For the last few months, I’ve been a “silent activist.” Caring deeply about issues and committing to changing some of my personal actions but staying pretty quiet about it. Lately, I’ve been really inspired by friends who are stepping up and sharing freely about issues that mean something to them. One of these friends, Alex Jamieson, posted on Facebook earlier this week opening a discussion around Amazon and it inspired me to share more on the topic here because it has been particularly relevant to me this year.
At the start of 2018, a friend suggested I read Mike Michalowicz’s book, Profit First, which helps entrepreneurs create a new financial system that focuses on profits first, paying yourself, and keeping expenses to a minimum.
One of the key steps to making this system work is to take a hard look at your expenses and slash whatever isn’t absolutely necessary for the business to run or make systems work more efficiently.
Mike suggests printing out your last 6 months of bank statements and breaking down all expenses line by line into essential, non-essential, and somewhere in between (expenses that can shift or look for alternative options). The same process can be applied to your personal life expenses.
As I went through this exercise (for personal and business), I really asked myself “Do I need this? Is it essential?”
When I got to expenses like my monthly subscription to Spotify or Amazon Prime, I let these questions sink in.
I’ve been a Spotify Premium member for 5+ years paying 9.99/month. It’s a relatively small monthly fee (that I never previously questioned) and I do enjoy the Premium perks, but I asked myself ‘Do I really need the premium account? Could I be just as happy with a basic account and allocate the extra $120 elsewhere?”
I decided to challenge myself, cancel my Spotify Premium account and just see how it feels. If after a month or two I really missed it, I could easily re-subscribe.
Here I am 10 months later and I haven’t added it back. I’ve been more intentional about listening to music, and have taken up a lot more reading, listening to podcasts, and enjoying quiet time. I’m not opposed to getting a Premium account again, but it’s been a really awesome experience to observe what I think I “need” and how easy it is to live without.
When it came to Amazon Prime, I saw it as somewhat of an experiment.
I’ve been a Prime member for years now - is it something I “need?” Could the $120 annual fee go somewhere else? The $120 from Spotify and $120 from Amazon could pay for a flight somewhere! Hmmm 🙂
When it came time for my Prime to renew, I went ahead and cancelled it, and I’ve been a-OK since.
I haven’t totally kicked the Amazon habit - I’ve logged into a family member’s account to watch Prime shows every once in a while and have order 1 or 2 things when I lived on Fire Island this summer and my access to stores was limited.
But overall, it’s been great to have a reason to think twice about clicking “Buy Now.” Without the perk of Prime free shipping, there’s less of an incentive to make impulse purchases.
A few months after I cancelled Prime, I read Lynne Twist’s The Soul Of Money. Lynne dives deep into how each dollar we spend can be an expression of our values, however big or small. This simple idea has had a huge impact on me.
Instead of searching for the cheapest thing, I began taking the extra effort to find products sold by companies that have an environmental awareness and treat their workers well.
The cost may be a little higher but it probably reflect the true cost of the item. Remember the message in the video “The Story of Stuff?”
Another message that really impacted me and gave me food for thought for where I was making my purchases came from IndieBound‘s website.
“When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits.
Spend $100 at a local-owned business and $52 of that stays in your community.
Spend $50 at a national chain and keep $6.50 in the local community.
Spend $50 online with a remote vendor with no sales tax collected and keep not one penny in your local community.
Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
More of your taxes are reinvested in your community.
Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.”
I got so out of the habit of buying books, gifts and home items from local stores because with a click of a button and free shipping it could be at my doorstep the next day.
I am still so grateful for Amazon - they’ve made shopping and reading much easier and more accessible for many, but on a personal level this year, it’s been really nice to re-train myself and take some time to reflect on how I want to shop and where I would love my dollars to circulate.
I got to put this into practice just last week. Since I joined the library this past year, I’ve exclusively been reading library books (which I love!) but wanted to gift a book to a family member so I turned to IndieBound. It’s an online search engine that makes it easy to search for your book of choice and they’ll tell you exactly what small book store carries it near you.
I knew Strand carried the book I headed over to pick it up. As silly as this sounds, I actually didn’t know how to use a regular book store anymore - I needed help to find the book! They did have it (thank you IndieBound!) and I bought it.
It was more than 2x more than the book cost on Amazon (I think it was a fluke deal) but it make me think for an extra second what I wanted to do. I went ahead and bought the book at the retail price at Strand because I want to see bookstores like Strand thrive, and I’m happy to have my money circulate through a small business and it’s employees. It was only $17 but I felt empowered saying YES to the full picture, beyond just where could I get the cheapest deal.
There is no “right” or “wrong” here. The most important thing is to make choices that feel good for you and this is what felt right for me.
Since my Fire Island summer, I am making a much bigger effort to be plastic and package free where I can (more on that in another post but here are a few pictures of the massive amount of plastic I collected that washed up from the ocean everyday!)
Purchasing in store vs online allow me to simply buy what I need and avoid the waste of a box or packaging.
Living a low waste lifestyle is definitely a work in progress but I’m working on it on a daily basis.
So that’s it! Cancelling my Amazon Prime membership has really helped me check myself and take a pause before mindlessly making a purchase. I’m asking more questions about what I really need vs. want and taking it one step further to see if I can purchase the item locally from a good mission company and avoid packaging.
I’d love for this to be a discussion and hear what you think! Are these things you’re thinking about? How does this play out in your life? Please share any thoughts below in the comments!