Becoming A Conscious Consumer

by Kelvin Belfon

Becoming A Conscious Consumer2

As a child I didn’t have strong consumer opinions. This is partly due to my culture’s low view of a child’s ability to contribute to household decisions. Children were seen but not heard.

It was also due to tough economic conditions. I recall standing in long lines, excited about the powdered milk, oil and cheese distributed by our government. It was free and we took it, gratefully.

But the primary reason for my limited opinion in what I purchased or owned was this: I never really had “my own.” My mother was a young single parent desperately trying to make a living. To help I was moved around to live with others. Not living in a house that was truly my home made me naturally a passive consumer. I learned to be grateful for anything and accepted things as they were given to me.

A lot has changed since immigrating to the United States. I’m a well-educated, independent thinker who has been exposed to a great deal of information and resources on a variety of consumer topics. I remember when I first visited a shopping mall and supermarket in the US. I was astounded, and quite frankly, overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless options there were to any one thing you might want to buy.

Today, I chuckle at the fact that without thinking, I have over the years enjoyed purchasing all kinds of milks – Cow’s milk, Soy, Almond, Rice, Hazelnut, Coconut, Hemp, and so on…. Yes, I’ve even learned that there are 11 different types of milk and counting!

More options doesn’t always translate into better consumer habits. In fact, the opposite is true. We are bombarded by advertising messages that legitimize our obsession with accumulating unnecessary stuff. As such, the choices we make can quite often be unhealthy and not beneficial.

What’s worse, many of us are so caught up comparing ourselves with unrealistic images and misinformed notions of what others have or how they live their lives that we are on a constant treadmill toward an unreachable consumer destination.

Sadly, this unconscious lifestyle leaves us unfulfilled, wastes our time, squanders valuable resources, and leaves us in debt. We all need to break from this obsession with excessive consumerism.

Becoming A Conscious Consumer

Consciousness is defined as being “awake, perceiving, aware or understanding what is happening.”

Minimalism has forced my wife and me to become more mindful about what we consume, to be more conscious within each decision we make for our home. This includes where we choose to live, what and where we eat or clothes we buy, what household possessions we keep, and services we hire. Most importantly, this included how we educate our children and what we will and will not expose them to.

Conscious consumerism can be practiced in every area of life.

It’s about regaining control and taking responsibility for our actions.

It’s becoming active and wholly engaged in life.

It’s observing.

It’s being thoughtful.

It’s taking action instead of allowing things to just happen to you.

It’s asking the right questions.

“Why should I make this purchase?” “How would this food choice affect my health?” “Why do I need to follow this cultural trend?”

Like myself, sometimes we don’t always have the necessary information to make wise decisions. You may not even be independent or capable at the moment to make your own choices, as I once was. You may not be able to be a conscious consumer in every area at this moment. But you can start where you are, with what you have. As the late Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”

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12 thoughts on “Becoming A Conscious Consumer

  1. Gabriele says:

    Very well said. Life can be fully enjoyed only if we are aware of every single aspect of it. We have taken consumerism to the max in this world. Buy, use and throw away. Repeat. Life is so much more enjoyable when we are consciousvof how we live. I personally used to love to fetch milk. Had to bring my can with me to get it filled. I loved it. Just as I loved walking to the baker shop to pick up our daily loaf of bread. Walking home with a warm crusty loaf. The end of the loaf never made it to the house…lol!
    I wa s little and kept picking at the crumbs and pretty much ate a piece before my mom would yell about it 😉
    Life is about enjoying the little things.
    On Christmas Eve my parents would lock us out of the living room. They’d decorate our tree and when done they let us into the room. There would be a couple of colorful plates with clementines and different nuts plus a few pieces of chocolate. How we cherished those! There were apples and oranges and christmas cookies too. What memories!
    Nowadays, with everything readily available all the time this all has lost its magic. Nothing feels that special anymore. Time to get back to the old ways.
    And make life special again! 🙂

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      You have some amazing stories Gabriele. Glad your parents took the time to do special things with you guys. It’s all about creating those memories with our loved ones today. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Well written…there’s much here to consider.

  3. Barbra says:

    Thanks for another good reminder to live consciously and take action vs. just letting things happen. As noted, that principle applies to many things in life!

  4. Terri says:

    God, I remember powdered milk from when I was young. My mom was also a single mom and it helped to keep costs down.

    I didn’t know that was your experience growing up, Kelvin, and I’m sorry. But I’m glad at how you turned out, and that you were able to find someone who shares your thoughts on minimalism and life in general. This is such a great blog post – it makes the wait between posts worth it. 🙂

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Thanks Terri. It’s amazing to look back on our journey. We’ve all come a mighty long way. I do need to be a little more frequent in my posts though…but thanks for the compliment.

  5. Judith says:

    Well written and on point!

    This is wisdom filled advice, with practical ways we can be more responsible in our purchases and decision making. In today’s culture of instant gratification, the mentality is, “The more you buy, the more you save!” There are so many coupons that entice people to buy more, simply to save a buck (ex. SAVE $3 off $25 or $20 off $100). In the end, they purchase unnecessary items, yet justify it because they saved some additional dollars in the process.

    Yes, there are those who carefully planned on spending $100 dollars, and for them, this is a bonus savings. However, there are those who only intended on spending $25 dollars, yet, the knowledge that they could save more if they stretched it to $100, leaves them in further debt and with unnecessary items. My husband and I were just talking about how sad it’s getting that every time there’s a holiday, stores turn that day into a major SALE day. For example, just a few weeks ago, it seemed as if every store had a Memorial Day sale. Stores will literally capitalize on any holiday and make it about spending and buying more things. I thought to myself, “How does a day about remembering our fallen, turn into a ‘buy one, get one’ on sneakers?”

    This post is a reminder for some, and a call-to-action for others. We can do better……we need to do better! Kelvin, thanks for this encouragement!

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Thank you for sharing Judith.

      You’ve brought up some really practical points. The coupon thing is definitely encourages unnecessary purchases if one is not careful. Regarding the Holiday Sales…“How does a day about remembering our fallen, turn into a ‘buy one, get one’ on sneakers?” is a funny observation. I couldn’t stop laughing when I read it. But it’s true and I feel the same way about Thanksgiving and many of the other holidays. People no longer spend time with their love ones. It’s all about the anticipation leading up to Black Friday. Sad.

  6. Zelma Dodd says:

    Wise words from one I admire. Your writing always provokes me to think and re-evaluate. Thanks again

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