If this recession thought us anything, it is that living on a budget is a must for people of all social classes. The money lessons I have learned through the years are so indispensable. My personal philosophy when it comes to money is this: unless it is an emergency, never pay full price for anything. Back while I was a grad student, I purchased my books from Asia, via eBay. They cost a quarter of the price. If you can ignore the foreign language cover and first few pages, the rest is pretty much in English and the same as what you would buy here in the United States. Everything here is super expensive. Take health care. More and more people are going abroad for surgery. And more insurance companies are covering these medical vacations. Why not? It saves them money. The only way to get ahead is to cut expenses and the easiest way to cut expenses without lowering your standard of living is to shop for deals.
I coupon, wait for sales, shop off-season and I pretty well known as a penny pincher. That said, I am not sure if I would join the freegan movement. Freegans are people who dumpster dive for free food thrown away by establishments such as restaurants or factories. The movement is supposed to show how much food we waste. There are other ideologies that are inherent in the freegan movement but the primary is combating consumerism. I support food banks. I support companies donating unwanted goods to charity. So maybe in a larger sense, I am a freegan. I suppose the social stigma of taking unwanted food for me is what I am not comfortable with. Besides free food, freegan practice community gardening, squatting. According to about.com: the typical freegan is
- Committed to living off the wastes of capitalism
- An environmental, political, or animal-rights activist (or some combination of the three)
- A vegan or meegan (only eating meat that would have gone to waste)
- A strong supporter of his/her community
- Interested in being (or already) free from the restraints of a paying job
Pretty hardcore group. I want to shy away from labeling freegans as first world people with first world guilt. Like hipsters. Freegans are not lazy. Far from it. They spend their time working for others rather than working for corporations. They build homes from materials they salvage, create community gardens, and share all their resources and much more. It seems like a good socialist idea. But I want to point out that most freegans come from middle class families, which begs the question; if you grow up going without luxuries, would you as an adult ever become a freegan? Isn’t it human nature to be upwardly mobile?
Turtle can sometimes tether on the brink of freeganism. I like to believe that as one of seven children in an ultra-catholic family that only got hand-me –downs, he hates buying new things (although he won’t eat anything over two weeks old). Remember his fan from the seventies? He still has the desk he used in college, the oh-so-old-but-still-works recliner from his years as a bachelor, t-shirts from the college, and a bunch of other knick-knacks that he proudly displays as no longer in existence anywhere else. The only time he splurges for anything is when it pertains to gaming. Just so he can play with friends. He won’t wear designer anything, except of course LL Bean. Just last week I told him I intended to get new living room furniture this year. He was not happy. At all.
Back to the issue at hand … I wonder what freegans do when their kids need braces or serious medical care. The free clinic can only do so much. When you are young and full of ideologies, freeganism could be somewhat the new frontier in social evolution but isn’t it a tad unrealistic. We can borrow the ideology and be more like Turtle but to live without paying for anything … well … imagine if we all did that.
So, reading about and knowing all the pros and cons, would you freegan?