Saturday, May 19, 2007

Breaking the Consumer Habit-Living the Nothing Life

Taken from Adbusters Magazine,

from Adbusters Magazine:
Breaking the Consumer Habit: Living the Buy Nothing Life
April 20, 2007
San Francisco, 1951.

A living room fills with warm laughter and the aroma of fresh-baked
goodies. Suburban housewives walk around the room exchanging smiles,
telling stories. It's like any other casual gathering, except for one
twist: this is a Tupperware party, everyone is here to shop.

Painting over gray decades of war and depression with bright pastels,
products like Tupperware ushered in a new era of prosperity, renewal
and superabundance. Consumer goods like the television set and the
Cadillac became more than just necessities for life: for millions of
consumers, they were the essence of life itself.

Fast forward to 2005. A group of friends in the San Francisco Bay Area
are meeting over a potluck dinner. Disillusioned by the endless
consumer rat race, they are here to discuss how to not shop, to put an
end to needless consumption. Taking the concept of Buy Nothing Day to
the extreme, they have decided to attempt a full year without buying
new products. Dubbing themselves "The Compact" after the Mayflower
pledge at Plymouth Rock, the group vowed to limit their shopping to
food, medicine and basic hygiene products, buying used wherever they
could. Since the local news began covering them, their story has
exploded, appearing everywhere from the Today Show to The Times of
London. Today, with 8,000 new members and 55 subgroups worldwide –
from regions as varied as Singapore and Iceland – the Compact are
finding themselves at the forefront of the turning tide against
consumer culture.

What the Compacters are doing is neither radical nor revolutionary;
millions of people around the world live this way, and have lived this
way for generations. Yet the Compact threatens and challenges
everything that people have come to believe about "the good life" in
the industrialized world. Reactions to the movement have been
passionate, ranging from applause to outrage. Compact members have
been accused of being "self-congratulator y braggarts" who are
"destroying America's economy." One Compacter in Chilliwack, Canada,
recalls friends reacting as if she had joined a Satanic cult. Love it
or hate it, the Compact has made people question and the real motives
behind their daily purchases.

"I used to shop to entertain myself," confesses Lori Wyndham Jolly, an
American expat and Compacter living in Berkshire, UK. "I'd go into a
record store and buy a whole load of discount CDs, or into a chemist
and get a lot of cheap cosmetics . . . I didn't do this because I
needed any of that stuff, but just to fill the emptiness. I read a
throwaway line in paperback once, but it's stuck with me: People shop
because they're lonely."

"We're constantly on the drive to consume more stuff," says Rachel
Kesel, a Bay Area Compacter who keeps a closely followed blog about
her experiences. "It becomes a habit and not necessity."

The reasons why people join the Compact are varied. Some join to cut
back on spending, others to reduce waste, still others to escape
materialism and focus on spiritual values. One thing they all
recognize is that shopping is not the solution to their problems – in
fact, it may very well be the cause to many of them.

"Money and debts seem to be ruling our life," observes Rúna Björg
Gartharsdóttir, a Compacter in Iceland. She explains to Adbusters that
she joined the Compact to escape what she calls the "vicious cycle" of
consumerism – the chronic overwork to be able to spend more; the
social disintegration resulting from overwork; the environmental
damage caused by consumer waste; conflict over resources to supply
consumer demand. In other words, a myriad of problems loosely bound by
the innocent desire for an iPod or a luxury car collection.

It is no coincidence that the emergence of the Compact coincides with
the rising popularity of the down-shifting and environmental
movements. People throughout the developed world have realized that,
unlike our psychological desires – which are infinite – our physiology
and environmental resources have limits. Our body can't handle 80-hour
workweeks on a 6,000-calorie- per-day diet, no more than our earth can
handle cities like New York producing 12,000 tons of solid waste every
single day, or the hundreds of millions of discarded cell phones that
release cancer-causing toxins into the air. Something, someday, will
have to give.

For now, most Compacters defensively state that their choice is a
strictly "personal" one and that they have no political agenda. Yet
they continue to stir up discontent by turning their back on a sacred
ideal, the belief shared by billions around the world that "more" is
better than "just enough." Marketers are hoping this is a fringe
movement. The signs point elsewhere. According to recent surveys by
sociologist Juliet Schor, 81 percent of Americans believe their
country is too focused on shopping, while nearly 90 percent believe it
is too materialistic. Newspapers such as USA Today received record
reader responses when columnist Craig Wilson swore off shopping for a
full year. Radical anti-consumers such as the Freegans (people who
survive on discarded food and products) are proving that people can
survive off the waste of affluent consumers.

Gartharsdóttir, for her part, speaks with some pride when people tell
her that her refusal to shop will shake her country's economy. "It
shows clearly the strong influence the marketing forces currently have
on the nation," she says. "We should rule our lives and decide what
comes first."

by Jenny Uechi

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bill in Congress May Reduce Credit Card Costs

There are several credit card fees that are associated with a credit card such as:
1. Over the limit fees
2. Cash advance fees
3. Late payment fees
4. Finance charges
5. Annual fees
6. Rate increase after a promotion

These fees can make paying off a credit card difficult. It can seem like you will never be able to pay off the debt. Purchasing an item with a credit card results in 112% the original cost of the item.

Congress has heard our cries. A new bill has been introduced that will outlaw some credit card billing practices.

If you have questions about any information in this article send me an email at

See the article below or clink on title to access the article link for future reference.

Bill Would Ban Some Credit Card Actions

The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 15, 2007; 6:29 PM

WASHINGTON -- Legislation proposed Tuesday would outlaw some credit-card billing and interest-rate practices that critics say confuse consumers and can push them deeper into debt.

The bill authored by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's investigative panel, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would ban interest from being charged on any portion of a credit card debt that the consumer paid on time during a grace period.

It also would limit so-called penalty increases in interest rates, which are imposed when a payment is made after the due date, to a maximum 7 percentage points above the current rate.

The legislation was heralded by consumer groups. Many lawmakers, however, have expressed reluctance to impose mandates on how banks do business.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who heads the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction on the issue, said he will examine the proposal "in a careful and thoughtful fashion."

The banking industry opposes such legislation. "We worry about micro-managing the pricing of financial products in a way that may ultimately hurt consumers," said Ken Clayton, managing director of credit card policy at the American Bankers Association.

Heightened scrutiny of credit card practices has come from the new Democratic-controlled Congress, which has put a number of consumer issues on its legislative agenda. With Americans weighed down by some $850 billion in consumer debt, the practices of the robustly profitable credit card industry are a compelling subject for scrutiny.

Amid the congressional focus, several major banks recently began to eliminate or temper some of the practices.

An investigation by Levin's subcommittee found abusive and confusing practices, and repeated penalties imposed by credit card issuers that are said to amplify the financial woes of many Americans while bringing in tens of millions of dollars for the companies.

The bill also would:

_Require increased interest rates to apply only to future debt on a credit card account, not to debt incurred prior to the increase.

_Prohibit charging of interest on credit card account fees, such as late payment fees and fees for going over the credit limit.

_Prohibit charging of repeated over-limit fees for a single instance of exceeding a credit limit, and allow the fees to be charged only when the consumer's action, rather than a penalty, causes the limit to be exceeded.

_Ban so-called "pay-to-pay" fees, often charged when consumers make payments on their accounts by telephone. Such fees would be prohibited for any form of payment, including mail or electronic transfer.

_Require payments to be applied first to the portion of the account balance with the highest interest rate.

_Ban the practice known as "universal default," in which credit card issuers raise interest rates for customers because they're late on payments to other creditors separate from the account in question.