Don’t Call Me a Consumer

consumerism killsI’m growing very tired of the word “consumer.” Every time I turn on the TV, the talking heads are discussing “the consumer.” Consumers aren’t spending as much, consumers are cutting back, consumers are hurting, consumers need to increase their spending to save the economy. It’s as though consumers are the only component of the economy. Oh, that’s right. Thanks to many jobs being sent overseas and less production in this country, consumers are the lynch-pin of the U.S. economy. Without consumers (and their associated debt), we have very little other economic activity to fall back on, as seen in the current market crisis.

Because consumer spending is so important to the economy, “consumers” are avidly tracked and monitored in the hopes that their spending habits can be determined and molded. Consumers are billed as either the saviors or destroyers of the economy. Spend and we’re doing our job well. Cut back and it’s the consumers’ fault that the economy fails. Consumers can cover a variety of economic ills as long as they’re spending. But when the spending stops (whether voluntarily or because the money/debt runs out), the underlying economic problems are exposed. Just like now.

But I’m beginning to think this obsession with the consumer has gone too far. We are no longer citizens whose contributions to society are rich and varied. The time when your value was determined by your productivity, or your volunteer contributions, or any other of your unique talents is gone. We are measured and valued on only one thing: How much we can spend. That’s the only thing that matters in our economy today. In fact, it seems as though anything other than spending (or working to make more money to spend) is considered a waste of time. The volunteer work you do for the literacy foundation? Waste of time because you’re not making or spending money. The time you spend at the hospital visiting sick kids? Waste of time. The fact that you can use your handyman skills to do home repairs rather than calling a service? Big mistake because you’re cheating the economy out of money. Everything you do to save money is a mistake in the eyes of the economy because, as a consumer, you should spend, spend, spend as much and as often as you can.

I, for one, have had enough and am officially rebelling against being called a consumer. I’ve never been a big spender even in the best of times, preferring instead to live moderately and squirrel away money for the future. I guess you could say that all along I’ve failed to do my part for the economy because I’ve chosen to save rather than spend. I suppose I’m a failure in my country’s eyes. Good for me. If more of us were failures at being consumers, we might not be in the economic mess we’re currently in.

I resent the fact that every time I choose to clip coupons or do my own repairs or refuse to spend money on yet another shirt or handbag, that I am accused by the media and the government of not doing my part. I have disposable income that I choose to save. This apparently makes me a bad person. I chose to save my stimulus check, in direct defiance of my president’s orders to spend it. To hear the media tell it, that makes me at least partially responsible for the economic collapse.

I’m tired of feeling like I’m not living up to my responsibilities as a citizen because I choose to save rather than spend. I do many valuable things with my time that don’t involve spending or earning, but none of that seems to matter to anyone except me (and maybe the people I help through volunteer work). I live responsibly and below my means, incur no debt and pay all of my bills on time. In my eyes, this makes me a better citizen than the “rampant consumer” that the media and the government is trying to hold up as the model citizen. The way I see it, rampant consumerism (and the associated defaults and bankruptcies) is a big chunk of what got us into our current economic mess and I’m (in a twisted way) proud to say that I didn’t have anything to do with it.

It may just be that those of us who have opted out of the “consumer” model are the ones who will help turn this economy around in the long term. Our savings are giving the banks cash to work with. We can teach others how to live below their means and adjust to a world with less available credit. We will have money saved for our old age, reducing the burden on the government to care for us. We have money available to invest in good companies to encourage their growth. We have money to pay our taxes to keep the government going. We are paying our mortgages, giving the banks capital and reducing, if only slightly, the number of defaults on their books. When the credit cards and loans are gone, it will be our cash that carries the economy.

I’m beginning to think that the media and the government have it all wrong. The consumer isn’t the savior of the economy. The savior of the economy will be the saver. So don’t call me a consumer and don’t expect me to save the economy through spending. Try referring to me as a person or a citizen. Try looking at my contributions to society beyond my spending. Try appreciating the fact that I pay my bills instead of defaulting on them. Maybe if the media and the government spent less time lauding the “consumer” and more time appreciating the saver, we’d be in a better financial place right now.

Image courtesy of The Revolution

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16 Responses to Don’t Call Me a Consumer

  1. Julie says:

    I agree completely!! Good post!

  2. Myrna Garren says:

    The values of this economy are messed up. I am a consumer, but I consume very little. It’s my choice and I feel confident in my values and actions. It takes a lot of character to live differently than the values of this time. I’m 69 and I was raised with the living below your means as a child. It was normal to live that way.

  3. princessperky says:

    Nice post, I completely agree

  4. MollyJ says:

    Amen, sister.

  5. Seth says:

    Nice article. I especially liked image :)

    However I’m more “consumer” than saver… But it’s never too late to change yourself!

  6. Heidi says:

    I think that the media is finally starting to blame the spenders on the economic mess that the country is in.

  7. Lyle says:

    I totally agree. I’ve been saying this for years. There are other measures of the economy, such as gross national product, which have nothing to do with buying things. Consuming things doesn’t do anything for the world. We should be measured by how much we produce, not just goods, but giving of our time to help other people or the planet. Alvin Toffler coined the term “prosumer” back in the 60s to mean a combination consumer/producer, which is what we have become. I also dislike the term “content provider” because it suggests that just some people are producers.

  8. Gail says:

    One simple way to avoid hearing yourself being called a consumer is to shut off the TV and get rid of the newspaper! I actually agree with you and your post. We who choose not to consume at an advanced level aren’t the ones that cause financial problems for our country. It is those that consumer like a locust plague then leave the mess for others to clean up. Every time I hear another family boohooing because they can’t afford their $500K house on their $90K income makes me want to scream at them that they made this choice, what did they think was going to happen.

    Anyhow I have found that severely limiting all the news coming in makes me able to go about my day, living my simple life and thanking God for my blessings of a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in the pantry.

  9. Gina Wadding says:

    good article thank you for sharing your point of view. it makes a ton of sense

  10. anne says:

    great post. This irks me, too, almost as much as being called “the taxpayer.” But as savers, I guess that’s what we are.

  11. Amen. society has taught us that spendng and going into debt is a good, patriotic thing to do. And you know what some of us have bought into to this croc of (hold your nose) shit.

    I’ll be the first to admit I started out a conservative and fiscally responsible person and some how got sucked into the hyper consumer camp. As I look back on this transition into a hyper consumer and as I work back towards fiscal conservatism (or frugalism) I can really appreciate your sentiments.

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  13. Carol says:

    I feel what you are saying, I think we play too much “keeping up with the Jones” in this country. I think there has to be a balance between responsible spending and accumulating huge amounts of debt.

    However, the truth is, if you own any type of business, you have some type of product or service to sell. We don’t have a society where everyone farms and is self-sufficient, producing only what one needs. So “consuming” and being a “consumer” is an important part of our society and economy.

    I think that too many people let spending define their whole identity, even if they couldn’t really afford it. And cheap easy financing helped to fuel this endless striving for more.

  14. Could saving possibly be in vogue?

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  16. Cathy Sykes says:

    I agree completely. When did we quit being “citizens” and start being valued solely for what we buy? No one cares about our thoughts, our dreams, our concerns…just what we put on our credit cards. Absurd….and insulting. We are also workers, famiy members, citizens, community members….but none of that counts.

    And if you check, you’ll find that very often, the stated concern for “consumers” has nothing to do with people, their actual wants or needs. Instead, it’s all about manipulating us to spend money.

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