We need to learn how to be good consumers.  Consumers are part of business, for if there were no consumers, there would be no need for businesses. Consumers create the need for businesses, and businesses exist because of consumers. 

What is the difference between a consumer and a customer? 
In a family of five, if everyone drinks milk, but only mom buys the milk, then she is the customer, while the entire family are consumers. 

There are several ways to be good consumers. 
The photo is a littered park. Wow. 
So, one part of being a good consumer is properly taking care of the trash we create. 

And part of that, is buying things in a way that generates less trash. 
Gallon jugs of milk and bags of potatoes don’t need to be put in another bag to carry them home. 
Thus, two bags are kept out of the trash. 
And bagged potatoes will have less packaging than individually-wrapped potatoes. 
But a 1-person household may need only 1 potato.

The town I live in has special recycling container for each home. 
Having that container, I’m amazed at how many recyclables I used to send to the landfill. 
We now send more waste to recycling than we send to the landfill.

Buy ‘portionally’. 
This means a family of 5 should buy their milk in gallon jugs, not in quarts. Too many containers to dispose of. 
And eggs can be bought in 1.5 dozen cartons or 2.5 dozen flats, instead of 1 dozen cartons. 
Single-person households can buy a 1/2 dozen carton of eggs. 
If a small family wants to buy in bulk, they can eat several meals with the same ingredients, or give the extra to others they know. When I cook a meal, I usually cook enough for three or four days of that meal. 
I don't mind leftovers. (but 4 days is about enough)
Or two single relatives or neighbors can take turns buying larger bags for the savings. 
Or, buy the larger size and make sure your grandma’s shelves have plenty of food.  

Part of healthy consumerism is thrift. When you are an adult, you will learn there are two ways to have money; 
Bring in money, or live economically. It is best to do both.
I know people who are more secure making $500 per week than some people making $1,000 per week. 
Why? Because of the way each of them spend money. 
Let’s do the math. (Math is so important).

If you spend $1,000 per month on an apartment, you'll spend $12,000 per year. 
But if you spend $800 per month for an apartment, you'll spend $9,600 per year. That is a difference of $2,400 per year. 

If you buy a coffee on the way to work, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year: 
A $2 cup of coffee will cost you $500 per year, 
a $5 cup of coffee will cost you $1,250 per year. 
A yearly difference of $750. 
Perhaps one special coffee a week, with regular coffee the other four days would be a good balance?

A gallon of milk each week, where I shop, (2021) 2% milk is $1.69 per gallon, $84.50 per year.
Half-gallons of 2% milk are $1.19, or $2.38 per gallon, for 123.76 per year.  
A difference of $39.26.
See how this adds up? Your decision-making process should include math, not just taste and convenience.

And kindness is a part of good consumerism. If while shopping, you find 4 of the same product on sale because the freshness date is about to expire, don’t buy them all, unless you are very poor. Leave some for the next person, who may need that discount as much as you. 

Another part of good-consumerism is buying quality products. 
When my kids were young, I bought a few toys at discount stores, just to have them break before they got them home. Bad choice. 
And I quit buying electric items at yard sales, including electric tools, if I couldn't test them there. 
Some brands of tools are not worth buying new, for they don’t last. 
Usually, the cheapest brands have the shortest lifespans. 

Another part of good consumerism is deciding between new and used. I have owned one new vehicle in my life, 
(1977 Ford Ranchero GT, Blood red with silver racing stripes) and the rest of my vehicles have been used. 
Though some used cars have been good, one used car I had was terrible.

Taking care of what you already own, is good consumerism. If we abuse or neglect what we own, it doesn't last as long. 
For example, if we don't keep our toenails trimmed, our socks get holes in them. 
This is not rocket surgery.

When I was a kid, shopping for school clothes meant an evening at the thrift stores on South 24th street in Omaha. 
Dad went with us and we had supper at Joe Tess. (there were no yard sales when I was a kid). 
Then, on another shopping trip with just mom, we would each get 2 new outfits, so we could feel on-par with the kids with more money. 

Do-it-yourself-ing is another part of good consumerism. 
Do-it-yourself-ing can range from growing your own chives in a pot on your patio, to building your own rocket ship to travel to the moon. 
But if we attempt a do-it-ourselves project, we need to pick projects that have a fair chance of succeeding. 
Although I would like to travel to the moon, I have decided not to build my own rocket ship. 

I grew up on 10 acres of land. We had a vegetable garden, a potato patch, fruit orchard, and we raised animals for meat too. 
This is do-it-yourself-ing. Many people do this, And nearly anyone with a window can grow something. 
My grandma made my childhood quilts. My dad cut my hair until I was 15. My wife cuts my hair now.
Shining your own shoes is a form of do-it-yourself-ing. 

So is: 
washing your own car 
washing your own clothes 
cleaning your own room 
doing your own dishes (when I was a kid, my oldest sister used to pay me 25 cents to do dishes when it was her turn).    

Eric J. Rose
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