Monday, September 30, 2013

The Battle of the Talking Heads: Making Conscious Choices with Your Lettuce

I am wandering pleasantly in the produce aisle of my favorite supermarket, looking at the lettuce, when suddenly I begin to overhear the following conversation:

A deep green romaine pipes up, “Pick me! I’m organic! I am more flavorful than that conventional head over there.” 

Unbelievably, the conventional lettuce chimes in, “Hey, dude, why would you want to spend your hard earned money on that head over there? Save yourself a dollar!”

The romaine rejoins, “Don’t tell me you’re actually paying attention to that talking head! Would you really choose to eat pesticides just to save a dollar? I know you are much too health-conscious for that!”

Mr. Conventional chides, “You’ve been eating me your entire life. All of a sudden this isn’t good enough for you? Besides, you know there are a lot of things you could do with that extra dollar!”

The organic head comes back with a note of urgency, “You want to support the local farmers, don’t you? I know you pride yourself on being a locavore!”

With thinly veiled scorn, the conventional lettuce retorts, “Locavore, shmocavore! All this political correctness makes me want to bolt. Next thing you know, he’ll be talking you into buying ‘heirloom’ tomatoes.”

Mr. Organic, starting to feel attacked, shoots back, “Are you hearing wind escape from that airhead? He thinks everything is about money. What about you? I know you realize values and priorities are important.”

Suddenly my head pops up with a jolt. What? Once again, I’ve dozed off at the computer. 

As the fog clears, I begin to ponder the meaning of this strange vignette. So why shouldn’t lettuce talk to me about money? Lettuce is a symbol of the green stuff, currency.

We make so many financial decisions each day and probably don’t realize these decisions are not just about the money. Unconscious beliefs and underlying emotions line both sides of every aisle, proverbial or otherwise. The grocery store is just a convenient metaphor. 

The organic choice appeals to a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, caring for family and planet. We may prioritize providing the very best for our family and are willing to pay more for it. 

On the other side of the aisle, we have an appeal to frugality, 
saving as a source of security or perhaps also out of a fear of not having enough money.

Notice how many of these reasons actually arise from beliefs. Whether we buy because we believe in caring for the planet, or because saving another dollar makes us feel more secure, these are not merely financial transactions. Emotions play a big role, often an unconscious role, in our decision-making process.

Here is where financial planning can serve people in ways that may not be obvious. Through the process of planning, we are able to determine what is important to us. We take stock of our values and priorities relative to how much money we have. Identifying our values enables us to set our spending priorities. If health is a top priority, it becomes easier to make the choice to buy organic foods. We are then spending more consciously. This doesn’t happen automatically. Financial planning helps us make more conscious choices with our lettuce!

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