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Conscious Spending. Conscious Life.: An uncommon guide to navigating the consumer culture Paperback – February 2, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

Why and how...
For many years, I taught a college course about issues in consumer economics. I became frustrated by the lack of a good resource book for the content I was teaching, so I decided to write one. Before long, it became apparent that this book was destined for a larger audience.
     The consumer world has become highly complex, and it's easy to be overwhelmed and get lost in details. My intention is to provide context, so readers can see how things fit together. Context is like the background in a painting: it's the aspect that gives meaning to the individual objects featured in that painting. Without background, they are floating and aimless. The consumer culture is the painting we live in. If we do not have any context for what has gone before, we are also floating and aimless. That makes it much more difficult to make constructive choices.
     I have also intentionally handled this subject in ways that provide perspective. Perspective is the capacity to view things in their true relationships or relative importance. Perspective allows us to get to the essentials. This is crucial in the consumer world, which is confusingly complex.
      Because I'm a generalist at heart, I've covered a wide variety of topics and introduced the work of many others. I want readers to be able to follow up on topics of interest so I've included plenty of endnotes.
An uncommon guide...
This book is about questions more than answers. It is based on the premise that when we ask the right questions, we will be able to figure out what to do. This is one of the ways that it's an uncommon guide: it doesn't tell readers what they should do. Instead, it provides insights and raises questions, which allow people to decide what they will choose to do for the life they want. This gives it a different tone from the many prescriptive self-help books.
     Conscious Spending, Conscious Life is about financial sustainability rather than financial information or cleverness. Personal finance books usually speak in terms of managing your money. This book talks about managing yourself. Managing ourselves involves many things: monitoring our viewpoints and mindsets, cultivating resourcefulness, maintaining perspective, retaining our balance in changing circumstances, being aware of our ethics and holding ourselves to high standards, paying attention when we engage with the marketplace, and developing healthy skepticism and common sense. How we do these things has enormous impact on how we deal with money. That's why this book addresses much more than money.
      A noticeable uncommon feature is the wide margins in this book. I insisted on it because I'm a fan of making notations in books. This is the kind of book that almost calls for it; you read something, it sparks a thought, and you don't want to lose the thread of the idea. It is so frustrating to be hampered by a narrow margin at those moments. I didn't want my readers to experience that.
      In the extras at the end, I've included a section about learning the language of financial sustainability. It goes beyond the usual glossary: I've structured it for enrichment rather than simply repeating dictionary meanings. That's why it's subdivided into topic areas and has some additional comments with the definitions. It has been given its own mini-contents so you can easily navigate around it.
Starting conversations...
Consumer and money issues are relevant to all of us, yet they are rarely spoken about. Perhaps this is due to embarrassment over a lack of information or a feeling of not doing it well. In any case, it's time to change that. This book can be a catalyst for starting conversations that will further our understanding of the issues and their implications. The "think-abouts" at the end of each chapter and the section near the end called "Strategies & Principles to Live By" are rich sources of things to talk about.
     Because Conscious Spending, Conscious Life is about meeting the challenges of the consumer culture, these conversations pertain to our daily lives and can occur almost anywhere: youth groups, continuing education classes, post-secondary classrooms, post-secondary residences, premarital classes or dinner parties.
     The conversations do not need to occur in large or organized groups. In fact, very few young adults have access to consumer education courses. Parents and grandparents must, and can, provide this education for their children. When young people graduate from high school, head off to college or university, or find a job and move away from home, they are at a teachable moment - in transition and aware of the new responsibilities they are about to undertake. Giving them this book is a good starting place for these conversations. It is the least we can do to prepare them for navigating the tricky waters of the consumer culture.

From the Back Cover

Perspectives on this book
"This is a manual for moving from unconscious consumption to conscious spending. Sprinkled with interesting personal anecdotes and stories, it's like a conversation with a wise and caring friend. Readers will find lots to think about." Fran Genereux, professional home economist and teacher
"I found it really helpful, and the examples made it much easier to understand." Dominique Vail, a twentysomething
"A very interesting, very useful book. The way ideas are combined is fresh, intriguing, and insightful."  Margaret W. Field, writer and poet
"With consumer debt at an all-time high, valuable lessons on spending and personal savings can be learned from this book. A must-read for anyone wanting off the consumer spending treadmill." Douglas McClintock, economist, University of Calgary
Starting conversations
This book is about meeting the challenges of living sensibly in a consumer culture. The conversations it evokes are relevant to all of us. They can occur one-on-one or in groups; among peers or across generations. See page xiii inside. Discussion ideas are posted on the author's blogsite at TheUncommonGuides.com.
Rising to the challenge
In a consumer world, it's incredibly easy to make poor choices that haunt us for years. Usually, we are deep in difficulty by the time anyone stops us. The best approach is conscious spending.
     This book will inspire you to broaden your perspective, ask questions, think independently, and
cultivate common sense.
     Presenting a timeless philosophy in the context of modern life, Conscious Spending, Conscious Life will enrich the way you look at money and at life. Packed with practical information and thought-provoking ideas, it helps you think for yourself and make satisfying decisions.

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Reviewed in the United States on February 20, 2013
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