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Home > Green News > Editorials > HOT Green Business Ideas

Zero-Based Culture: Depression-style Frugality is Contagious

Depression-style frugality is an opportunity for a better way of life that takes into account "zero-based culture".

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It's not just people who are out of work who are learning new frugality skills.

Business (for cobblers / shoe repair) is flourishing in part because affluent customers, those supposedly insulated from middle- and working-class woes and who can still afford to drop a few hundred dollars on a new pair of Louboutins or Pradas, are showing up in large numbers, too.

And they're telling Ramuta a strange thing: "They don't want to go around looking rich," he says. "They feel it's a slap in the face of people who are out of work and have money problems." SOURCE: Seattletimes.com

Other people who are practicing new frugality skills and setting up more commonsense systems at home and at work include:

  • Gen Xers, Yers, Milleniums who had professional salaries

  • Boomers who are looking ahead to "not-retiring"

  • Families with an "under-employed" parent

  • Homeowners who have an upcoming balloon payment or rate hike pending

  • Self-employed business people who have always had to be frugal

  • ... is there anyone left out of this list?

The new "normal" is the old "frugal". We are learning what people around the world have been secretly using as their survival strategy. Don't waste! Don't waste anything.

That's where the folk phrase came from: "He uses everything, including the squeal!".

The solution to be found in this new attitude toward consumerism, business practices and career planning is to offer "greater value". Instead of innovating goods and services that are sexier, bigger, and more luxurious, or even 2X savings -- try innovating for 10X savings.

Zero-Based Budgeting

Turn to Wikipedia for a Zero-based budgeting overview of this slightly tattered financial approach: "Zero-based budgeting is a technique of planning and decision-making which reverses the working process of traditional budgeting. In traditional incremental budgeting, departmental managers justify only increases over the previous year budget and what has been already spent is automatically sanctioned. No reference is made to the previous level of expenditure. By contrast, in zero-based budgeting, every department function is reviewed comprehensively and all expenditures must be approved, rather than only increases."

Zero-based budgeting starts with your goal, what needs to be accomplished and works backward to see what it takes to do the job. We can apply this to families and personal lives as well.

Zero-Based Culture

What is essential to our family's well being? Food. Water. Shelter. Clothing. Love. A safety network. Security. The list is pretty elemental -- and nowhere on it is much of a mention of the latest electronic gadgets or vacations.

That's where we are. Vacations become opportunities to build family ties and a safety network. Electronic gadgets become home-based business or self-reliance projects.

And entertainment becomes an evening of popcorn playing tag or softball in the local park.

The secret to enjoying this new approach to "zero-based culture" is that you will have a BETTER life than the frazzled, high-glamor, high-stress version of life that you have built up with one promotion after another, larger caffeinated (or drugged) booster rocket than the last ... and googles of contacts that have replaced face-to-face friendships and family relationships.

Which is better: human scale or corporate scale?

Which is better: frugality with joy or excess with fear?

Zero-based culture is about being smarter, more caring, more related to your real needs as a human being. It's not about sacrifice, but about intelligent choices. It's about being strong people with hopes and fears and goals and relationships. And it's about the arts and crafts that are productive and meaningful... that give us spiritual and ethical and career insights.

Where do you start with zero-based-culture?

Start with your values. Clarify what matters most to you. And to your family. And your friends. And your security.

We face a security-first world during tumultuous times. First security, then productivity, then fun.

Once you have your vision straightened out with frugality of your time, as well as your money taken into account, you can make better choices that matter for you. You can build your own culture -- a rich mix of challenge, relaxation and sleep, healthful food and hydration, and right-sized shelter, transportation and careers.

Even education and training can be right-sized and focused with zero-based culture added to zero-based budgeting.

I've found that working at home, sharing links to good solutions is right-sized, and zero-base culture for me. It doesn't pay as much as a venture-funded startup -- but it provides for my basic needs for basic food and shelter, as well as my basic needs for creativity and stimulating conversation -- and it gives nutrients to those around me. Much like an oak tree is part of its neighborhood, taking a modest amount of nutrients and turning them into something enjoyed by its' neighbors, squirrels, birds, caterpillars, understory shrubs, grasses, earthworms...and even unseen microbes. That is my zero-based cultural analysis: be productive in my own unique way and turn basic materials into a useful solution for those around me. And beware of seasonal changes! :-)



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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