Saturday, August 15, 2009

Have you ever thought about barter?

It occurred to me again (not a new thought here), while the kids and I were watching Frontier House (an amazing PBS miniseries that I encourage you all to watch), that we all have far more things that we need to have happy and fulfilled lives. Three modern families live in the Montana Territory in 1883 (as close to 1883 as they could make it!) with only the things that would have been available to settlers in 1883. From making their own homes to fetching their own water to slaughtering their own animals, it all must come from them. As I watched the effort that went into making homes (and sometimes, the effort that didn't get expended), it occurred to me that we've gotten too disconnected from how our labors connect to our possessions. You have all this stuff and you get a paycheck every few weeks and you somehow pay for all this stuff, but do you really get it?

Thing about this scenario: You need a new refrigerator. There is an $800 refrigerator (no bells and whistles) and there is a $1600 refrigerator (some bells and whistles). Now, when you go buy the refrigerator, you think about the money, right? But what if you thought about it the way it really is: Do you want to work 40 hours (bartering $20 for each hour of your labor) for the plain-Jane refrigerator? or do you want to work 80 hours for the refrigerator with the bells and whistles? Remember, the hours you're trading will go exclusively to the other needs will be met while your bartering your time. It is really interesting to think about it in these terms, isn't it? I don't know what your answer would be...I like to think I know what my answer would be.

But let's keep going. What if every single thing in your home was a something you traded hours for? The television, the car, the clothes that go unworn in your closet? The rooms in your house that are filled with junk and aren't being used? What if you thought about them in terms of hours you trade for them? Would you still have everything you have now?

The truth is that we do trade hours for every single thing we own, even if we never think of it that way. I know for me, we've not looked at it that way before and stopping to think about it in those terms really makes you think about the buying decisions you make...the little ones and the big ones.

P.S. Seriously, you really, really should watch Frontier House (you can get it from Netflix or your public library)


Stephanie said...

Funny thing is a while ago I'd of said the one with the bells and whistles but now without a doubt it would be the plain jane one :)even if that plain jane one didn't include an icemaker in the door!

Anonymous said...

I've done that for years. I used to make 2.13 an hour plus tips and that'll make you really think.

Now I sew, and it's actual labor and while I might not wear a lot of it, I certainly would make it again.

Anonymous said...

We've always lived very frugally, but yet beyond our means, because I have always bought stuff way discounted. Even though Hubby makes good money, I make minimum wage, and when I figure up the cost of something, I figure it in how many hours I am going to have to work to buy it. That makes you really think. Not on the big neccesities like refrigerators, but little crappy things like nick nacks. Do I really want to work for a full hour to own this halloween cat that I will be sick of in two years that I only sit out for two weeks a year? If the answer is NO, it stays in the store. More often than not, I am finding the answer is NO.

Now when I need the refrigerator, I have the money for the bells and whistles because I haven't bought the nick knacks that just collect dust.

Alicia said...

I remember watching a show like that on PBS. It was sooooo interesting and so realistic!!