A bit about Sharon before we start: I had not met Sharon before this interview and only knew about her, that she is the administrator of the Facebook group “The woman who stopped buying”. I am happy that we had the chance to meet and found Sharon to be interesting, intelligent and very nice.
The story of her own background, Sharon told me “off the record”, but I can say, that I have not met many people, that at such a young age, have done so much, both in terms of education and work experience. Presently, Sharon is initiating projects in the area of economics and sociology with focus on consumerism. She lives in Azor with her husband and two children.
More about Sharon’s projects:
“Kessefcon – economic personal power”: www.facebook.com/kessefcon
Sharon, I know you have a lot of projects going on. Mostly in the field of consumerism and finance. Tell me a little about them. What is the idea behind?
We look at reality from the point of view of; how can we spend less money? The question we must ask ourselves is: why are we spending so much money? What part of that comes from ourselves and how much is related to external pressures?
A few years ago, I was in between jobs and looking for a new one. No one wanted to offer me the terms I had before. It was partly because of the situation in the high-tech world at the time, but the only job offers jobs I received were with very low wages, both compared to what I had earned before, but also when taking into consideration, my abilities and skills. That made me start to develop a theory that the employment market had changed and was now much too narrow, with very narrow positions available and very low wages. I saw the employment field as failing to see the big picture, and instead only the small “square” they themselves were part of.
I thought a lot about this theory and found it to be true, and I didn’t like what I saw. I believe that we take this pattern, copy it from the field of employment, and copy it onto every other area of our life. It can also be seen in areas like our relationships, were we also tend to see as something very narrow. We do not see it as a partnership for life but rather as a form of living together, raising children together and thus greatly limiting it. If we do not look at it as a partnership in all areas, it can lead to marital problems and even divorce. Everything comes, to my understanding, from the same point of view – that we cut things out of context and fail to see the big picture as well as the connection. But things are not cut off from one another, they are very connected! It is important to look at the broader picture.
Because of these things I founded the group “the woman who stopped buying”. I liked the name and thought that it would draw people in and it really did. I received some criticism that the name about women and not men. What do they want from me? The man / the woman that stopped to buy simply doesn’t sound as good!
Besides, I think also think it is connected to what I spoke about before. When you are only seeing the world from your little “square”, you only see yourself as a man or woman and not part of something bigger, then of course you don’t think that it is for you.
How did you get this idea and what you are doing with it?
I was a fashion blogger for many years (laughs). It felt very natural for me, but at some point I began to feel that it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to add other kinds of content, especially more about all kinds of insights I was having about consumerism. At some point it was clear that the theme of the blog was too narrow. I decided to take a step back and instead started to look for another creative outlet and so I founded “the woman who stopped buying”. It is kind of like a blog, even though at first I did not know what to do with it. One day it really started to take off and reached a lot of people.
At that time I was approached by someone who asked if I wanted to help her set up a support group for people who find it difficult to cope their expenses and money in general. She founded a group and I brought a lot of people from “the woman who stopped buying”. The idea was to give people in this group advice, help and support. The group grew very fast and because of the intimacy and openness there, we changed the settings to secret. I want that people who join the group will have effective tools, will be helped and that an open debate and discussion will be conducted there in an orderly manner.
The idea of ”the woman who stopped buying” is not only to show that it can be done differently, but also that we are so disconnected from the wider context and therefore look at money in a very narrow context. We ask ourselves whether or not we are in plus in the bank account? Or whether or not we have certain things? Instead we should be looking at the context from a much wider perspective; of where we are today, where we want to be and how we can get there?
Many times there are those who make fun and say, “Do you really think that from refraining from buying a cup of coffee a day, will lead to a big change economically?” And no, I do not think so. On the other hand, maybe if I give up buying that cup of coffee, I’ll give up on something else and then something else and will in the end will be able to change a lot of habits. The change will not only be in one area, but will be overall!
I’m not saying “don’t buy”. I really do not care whether people buy or not, as long as they make their choices consciously and smartly, and that they realize that everything that they buy will always come at the expense of something else.
Tell me about “Kessefcon“.
“Kessefcon” (moneycon) is a conference about money. I think that information about money is not flowing as it should. People come to these conferences and get a lot of lectures on various topics in the field of finance. For example, someone comes and talks about mortgages, about which a lot of people often have no idea. He talks about things to be aware of and what we have to pay attention to. The information that we receive from the bank is also not always the whole picture and not always the solution that serves us best. Sometimes people do not realize that by signing the mortgage, they are undertaking thirty years of life changing commitment, that the bank earns a lot on them and that the track they chose for the loan is almost always not the most attractive one for them.
This conference is about putting these money matters into context. How to manage a mortgage? How does a health insurance work? And insurances in general? That is the goal of “Kessefcon”; to provide information and explanations on these things and put them in a wider context. To provide plenty of content and supply information on finances and consumerism, because what is already available is not always the best one for us.
There are also events like a “mini Kessefcon” and “Money on the bar” that have the same purpose but are much smaller scaled events.
I also do consumer research that I sometimes publish. I mainly publish them at the university. In the future I would like to publish them in a wider context, to the general public.
I would really like to start and set up support groups for people who need help to change financial habits. Groups where it is possible to talk and consult, something like “Spenders Anonymous” (laughs).
I think that’s something that especially women business owners could contribute from as I think that we, the women, tend not to distinguish between our budget for the home and the budget of the business. So if we are lacking funds at home, we are lacking funds in the business. This is a business issue where we think and believe that we are only the second income. Why? And if so, does the business then not need to function? There has to be a distinction here. We have to plan a budget for the business and not deviate from it, even if we are going through a difficult month financially at home! If you do not make the distinction, then the business will suffer and will not be able to grow properly. I would love to see women succeed and see them earn, because they can. But we must understand that we can’t be making money without putting some money on the table first.
It is very important to plant the seeds for future fruit from these investments. It is important to let things happen rather than reject them or put other things in their place. That is passive income! What’s better than that?
If we go back to that limited “square” you were talking about earlier. How do you suggest we leave it?
I think that first of all we should try to step out of the “square” with just one thing, to see if it works. We should at least try to do one thing differently. The area in which it is done is not that important. It can be with money, diet, exercise or something else. If we see that we make that change work in one area of our lives, we will be more flexible to the thought that it will work in other areas.
I think one of the most important things for us as human beings is not to accept everything we see or are shown in absolute values. Just because that we were told that it should be this way, does not mean that we should not examine it ourselves, to see if it really is true. It is as if we have lost the courage to try things. If we do not try, it will result in social implications as well as acceptance through silence of certain things.
It really brings us back to that cup of coffee. If it’s just a cup of coffee, I guess it will not make any big change, but if we continue on with other things as well, it could bring on a real change.
If we do nothing and continue to be passive, it will affect every aspect of society. We also tend to forget that we are not here forever. We are going to leave this world to our children. Where is our responsibility to them?
Why did you choose to start with consumerism?
First, because it is something that I love and have been interested in it since I was a child. I have always been comparing prices and even received a bit of a stigma of being cheap. I think there’s a big difference between being cheap, which is a person who is not ready to share any aspect of what is his, and on the other hand respecting your work in such a way that you don’t just give out your money just because someone said so! This difference is huge. We live in a world where our image is of big importance, but our responsibility is to look beyond it and reconnect with our real needs.
I think that consumerism is a good point to start with as it is easy to see immediate success, it is easy to achieve change. That change, I believe, is spreads easily to other areas. It is a good place to start, but could be in any field. This will also make it possible to work less hours, which is something that is of great importance for many people, as well as me personally.
In the end, I am doing a lot of different things, but the goal of all of them is the same; To spread the knowledge!
Sharon, thank you so much for your time and desire to share your thoughts, ideas and experience here. I personally got a lot of new food for my thoughts and it was very interesting. I am looking forward to follow your work in the future!