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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Made in America project update

In the last year, since my "Made in America" post, I have been conscious of what I'm supporting with my dollars through my purchases. Each dollar I spend is a sort of vote. I must confess that I haven't gone terribly out of my way to insure that only US made products are being purchased, nor am I always shopping local and supporting community members - another thing I've become conscious of. If the product is good enough and cheap enough, I must admit that it will go into my cart regardless of where it comes from, or who it supports.

However, I can tell I do think differently about what and how I'm buying. Partially the change is due to the looming financial prison that is vet school. Ok - maybe that's a wee bit dramatic. But I accepted my financial aid package (or should I say "loan package") and I'm feeling a weird mixture of cynicism and optimism. In some ways the debt is absolutely crushing - in so many other ways, seeing the final numbers on paper and what my payment is going to be after school seems absolutely totally doable! ANYWAYS (back on topic...). Some of my observations in how I have changed as a consumer, since considering the "made in the US" question are as follows.

1. I buy less. I made the commitment this year to enjoy my horse and my other activities as a function of the experience and less the function of the new toys that come with it. With one exception, there have been no major equine product purchases and for once, there's nothing on the list that's pending purchase once I find a good deal, or a used one. I've stopped browsing my favorite used tack sites and stores and I'm remarkably content! Without that drive to buy Buy BUY I find that it's easier to consider each individual purchase, including the country of origin, price, quality, and degree of true necessity. When I do buy something, I find that my buying pattern has changed. For lesser value items, I'm more likely to buy new, but pay more than the strictly base model - especially if it gives me quality, or it's US made, or it has features such as parts that are replaceable that will give it a longer useful life. For higher priced items, (for example, a commuter car that I'm currently looking for) I'm more likely to buy used, and I'm pickier and insist on a good deal nowadays. I feel if you consume a large number of goods (like I have in previous years), it's difficult to think of the $$ as votes - you are simply spending too much too often to devote enough brain power to the cause.

2. My focus has shifted from price to considering Other Factors. Recently I purchased a Kensington fly sheet. I will posting a full review and some of my reasons for purchasing THAT fly sheet in an upcoming post but I thought it was a perfect example of how my purchasing rational has changed. For reasons I'll get into during the full review, I needed a flysheet. I heard a review on one of my favorite podcasts/organizations about the Kensington fly sheet (point 1 in its favor). The material used (but not the actual construction of the sheet) is made in an american factory on US soil (point 2). I have friends that use these blankets and like them (point 3). They have great reviews and the blankets are extremely durable and fall into my "buy it ONCE" principle (point 4). The warranty offered with the blanket is extremely reasonable and adds to the value (point 5). If the blanket worked as promised it would cut down tremendously on the amount of chemical fly spray I am having to use (point 6). Thus, even though the blanket was priced much higher than I would have considered in the past, I considered this a "key purchase" (and perhaps the only major equine product purchase this year) and made the decision to not look for a used sheet, or an alternative sheet and support Kensington directly as a show of support for where they are choosing to buy their materials, the warrenty they offer, and their support of the Horse Radio Network. I have made a conscious purchase and said "give me some more of that!"

3. Support of organizations I believe in, or whose services I enjoy which are provided for free. In addition to thinking of my purchases and using them as an opportunity to support what I value, I have also found myself more willing to "pay" for free services that appreciate and use. As a teen and in my early 20's, I was likely to take advantage of opportunities that provided free food, and could happily ignore the pleas to donate in support of shows or programs. Now, I'm more willing to help and support something for which I get absolutely nothing for doing so - if I didn't donate, I could still enjoy all the services that I currently give, and I won't gain anything "extra" for choosing to financially support them. I really really REALLY enjoy listening to podcasts. Podcasts accompany me through most of my day. Last night I decided to pick 3 of my favorite shows and donate $5 each to them (and yes - at least one of them was horse-related). In each case, the shows I picked had done a short blurb about donating, but didn't belabor the point or try and make me feel guilty or manipulated. In the big scheme of things of my life $5 isn't much. However, the $5 represents me supporting something I enjoy and believe in. I don't produce podcasts so I'm not sure what $5 represents to them - but by the commentators comments, I know that $5 represents SOMETHING and it isn't a slight to them. I would rather give that $5 to one of my favorite shows in order to vote with my $$ and say "yes! I support this! I am out here and listening and enjoying your work!", than buy an extra treat at the grocery store, or a gas station coffee because I forgot my thermos.

Needless to say not all my purchases are "conscious" ones where I'm making a decision to support or not to support. I still go to Walmart, I still buy stuff from Amazon, and yes, I'm still counting the pennies on most of my day-to-day purchases. However, my hope is that through consciously spending my money as I'm able, and as my circumstances and life changes, I will continue to be a better and better steward of what has been entrusted to me and support those principles and causes I believe in.

My challenge to my readers today is this:
According to point #3 above....Chose a service or program that you utilize free of charge. Give $5, or $1, or just a thank you card to encourage those people to continue, and let them know that there IS someone out there listening, enjoying, and who want to see that service continue. Sometimes it isn't the amount you give, but the fact you DID GIVE, or provided a word of encouragement. Supporting what you believe in isn't always about the big purchase or the donation.


  1. Great post, Mel. I admit that I worked for a public radio station for 3 years before I ever pledged any money to them (!!!!). I know, crazy. Now I try to pledge my "membership" twice a year instead of the normal once per year. Sometimes I can't, like the year that we bought a house and got custody of a growing teenaged boy in the same week. But if I can, I do.

    Here's something else to consider: using services that you *already* pay for, like the public library. Your taxes support your public library even if you never walk in the door. With a library card, you can check out books and media *and* in many places you can also access e-books (for Nook and Sony reader) and e-audio materials (for an ipod). Yes, I am a librarian, so I'm a biased opinion, but seriously: why pay money for books when you can borrow them instead? Do people enjoy dusting stuff that much?

    Also: public parks are (for the moment) still free. Many have free concerts in summer! Go have fun!

  2. AareneX - I totally agree with you on the library thing. One of my earliest memories is going to the library and checking out books. Everywhere I've lived - even as a temp over the summer - I have found the library. I never buy books. Or movies, or really anything else literary. The library is an incredible resource. I love the libraians that I can go up to and say "I'm looking for a series but forgot the name and the author. It's about a pastor who lives in a small town with a big dog...." and they smile and can name the book and point me in the right direction. Except for a few rarieties, or extremely special book, (or books that were gifts), I own very very few books. I'm an avid reader - but all of them come from the library.


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