Interview with Laurana Rayne
What inspired you to write the book Conscious Spending, Conscious Life?
For many years I taught a college course about issues in consumer economics. I could always find good money management books for a portion of what I was teaching, but no books covered the remainder of my content—that is, self management in a consumer context. This book started out as a small supplement for my students, and then morphed into a full-blown book for the general public.
What message would you like people to take from this book?
I would like people to be reassured that it is possible to navigate the challenging waters of the consumer culture without becoming over-indebted or losing their sense of self. In fact, figuring out how to skilfully make our way through life is a wonderful opportunity for personal growth. Conscious Spending, Conscious Life was written as a guidebook for this journey.
Who can benefit from reading this book, then?
Age has proven not to be a factor. Conscious Spending, Conscious Life is helpful for anyone starting out, starting over, regrouping, or rethinking their lives.
Do you believe this book can change a person’s relationship with money?
Yes—if a person chooses to work with it. Change isn’t easy and usually requires an adjustment in mindset. The factual information and philosophical approaches presented in Conscious Spending, Conscious Life are good catalysts for anyone who is willing to see things differently.
Why do you call your book an “uncommon guide?”
There are several ways in which my book is different from the usual money management book.
This book is about questions more than answers. It doesn't tell readers what they should do. Instead, it provides insights and raises questions, allowing them 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 available.
It talks about managing yourself, whereas personal finance books usually speak in terms of managing your money. Monitoring viewpoints and mindsets, cultivating resourcefulness, maintaining perspective, retaining balance in changing circumstances, being aware of ethics and holding ourselves to high standards, developing healthy skepticism and common sense—how we do these things has enormous impact on how we deal with money. Therefore, this book covers much more than money.
There are wide margins to allow for making notes while reading. It’s the kind of content that calls for note-making—something sparks a thought as you’re reading and you don’t want to lose the thread of the idea.
There’s a section to help readers learn the language of financial sustainability. Going beyond the usual glossary, it’s divided into topic areas. It’s an effective way to get a concentrated introduction to key words in an area of interest.
This book is a catalyst for starting conversations. The "think-abouts" at the end of each chapter, as well as the section near the end called "Strategies & Principles to Live By," are rich sources of things to talk about.
Why was it so important for you to write this book?
Living in a consumer culture is tricky. There are a lot of external pressures from businesses wanting us to buy, and then buy more. People are vulnerable to making long-lasting mistakes if they don’t have both a strong sense of themselves and an understanding of how the system works. I wrote Conscious Spending, Conscious Life to level the playing field. This book encourages thinking for ourselves to make the lives we want rather than reacting in knee-jerk fashion to the consumer story about what we should have.
You use the phrase “making a life.” Exactly what do you mean by that?
Making a life means consciously thinking about what we are doing and how we want to live. It means thinking about how we will utilize our resources (talents and abilities, money, family and community connections) to live in a way that expresses what is important to us, our values. It means we are not automatically defaulting to the demands and pressures to buy without thinking. Instead we make conscious decisions to take us in the direction of living a life that will be deeply satisfying.
What can people learn about themselves by reading Conscious Spending, Conscious Life?
It depends where they are at in their own personal development. This book provides a rich opportunity for self-reflection. At the same time, it has a lot of practical information that helps readers develop sensible strategies to suit their current situation. Conscious Spending, Conscious Life can be read on many levels, and reread as a person moves through various stages of life.
How can this book help people think, function, and live in more satisfying ways?
It is based on the premise that we must think for ourselves. In a consumption-based economy, that can be challenging because there is strong corporate marketing of a never-ending parade of things for us to buy. Participating in this has led to unprecedented levels of consumer debt, and people are experiencing anxiety, fatigue, and social disconnection as a consequence. Conscious spending—making money decisions mindfully—is the alternative. When we shape our lives consciously, we are connected with what life is really about.
Why do you talk about the "costs of money?"
The amount we pay for borrowed money is one of the least-understood pitfalls of using credit. Sure, people may know that their credit card charges an interest rate of 18.5% interest. But they don’t understand the long-term implications of this rate when they only make the minimum payment each month. This point is illustrated in the following scenario quoted from the section on credit cards (p 187).
Balance = $3172
First month payment = $63
Annual interest rate = 18.5%
Suppose you spent that money on a fabulous vacation to celebrate your 20th birthday. Assume you buy nothing else on this credit card and faithfully make the minimum payment each month. How old will you be when you make the last payment for that birthday trip? How much interest will you pay in total during that time?
According to information taken directly from the credit card statement used for this example, the balance will be fully paid off in 42 years, 8 months. Therefore, you will be four months shy of your 63rd birthday when you make that last payment on your 20th birthday celebration.
How much interest will be paid? This is not part of the required information on a credit card statement, so I found the answer by using an online calculator. According to the calculator, you will pay out a total of $12,623 for that trip worth $3172. The interest is therefore $9,451. (Total paid of $12,623 – original cost of $3,172 = interest of $9,451.) The interest is three times the original cost of your celebratory trip. That’s a huge surcharge, and I can’t help wondering if anything is worth that much extra.
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