The Snowball Effect on Communities

I had an aunt but I won’t use her name. She was what you would consider poor. She had a low wage job and lived a simple life so she could maintain a lifestyle within her means. She didn’t have many luxuries such as going on many expensive trips; shopping without necessity, have cable or even a cell phone. Instead, she saved money from her job and bought a house, a car and had enough money attached to her life insurance plan at death to leave behind a helpful sum of money for her loved ones. She’s just one example of how a person living beneath the poverty line can manage their finances properly so that they’re living a good life well within their means with small, consistent actions.

I didn’t realize how rich I was until I realized how broke I was and needed to track my money. I started using a little pocket sized notebook to jot down everything I spent, even if it were as little as a $.25 bag of chips.

It didn’t take long for me to notice that I was wasting a lot of money on impulse shopping. It was like having a small drip from a leaky faucet. You notice the drip, put a bucket under it and go on a 7-day vacation expecting the bucket to be sufficient enough to hold the water. When you return, the bucket is overflowing; you have a huge mess with possible structural damage and a large water bill. You never realized the significance of those little drops as long as they had somewhere to go. Impulse shopping is much the same; you never realize how much money you’re squandering away on small purchases until you start managing it.

At that point, I began to record the price of any potential impulsive purchase in my notebook and place that amount into a shoe box. Again, I also included small amounts such as the amount spent on potato chips. I began doing the same with gardening. I continued to make my weekly grocery lists, however, I put the cost of produce for that week into the shoe box.

At first it was a little difficult for me to avoid impulse shopping but after awhile, I began to recognize all of the benefits of my self-discipline. The food I cooked was more flavorful, I developed a love for gardening that became therapeutic and it freed up money for investing. In just three months, I saved close to 3k. Normally, that money would have gone unnoticed but now that I was aware of it, I could put it to good use. I made my money work for me.

I learned to use my resources wisely to help save money. Learning to garden wasn’t as simple as digging a hole, set it and forget it. I had to nurture my garden. One of the first things I learned was that I needed to prevent weeds so that I wasn’t spending more time pulling weeds than enjoying my garden. I purchased mulch the first year to help prevent weeds to the tune of approximately 1k. The second year I thought I did well because I bought 3 bags on sale for $11.99. The bags were an average size but didn’t cover much ground and my garden was large so I still spent approximately $800 on mulch alone. I also needed a better quality soil for my plants, which cost close to $900. My third year, I learned that I could get wood chips and soil for free. I saved $900 on soil and 1k on mulch. It’s been 7 years since that first trip to the city lot, which saved about $1,900. That’s a total of roughly $13,300 saved on basic gardening supplies alone (My first two houses only cost me $8,000). My garden was healthier and more plentiful, saving even more money at the grocery store. With the money I saved from impulse shopping, free resources, not going out 4 or 5 times per week, I was able to pay off my mortgage in half the time.

As the last blog in this four part series, I want to discuss how these actions can create better communities by way of healthier, happier and wealthier individuals.

Working backwards, we start off with becoming a disciplined individual, as was my aunt. You don’t have to take on a second job in order to “make” more money. They say, “A penny saved is a penny earned”. This is one of the keys to increasing your wealth without having to make major lifestyle changes. The other is making sure that you are properly insured if for no reason other than to not leave your family any debt upon your death, but also to ensure they are taken care of also.

One of the blogs discussed gardening in detail. It is very relaxing and when using a communal approach, “each one, teach one”, the community begins to see an increase in overall improvement. There is a shared commitment to the garden, no matter the type, which builds relationships and value within the community. It can increase wealth by creating entrepreneurs, employment and increasing savings. It improves health by making healthy foods more accessible to people who may otherwise not have access to them and increases physical activity of those who work on the garden. The most obvious improvement would be making the community more visually appealing. All of these things contribute to happiness.

As the morale of the community increases, you’ll notice a snowball effect. Initially people with vision and doers will be the only ones participating. Over time as the rest of the community begins to see results, more and more will begin to participate in community activities, thus creating a snowball effect. With this community of people who have built something together while improving their own lives, you will find it natural that more people will also become active in political environments. Civil engagement is something that can happen at a very elementary level and have exponential benefits. Good people make a good community and each of these actions are low hanging fruit. When compounded, communities pursuing these actions can create the voice and the power necessary to make political changes for their communities.

A group of dedicated people who can work together to create positive changes for themselves and their communities is all that is required to build happier, healthier and wealthier lives for members of their community. Everyone may not start together, but as the movement and the progress grows and results are beginning to show, more and more people will want to be a part of that.

One comment

  1. Latoya Thomas says:

    I really believe in the power of the people to uplift our community. One step at a time, together we shall build or empire back up.

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