06 May 2011

Money, Health & Environment: A Preview of Future Posts

I love days like today, where instead of writer's block, I have too many ideas! Today is a smorgasbord of things I've been thinking about.

I recently saw a book review in the personal finance genre called Money and Marriage by Matt Bell. The author points out that the current paradigm is to think about how to spend the money that comes into our lives, which in his opinion leads us into debt. The common priorities for our paychecks goes as follows: spend > debt payments > other bills > savings and/or investments > and if there is anything left over - charity (or in his case, because he is Christian, tithe).
He asks an interesting question: what if we reversed those priorities? As Pagans, we don't have the practice of tithing, but what if we started with a set dollar amount or percentage of our revenue to give to charities, foundations or causes which we support? What if next, we paid ourselves by putting a set amount ($ or %) into our savings accounts and/or retirement accounts? What if we paid our obligations: mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance, food and clothing before we started thinking of the stuff we wanted to buy? I imagine we would be much more financially secure and healthy as a community if we took a closer look at re-tooling our priorities around our money.

I've been thinking a great deal about a follow up to my Pagans & Careers post a few weeks ago. A few things occur to me, which are rather difficult to unpack. While many of our traditions focus on the "country dweller" aspect of Paganism, mostly by honoring the agricultural cycles, most of us are still very much urban people. It seems also, that despite our general tenacity in holding the agricultural cycles dear, the ancient cultures we draw from were almost always urban in many respects. I know many Pagan computer geeks, librarians, and paralegals and exactly zero Pagan farmers.
Also, as a whole, Pagans seem to be an intellectual bunch who live in their heads much of the time. Professionally, they seem to deal with organizing, managing and disseminating information in one way or another. As I was considering "faiths that take care of their own", I realized that the Pagan community is not in a position to do this, primarily because we lack diversity in our career choices. We seem to lack a lot of life skills - can you change the oil on your car? Can you repair a leaking toilet? Can you grow tomatoes? Can you patch a hole in drywall? Change the belt on your vacuum cleaner?
Would your first choice be a Pagan business? We often only associate occult bookstores, artists, authors or musicians as being specifically Pagan businesses - but what about a Pagan dentist? beautician? tax preparer? convenience store owner? Would you patronize their business? What if it cost slightly more?

Consider developing financial goals and policies for yourself. Is it more important to be motivated by price (the cheapest item)? or do you perhaps consider the following:
Supports Pagan business?
Cruelty Free?
Fair Trade?
Union shop or made?
Supports other causes (cancer research, developing countries, women, etc.)?

Likewise, would you avoid or boycott products and services from companies which:
Have a history of discrimination?
Treat their employees unfairly?
Have a history as being polluters?
Support legislation or candidates/representatives who promote policies anathema to your values?

One of my favorite exercises in the book, Your Money or Your Life is the spending analysis. After you have tracked your expenses for at least a month, assign your expenses to broad categories: Housing, Food, Auto, etc. Once you assign your monthly expenditures to their proper categories, it becomes easier to see if your spending is in alignment with your values and policies. Furthermore, it makes it much easier to make more conscious decisions in the future. This is best done in an excel spreadsheet. I have found it to be useful not only in saving money by eliminating unconscious spending, but also as a way to plan out career or lifestyle changes.

Nearly every Pagan I run into lists "occult store owner" or "author/BNP" as their dream job. I hope I can interview some Pagans who run these types of businesses in the near future to find out just how easy or difficult being a business owner can be. Are you a Pagan business owner? Please email me if you would be interested in answering questions about business!

"Food is the most widely abused anti-anxiety drug in America, and exercise is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant." -Bill Phillips

 I worry sometimes that though as a community we are committed to spiritual growth, even when results are slow, but we go for the quick fix when it comes to our bodies. I love that we aren't afraid of pleasure the way other cultures and faiths are, but I sure wish we could see exercise as part of our spiritual practice.

Please stop saving the "good stuff" for special occasions. Use it now, or sell it/give it away to someone who will. You can always use the cash - especially if its simply sitting in an interest bearing account earning you more money.

Some people have committed to buying nothing for several months, or even a year. They make exceptions for things like toiletries, medication and food; but for everything else, they use what they have or borrow what they need (or do without). How long can you go without buying stuff?

If you rent storage space and you're not leaving for two years with the Peace Corps in Africa, you have too much stuff. Downsize! Sell it, toss it or give it away. Feel how much lighter, peaceful and happy you can be!

Don't stress out and spend so much on your next dinner party. Have a themed potluck! Ask guests to bring appetizers, beverages, desserts, salads, soups or side dishes. You make the entree. Everyone gets to show off their cooking skills and share. For an added bonus, invite everyone to practice yoga or tai chi or [insert activity here] together before the meal.

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