So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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Sunday, May 6, 2012
Buying like the Third World
During my college years I like to take courses outside my major. It really is a wonder how I was able to squeeze out a double major in two years. There was so much interesting stuff going on and I wanted a sample of as much of it as possible.
That’s how a Journalism major found himself in a Business course. Here’s a little known secret of college. Any sort of English major does well when taking other courses. It’s not that we understand the material better than the other students; our papers are much easier to read. The professors find a decent paper a relief. After slogging through badly written papers, anything half way readable is bumped up at least a full letter grade.
I digress. On thing that stuck with me is how consumer products are marketed to the Third World. Stuff the First World buys in big containers, shampoo, laundry soap, spices, and so on, the Third World buys in single use packages. Storage is an issue. They don’t have safe places to keep all that stuff. The main problem is price. They can’t afford the 20 ounce bottle of shampoo so they buy the one ounce.
They pay a lot more money for the same stuff. It’s another penalty of being poor. People lack the capital necessary to take advantage of buying in bulk. People live day to day. There are some advantages to that as they stress less about tomorrow. On the down side, they don’t make the sort of purchases that pay off in the long run. To be fair, sometimes they just can’t do it. Buying that big bottle of shampoo may mean being unable to buy cooking oil and spices and aspirin that day.
Today I found myself using Third World buying strategies. Instead of buying a tank of heating oil, I bought 5 gallons of off road diesel to pour in the furnace’s tank. At the same time, I got a 20 pound propane bottle filled instead of filling the 250 pound tank. I did not want to tie up that much money -money I really don’t have right now. No doubt it cost me a bit more to buy in smaller volume, and there certainly was a lot more handling and effort on my part.
At one time I wouldn’t have thought twice about buying big truckloads of energy. Being on the automatic fill program that stuff just happened in the background. Of course, then the big bill appeared in the mail box and it would have to get paid.
My current purchases are even more third world than small volume purchases. My oil furnace is getting old. It won’t be replaced with another oil furnace. My propane kitchen stove won’t be replaced with another propane stove. By next winter, I’d like a good air tight kitchen woodstove for cooking and heating.
Wood has a much lower energy density than petrochemical fuels. The Third World cooks and heats with wood. Yes, in some ways I’m living like a Third World peasant.
Why did I buy diesel and propane today? To buy time. Time not gathering and processing wood allows me to do other things -like write this blog. Capital not invested in big tanks of fuel will go towards that new fuel efficient woodstove. Call it a more managed descent into Third World living.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.