Be Smarter Than Capitalism

Nothing in this life is free- You’ve heard it, but do you understand it?

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

I’ve recently had to go gluten free due to a Celiac Disease diagnosis (an autoimmune disease where antibodies are created in response to gluten). As a very frugal person, the prices of gluten free goods have been not only a shock, but quite annoying. To be honest, it’s one of the worst parts of the entire diagnosis.

However, I can’t complain.

The fact is, the cost to manufacture gluten free goods is higher. It costs money to eliminate gluten from products which would typically be gluten-filled. Further, there is a small market for these specialized products. In order to stay afloat, companies have to charge more for what they sell when they have a smaller audience.

In other words, while it’s frustrating, I understand it.

However, most people don’t.

I’m on a few Facebook pages for Celiac Disease and every day there are people complaining about the cost of goods. Venting is cool, I think it’s natural and a good way to let off steam. However, probably every other day people are not just venting, they are asking why.

They think it is a personal attack against them and their diagnosis that they have to pay more at grocery stores, at restaurants, and even for convenient snacks at gas stations.

I think this reflects a general misunderstanding of our system of capitalism in the United States. And to be honest, I don’t blame people. It’s confusing.

But, I also think it’s important to understand.

Once you truly understand the value of the dollar, you can move forward with much more financial clarity and not to mention, less frustration.

Everything You Think is Free, Isn’t

  • Your state has no state income tax, great. But your sales tax is probably through the roof. Maybe both income and sales tax is reasonable in your state, but property tax is exorbitant. State funds have to come from somewhere.
  • Your public education was paid through those taxes.
  • The free bread you get at an Italian restaurant is just an incentive for you to choose that restaurant for your dinner. Their cost is factored into the meal you ordered.
  • Similarly, sales at the grocery store are just an incentive for you to shop there and spend your money on other products. Have you ever wondered why Costco’s rotisserie chicken is so dang cheap? That’s why. It’s just to get you in the door. Not to mention it’s always in the back of the store- you have to walk past every other tempting item before you can grab the chicken you came in for.
  • Truly, discounts anywhere are an incentive for the company to get your business, and spend more money. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use those discounts. But, don’t blindly follow deals.

Be Smarter Than the System

We live in a capitalistic economy. It’s simultaneously beautiful and horrendous.

You don’t have to be an expert in economics to be financially aware. All you need is a general understanding. Don’t be blindsided by labels and marketing. Likewise, don’t waste your energy being mad at a situation you can’t control.

Truly, the most important thing to understand is this- Everyone wants your money. They want it just as much as you want it, and just as much as you don’t want to give it away.

Of course, our money can buy us things we need and want. However, by buying things we are also giving away something we by default enjoy- extra cash.

Thinking Critically

I don’t want to tell you to think of the economic world cynically. It is just about thinking critically for every purchase. Do you want it? Do you need it? And most importantly, can you find the same or similar item for cheaper elsewhere?

Sometimes we don’t have a choice. There are only so many gluten free breads on the market. But you can still wait for a sale, buy in bulk, and freeze what you won’t use right away.

You have to be aware to bypass the system. The system expects you to buy on impulse, or to buy the first thing you see. There’s a reason the cheaper items are on the top shelf or the bottom shelf of the supermarket. The store strategizes to keep them out of view. What is eye level is what will make them the most money.

Be smarter than the system.

There are ways to live frugally in this system of capitalism. And there are ways to negotiate your way out of some exorbitant costs.

However, you can’t rebuild how our country operates. And you probably don’t want to. There’s a reason our nation is so successful. It’s just important to be cognizant, resist impulse, and work to understand the basis of our complex but beautiful economy.

Writer. PhD Student. Frugal Traveler. Passionate about health, personal growth, and saving money.

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