Blog/Fashion/My Culture (Don’t) Tap to Buy: Consuming With Care by Rachel Penate I once threw away an eight-dollar cup of coffee. Now, before you begin to judge my decisions, let me give you some context: I was in San Francisco (aka, fancy coffee that is not normal coffee), we were in a very touristy place (aka, $$$), and I love to try new foods and flavors. But, I made a very big mistake that day I ordered this eight-dollar concoction. What I thought would be a flavorful combination of both hazelnut and espresso ended up being disgusting. And, I carried that cup around with me stubbornly sipping at its chalky consistency for a solid 45 minutes before finally convincing myself that it wasn’t worth finishing. I was mad because… 1) via GIPHY and this coffee was such a letdown, and… 2) I couldn’t stop thinking of all of the other ways I could’ve used that eight-dollars for something good. via GIPHY In that moment, I was wasteful. In that moment, I made a vow to be a little bit more conscientious about how I spend my money. Wastefulness and the Human Condition There is a popular saying that goes something like this: “waste not, want not.” Basically, to expand the saying: if you don’t let anything go to waste, you won’t feel as though you want something you don’t have. If I were to take a hard look at my day, I would notice a few things: what I often complain about is usually something I want in excess, not a need that isn’t being filled. For example, “I don’t have ANYTHING to wear” basically translates to “I want to buy new clothes because I’m bored by the ones in my closet.” Notice the difference between “want” and “need” here? The complaint is actually an exaggeration of a feeling I have, not an objective truth. In our culture today, with fast access to pretty much everything, we love excess. You may not browse every single shelf in Target, but with the click of a button you can “tap to buy” that one-random-thing-you-wanted-that-one-fleeting-moment-back-in-March on Instagram. It’s so easy to buy and I’m grateful that (thanks to consumerism) we can find most items at a reasonable price. But, what can easily seep into this “get it now” mentality is a mentality of wastefulness. And, as Christians, we are meant to be good stewards of everything in our lives — viewing them as valuable and not disposable. Pope Francis in a homily on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, implored that “In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!” I love this quote. Notice Pope Francis doesn’t just mention protection of one of God’s gifts, but ALL of them. Everything we consume has the power to affect us positively or negatively. Every good gift in our possession is meant to be treated with care. And, we are the ones to decide what comes into our lives and what isn’t worth our time. An Exercise of the Will If you’re ready to get practical and start taking actual steps to consuming with care, here is a simple exercise you can do at home to determine how you’re caring for the gifts God has given you: Ask yourself, what do I want to buy/ what do I own? (AKA) where is most of my money going? If needed, make a list and rank from the item(s) you spend the most money on to the items you spend the least amount of money on. NOTE: These are items that you can evaluate as “excess” items (i.e., clothing beyond the items necessary for daily life, food products you consume outside of a regular meal that have no nutritional value, social activities, etc.) Ask yourself, how do I treat all of the items I buy and own? Do I truly care for these as gifts? Do I own any items (from your list in step #1) in excessive and unnecessary amounts? If so, which items are they? If steps one and two lead you to realize you have items in your life you don’t need, take a day to declutter the unnecessary items in your life. Clean through your room, car, locker at school and give these items to a charitable donation facility in your area. Additional Practical Ideas on How to Foster a Life that Isn’t Wasteful Set a budget for yourself. (Example: I will spend only $50 a month on meals out with friends.) Even if your parents don’t set a limit on what you buy, this is awesome practice for the future when you don’t have the gift of their financial assistance anymore. Buy clothing and items you want at thrift stores or on online thrift shops (my favorites are ThredUp and Poshmark). Not only are you saving money, but you are also saving an item of clothing that may have gone to waste otherwise. Buy items only when they are on sale. Give away your items to friends, thrift stores, or sell them online. Whatever you do, do not throw out something that could be used by someone else. Be conscientious of what you can throw away and where you can throw it away. For example, items like nail polish and batteries are considered hazardous materials and need to be disposed of at a special location. Treating goods well includes disposing of them responsibly. Challenge yourself. If you feel as though you are being wasteful, maybe it’s time to take a break from buying anything that is unnecessary. There are also some fun ideas to challenge your perception of what you need, such as a wardrobe capsule project or a spending fast (this is typically applied in cases that people have a lot of debt, but the rules can be easily adapted for everyday life). A life focused on caring deeply for little is much more rewarding than caring very little for much. I can promise you that when you adopt this mentality, clear your life of the stuff you don’t need, and ask God to fill you to the brim with His peace and joy, you will soon forget what you “want” and start to see the many ways that God has already filled your life with exactly what you need. Know I’m right there with you in the struggle, and my prayers are with you as well. Some verses from Scripture to take to prayer: Hebrews 13:5, 1 Corinthians 10:24, Mark 12:41-44, and Proverbs 11:45.