Why Can't I Find People Who Share My Values on Anti-Consumerism and Frugality?

If you're serious about embracing frugality and rejecting consumerism as part of an overall strategy to build wealth for your family, there's one big thing you must accept: most of what you do, say and think will be quite a bit different from everyone else around you.

You'll experience social pressure from every direction and with every degree of subtlety: from colleagues, friends and family still plugged into the work/spend matrix, from the advertiser supported media surrounding us.... and even from your own ego, which will try nearly any tactic to get you back into the herd with everyone else.

It can feel quite lonely embracing these values, even for those people who have really mastered this domain, who have built a habit of extreme or near-extreme savings and have found great satisfaction in avoiding the pull of consumerism. I've had quite a few readers ask me, "What do you do when everybody around you is always buying stuff, eating out, and spending money like it's going out of style?"

Recently, one friend who lives in another country asked me, sadly, "Why can't I find people who share my values on spending and saving?"

Admittedly, it often feels like there just aren't all that many of us out there. If it weren't for the internet to unite us as a subculture (in particular, great sites like Mr. Money Mustache or Early Retirement Extreme that essentially act as rallying points), we'd all be little lonely islands, surrounded by a sea of people who just don't get it.

But then again I can't help thinking: if you look around and can't find people who share your values, could it be that you're just not looking hard enough?

I'll explain by way of a thought experiment. Imagine there are lots of people in your community, your neighborhood, or your country who live on less (or even much less) than you do. They are there. Then imagine how they live. What kind of cars might they drive? What kind of clothes do they wear? What kind of homes might they live in? More importantly, how prominent will these people be? Will you be able to see them? Will they stand out?

Not if you aren't looking for them.

So, why is this? Simple: because they're completely overshadowed by the people buying things and showing those things off. By definition, consumerist people are more noticeable and more prominent. Think about it: when someone engages in identity construction based on the things they own, obviously other people must see the things they own. Duh, that's how it works. This form of identity construction--as pathetically shallow as it might be--cannot be built any other way.

Now let's take this thought experiment one step further and ask a trick question: can you see the stuff that someone doesn't buy?

This, in a nutshell, is why acts of consumerism will always be more prominent, tangible and noticeable than acts of anticonsumerism. As circular as it may sound, the people who buys a lot of stuff have a lot of stuff for us to see. You aren't going to be able to spot the non-consumerist people as easily as you can spot the consumerist people. Even among people you know well.

But just because you don't see them doesn't mean they're not there. They are there. You just have to train your eyes to look for the right things. If you really see, rather than just look, you will find people who don't buy things, who don't drive flashy cars, who don't live a flashy lifestyle. Obviously they won't stand out in the typical sense of standing out. But if you can teach yourself to notice the quiet people among all the loud purchases and shouting acts of identity construction, you'll see them. Lots of them.

Much of our reality depends on the kind of mental lens we use to look at that reality. Like it or not, you tend to see what you've chosen to see. Choose properly.

Readers, share your thoughts!


Read Next: Your Money Or Your Life





How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

Flipping An Over Easy Egg

One of the reasons cooking remains endlessly intriguing to me is how it combines so many psychological, mental, and physical skills all into one lifelong discipline.

Even the simplest cooking tasks can be complex, rich experiences. I've written before about how cutting up vegetables and doing recipe pre-prep can be a deeply calming, meditative experience. Particularly when somebody else does it for me.

Most of the cooking tasks we'd think of as relatively easy (like sauteing vegetables, peeling potatoes, washing dishes, frosting a homemade cake and so on) are modest, humble tasks. They don't require skill so much as patience, a commodity increasingly in short supply in the modern era.

Patience. That's the key ingredient that makes it possible for these tasks to calm and relax us.

And finally, there are cooking tasks that, far from being humble, require both practice, skill and a weird overconfidence to do successfully. Think flipping an over easy egg, flipping an omelet or deftly dropping an egg into boiling water to be poached.

I'm not much of an egg poacher or an omelet flipper, those tasks literally intimidate me. I do, however, cook myself two over easy eggs for breakfast nearly every day. With over easy eggs, you have to know at what point a partially fried egg is ready to be flipped. Wait too long and the yolks are overcooked. Do it too soon and the eggs innards run all over the pan. Do it too slow or too fast and the yolk breaks, which ruins everything.

So when that moment comes you cannot be fearful. The egg can feel your fear. Which is why you have to perform these kinds of tasks confidently--or not at all.

Readers, what do you think? In your cooking lives, what kinds of tasks do you consider difficult, even intimidating? And which tasks are calm and relaxing to you? Share your thoughts below!


Read Next: Lessons Learned From a Bathroom Renovation


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

CK Links--Friday February 20, 2015

A quick update for readers: there won't be any links post next Friday, I'll be travelling. Enjoy this week's links from around the internet! As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

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Intriguing health concepts from other cultures. (Mark's Daily Apple)

You think the English language is in decline? Get in line. (The Economist)

"Causal illusions" don't just cement erroneous ideas in the mind (and make us vulnerable to quackery). They also prevent new, non-erroneous information from reaching us. (FiveThirtyEight)

It's time to expose the myths of the benefits of electric cars. (USA Today)

A very simple way to think about personal finance, and all you really need to learn. (Early Retirement Extreme)

Ever heard of the "uncanny valley"? Ten creepy examples. (Stranger Dimensions)

Reporters need to be smarter when it comes to numbers. (The Big Picture)

Bonus: How to filter out the noise when doing your investment reading. (The Big Picture)

If you're looking to learn more about economics and economic policy, this is the blog list for you. (Bloomberg)

"It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me." Compelling essay. (New York Times)


Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

The Return of Scent

"Everything smells like something these days."

Laura can really toss off the occasional Yogi Berra quote, and this one, a genuinely confounding one, came out during a conversation we were having about laundry detergent. Of all things.

What we were talking about was this: After more than a decade of consumer products companies heavily promoting perfume-free and dye-free soaps and detergents, have you noticed how smell is making a big comeback lately?

A few examples I've noticed recently:

1) Arm and Hammer laundry detergents now carry the label "Now with more scent!"

2) Purex laundry detergent now says "New! Now more freshening power" which, in the language of consumer products labels, essentially means "smells more."

3) Ajax recently rolled out some new, uh, flavors? of their dish liquid, and last month I brought home a bottle of Topical Lime Twist. It had a promotional sticker on top of the bottle saying, ungrammatically, "Powerful Clean, Exhilarating Scent™."

4) I've also noticed less and less shelf space dedicated to scent- and dye-free products in my local grocery store. The products are still there, but they're much less prominent than they were years ago.

Admittedly, these are just anecdotes. And, honestly, I'm still recovering somewhat from Tropical Lime Twist Ajax, because the smell reminds me, vividly, of Tostitos Hint of Lime tortilla chips. Which makes washing the dishes a rather bizarre olfactory experience.

But isn't it fascinating to see the return of scent on our store shelves? And what happened to the seemingly common consumer mindset from years ago that coloring and perfuming agents were undesirable? That they were potentially bad for us, bad for our skin and bad for our allergies? What changed?

I have a theory about what changed.

First, think about it: what's the difference between two detergents (or two cleaning products, or soaps, or dish liquids or whatever) if they both look and smell the same? Remember, smell and color are extremely strong and vivid cues. They are associative and they impact us emotionally and psychologically.

That impact is often both powerful and subconscious. A smell that reminds us of, say, the shampoo we used as kids or the laundry detergent our mothers used instantly brings back vivid memories and scenes from our childhood. This is a big component of consumer branding: it gets consumers comfortable with and habituated to a specific consumer product.

So, let's go back to the days when "no perfumes or dyes" was a selling point. How do you habituate a consumer to a product that doesn't have a distinctive smell or color? How can you build any long term associations or branding effects with your customers without using these two incredibly powerful cues?

We already know that the difference in quality across most brands is nominal at best. So in the eyes of the consumer, what really is the difference between two nearly identical cleaning products that both look and smell like nothing?

There's no difference at all.

That's why smell is making a comeback.

Read Next: Ten Tips on How to Cut Your Food Budget Using the 80/20 Rule


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

CK Links--Friday February 13, 2015

Links from around the internet. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

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Striving for the perfect diet is making us sick. (Popular Science)

There is no such thing as "gluten intolerance." It's completely made up. (HuffPo)

Dear Americans: stop being ignorant about your food! (Rural Running Redhead)

How to get better at detecting junk science. (Popular Mechanics)

Debunking a myth that I'd honestly rather not see debunked. Red wine may not be all that good for you after all. (Bloomberg)

Related: Food Myths

A free online e-course that looks very interesting: "The Land Ethic Reclaimed: Perceptive Hunting, Aldo Leopold, and Conservation" at the University of Wisconsin. (University of Wisconsin, via A Mindful Carnivore)

Provocative thoughts on the philosophy behind choosing to not vaccinate your kids. (Zero Hedge)

How to use "headline judo" to navigate the media effectively. (David Katz)

Why did we all lose our minds over Beanie Babies? (Slate)

You have no idea what happened. This article should make us all humble about our memories... as well as our confidence in them. (New Yorker)

Dying of cancer is the best death. (The BMJ)

No, I beg to differ. Cancer is not the best death. (Medscape)

We now have a second global warming scandal. To me, the worst part is how this gives real science a bad name and creates a general sense of mistrust in the discipline. (Telegraph)

Intriguing thoughts about relationships and Dunbar's number. (50by25)


Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.