As the Pagan savings challenge progresses, I'm aware that there are Pagans who are not participating because my weekly (and impersonal) posts aren't motivation enough to keep it up. The pressures are many, and my voice is small. But my belief in the power of savings is strong.
Savings is a discipline, as surely as devotion and magic are, and discipline is its own reward.
Savings transforms one's relationship with money, changing it from one of reaction to one of intention.
Savings results in a pile of money that literally wouldn't have been there if it hadn't been saved, which is the sort of reward that even the most right-brained among us should appreciate.
Savings requires the right mix of patience and attention, which in proper measure can nurture virtually anything.
So in keeping with my sincere belief that each and every Pagan should have a savings plan as part of their spiritual practice, I present an alternative for working groups: the sou-sou. It is one of the simplest savings programs to understand, but challenging for the typical American to participate. It came to the United States from West Africa, and is most commonly used in this country by populations who are on the edges -- or outside -- of the traditional money system.
I'm a bit of a currency naturalist: I round bills up, mark them, and release them back into the wild. That even goes for two dollar bills, which many Americans believe are no longer made (they are; in fact, series 2013 is in print now). Because the two is in such low circulation, if you ask for them at the bank like I do, you will see some very old, very well-preserved currency.
Only on a two did I have much of a chance of finding this story. Everything I know for a fact comes from that very bill, which I have pictured here. A two from series 1976, in fairly crisp condition, with a note scrawled across it in black ink. The handwriting crosses over dark portions of the bill's design, there's at least one word crossed out, and it's not very legible in the first place, but this is what I think it reads:
With a mix of emotions both rich and deep, I spent the waning hours of 2013 acquiring a new automobile. It's been ten years since I have bought a car, and I still think that 179,794 miles is only a fraction of what my Civic Hybrid is capable of driving, bought the deed is done, and now I can savor the many feelings it has evoked.
A few days in, the overwhelming winner is joy. My new bug is just three years old, handles like a dream, and makes me feel safer and more confident on the road.
Sadness that I am parting company with a machine that has been with me for longer than any other comes a close second.
Then there's relief that I got out of the negotiation and credit process intact. It's still possible to buy a car without credit, but it's becoming less and less common.
Let's not forget the angst over getting a vehicle that gets slightly worse gas mileage.
Countering that is the happiness that comes from giving my old car to a loved one, improving his life and keeping it out of the landfill.
And of course, there's apprehension over this $12,000 of debt I have brought into my life.
The beginning of shopping season may be blurry, particularly for those whose traditions include portmanteau neologisms, but it's safe to say that it's in full swing as I write this on December 2. The convergence of the gifting culture and the end of the tax year in many locales also makes this the time when many charities make their year-end pitches. Likewise, this is when tax-free gifts to family members are often delivered, stocks bought and sold to maximize profit or minimize taxable gains, and people who participate in pre-tax health savings accounts and the like are making sure that they've spent everything they're required to.
So there's a lot of money on the move right now, a lot of energy flowing. I'd go so far as to say that December is to money what October is to the spirits of the dead: if you want to work with money, this is one of the best times to do so. Spells and prayers for abundance and prosperity, as well as workings and offerings which are released through the movement of money, are worth incorporating into one's practice at this time of year, when the secular cycles are so strong that they reveal the unseen powers which shape them.
Spare change is one of my favorite forms of money, because it's just so obviously pulsing with energy, the elemental energy of earth. Coins are often shiny, they have a weight that conveys value, and there is power in the jingling of money. It's solid enough to decorate a bathroom, but it's also liquid enough to imagine swimming in it.
And pocket change seems linked to its own pocket universe, too. Who hasn't searched the couch cushions for some? A good cushion-hunt can mean clean laundry or a week's worth of ramen dinners for a college student. On the other hand, coins can definitely burn a hole in your pocket; research shows that we don't like to spend big bills, and coins are the other end of the spectrum.
Some time before I started this blog, I began asking myself the question: where are the Pagan charities? Doing good deeds is good PR, and generally Pagans are good people, so didn't it follow that there was a place for Pagan charities to help that along?
The real problem is that I was asking the wrong question. What I should have asked was, "To what causes do Pagans donate?" Charitable donations can be a good thing, but as Elani Temperance wisely pointed out, there is value to Pagans giving publicly, too. Our disparate community doesn't have any meaningful charities of its own, so how can we maximize the value of public giving?
Whether it's your local metaphysical shop, farmer's market, or hardware store, buying local is an easy path to intentional spending. The 3/50 Project is my preferred method of encouraging local spending, because once you get past the sometimes-confusing name, it's an easy way to redirect existing money to local businesses.
The 3/50 concept is this: take fifty bucks each month, and spread it around three local businesses instead of using it at chain stores, franchises, or online. The project has a pretty specific definition of local business that focuses on the amount of money which stays in the community. One thing I like about the concept is that it stresses balance -- don't avoid big-box stores entirely, if that's where you get the best deals on some items, but do spend some money in businesses owned and operated by your neighbors.