens as well. The corporations only got so powerful because we gave them the money, we shopped at their stores, put our money in their banks and used their services.

I am proud to say that I have been a loyal credit union customer with my banking since I got my first checking account, I've shopped at Wal-Mart only a handful of times in my life, choose to eat at locally owned independent businesses instead of chains keeping my money in my town and my community. When shopping for food, we shop for ingredients, not packaged items, we make our food from scratch which is not only better for you, but costs less in the end. When buying gifts for others I usually will shop on Etsy knowing I am supporting independent crafters like myself and not paying for cheap labor in China. Yes, what I purchase may be more expensive, but I buy less than if I was shopping at Target. My purchases are more thought out and personal which in the end is more meaningful for the recipient and isn't that the point of a gift? Not just to give someone more stuff, but to give them something you worked hard to create or seek out yourself?

Now before my arm gets tired patting itself on the back, I'm not perfect and know that I have contributed my own amounts to large corporations. I admit to having a cell phone account with Verizon for more years than I can count, but that plan is the most basic plan I can get and neither my husband's or my phone are the newest or greatest. We have no aps, no GPS, no Facebook or anything like that for our phones, we can make phone calls, text, and take some photos and that's about it. I also am far more in debt that I would like to and am working on paying my way out and getting to the other side. How did I let myself get so far in debt? I fell prey to corporate advertisers and peer pressure in wanting to have the latest and greatest stuff. I wanted to live like I had no worries when in fact I did and they have now caught up to me, but I have happily changed my ways and learned that life is good even when you seem to have nothing.

I am also not fully guiltless because I have to say I have, myself, profited from the current economic conditions. If it wasn't for the housing crash in 2008 I wouldn't have been able to afford the home I now have. For about what we paid in rent for a 1 bedroom apartment I have a huge 1,615 square foot house with a large backyard. I was smart and made sure I could afford the mortgage payments and got a fixed rate mortgage. It's because of this crash that I have also learned how to do more with less. For $28 my husband and I were able to purchase 80lbs of tomatoes and can them for the rest of the year. Spending a couple days canning will save us probably double that amount for the rest of the year and that's just the beginning. You may say, "but is it worth all the work?" Yes it is. When you think of the sodium and preservatives that go into most canned food along with not sure where that food is coming from, it's worth it. Most people say they don't have the time to can, preserve, or cook from scratch and that's only because they are not willing to take the time. The time spent with your family in jointly creating a meal from scratch is worth far more than the 30 minute meal you threw together and your family ate in front of the tv. My hope with this movement is that more people out there become aware of small changes they can make to their everyday lives to not only save money but also make sure the money they spend stays in their community and out of corporate hands. When there is no more money on Wall Street and Main Street is prosperous then, we will have our America back. This is my hope. So go out, skip getting your morning coffee from Starbucks and try that local coffee shop, they just might surprise you.


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