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Lesson 29 - Capitalism and Consumerism

Jun 18, 2024

In a world where consumerism and capitalism are king (aka patriarchy), finding Financial Sobriety can feel like swimming against a powerful current. 

Once I really started to learn what Consumerism and Capitalism were and how they affect our day to day interaction with our money I really started to pay attention. My eyes were wide open and I couldn’t look away from it. 

What is consumerism?

Consumerism is like a big shiny temptation that constantly whispers in our ears, "Buy this! You need that! Your life will be better with this new thing!" 

It's this idea that buying stuff equals happiness and success. But here's the hard part: it's a trap! Just like alcohol or drugs, consumerism can become addictive. It's when we spend money on things we don't really need or even want just because we feel pressured to or because we think it'll make us feel better. But in reality, it often leaves us feeling empty and craving even more stuff. 

So, part of achieving Financial Sobriety is learning to resist the urge to give in to consumerism and instead focus on what truly brings us joy and fulfillment without draining our wallets. It's about breaking free from the cycle of mindless spending and finding contentment in what we already have. 

Here are some ways consumerism show up in our daily lives: 

  1. Preoccupation to constantly be buying things. Obsessing over what we “want” to buy
  2. The false promise that what we are buying will actually make us happy but instead we actually just end up having a spending hangover and then the shame starts. We enjoy that quick dopamine hit for a moment and then it fades away. 
  3. We see so much marketing everyday that tells us we need something. On average a person sees 500 advertisements everyday! What!? Whether it’s on social media, billboards, stores, tv shows, movies etc the bombardment of our thoughts about buying things never stops! 
  4. We believe that what we are buying will make us happier and complete our lives. LIES! Yes, again we do get that dopamine hit and we feel like we have won the lottery but those pair of shoes your buying are not going to take away the stress. Believe me, I have tried. Instead I just got blisters and a credit card bill. 
  5. It affects our mental health, physical health and the overall health of our planet. The comparison game is being played, the debt incurred brings on stress, anxiety and depression and of course all of the pollution that is caused by fast fashion, waste etc hurts our planet. 

What is Capitalism: 

Capitalism is like the big system that governs how money and resources flow in our society/economy. In capitalism, individuals and businesses own and control their own stuff, like companies or products, and can compete with each other to make profits. It’s where the big box stores thrive. It’s where the local stores are negatively impacted if we don’t shop locally. 

Capitalism can encourage excessive consumption and greed, which can be a slippery slope for someone working on financial sobriety. It can make us feel like we need to keep chasing after more and more money and stuff to feel successful. 

But it's important to remember that true success isn't just about how much money we have or how many things we own. It's about finding balance and making sure our financial decisions align with our values and goals, rather than getting caught up in the never-ending pursuit of more. So, part of financial sobriety is learning to navigate capitalism in a way that serves us, rather than letting it control us.

Here are some ways that capitalism shows up in our daily lives: 

  1. Shopping and Consumption:
    • Retail Stores: Whether you're buying groceries, clothes, or electronics, the stores and products available are all results of capitalist enterprise. Businesses compete to offer the best products at the best prices. Big Box stores like Wal-Mart, Target etc are all an example of capitalism taking over. 
    • Online Shopping: E-commerce platforms like Amazon, eBay, and others are prime examples of capitalism, providing a vast marketplace where goods and services are bought and sold and often small businesses are closing due to the convenience and popularity. 
  2. Employment:
    • Job Market: Most people work for privately-owned companies, and their employment is influenced by market demand, competition, and the profitability of their employer. If the market demand is lowered people will often get laid off or lose their employment. 
    • Wages and Salaries: In a capitalist system, your compensation is often tied to your skills, experience, and the demand for your job. Employers compete for talent, which can drive wages up or down. Hustling for your worth in a capitalist society as we live in is the norm. 
  3. Banking and Finance:
    • Banks and Loans: Access to financial services like savings accounts, loans, and credit cards is facilitated by private banks and financial institutions that operate for profit. Racism and Capitalism are linked in many areas but the finance market is heavily influenced on what is accessible to you. 
    • Investments: Stock markets, mutual funds, and retirement accounts are ways individuals invest in businesses, seeking to grow their wealth and are also linked to large corporations, big box stores etc. 
  4. Advertising and Media:
    • Commercials and Ads: The ads you see on TV, online, or in print are driven by companies seeking to attract customers and increase sales. We see over 10,000 per day! 
    • Media Content: Many TV shows, movies, and online content are produced by for-profit companies and funded through advertising or subscriptions.
  5. Technology and Innovation:
    • Smartphones and Gadgets: The development and sale of new technologies, like smartphones, laptops, and apps, are driven by companies competing to offer the latest and greatest innovations.
    • Research and Development: Private companies invest in R&D to create new products and improve existing ones, hoping to gain a competitive edge.
  6. Healthcare:
    • Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices: The development, production, and sale of medications and medical devices are largely driven by private companies.
    • Private Hospitals and Clinics: Many healthcare providers operate on a for-profit basis, offering services that patients pay for directly or through insurance.
  7. Education:
    • Private Schools and Universities: In addition to public education, many private institutions operate for profit, offering educational services to those who can afford them.
    • Educational Materials: Textbooks, online courses, and educational software are produced and sold by private companies.
  8. Housing:
    • Real Estate Market: Buying, selling, and renting property are all activities driven by market forces. Real estate developers and landlords operate to make a profit.
    • Mortgages: Home loans are provided by private banks, making homeownership possible for many people.
  9. Transportation:
    • Car Ownership: The automobile industry is a major capitalist enterprise, with various companies competing to sell cars.
    • Ride-Sharing Services: Companies like Uber and Lyft operate on capitalist principles, offering transportation services for a fee.
  10. Food and Dining:
    • Restaurants and Cafes: Eating out is facilitated by businesses that compete to offer the best dining experiences.
    • Food Products: Supermarkets and food producers operate on a for-profit basis, offering a wide range of products to consumers.

In all these examples, the principles of capitalism—private ownership, competition, profit motive, and market-driven decisions—are at play, shaping our daily experiences and the choices available to us. It is a scary reality in the world we live in. 

When it comes to consumerism and capitalism overall the way we spend our money matters. We get to vote with our dollars. Sometimes not shopping at big box stores isn’t accessible as unfortunately they are often the cheapest, in saying that it is important to pause when you spend your money and how it may affect our economy. 

It can be really easy to get caught up in how negative the facts and capitalism and consumerism are. Being aware of this is important as it helps us understand why things feel like a struggle when it comes to our spending and why it is hard to stop. Our world is designed to have you spend your money and it is up to you on what choices you get to make. 

You can take some of this power back with your choices. 

You deserve and are worthy of Financial Sobriety. 

All the money love sent your way, 


Linda Parmar
Financial Sobriety Expert