Saving the Harvest

Saving for a Rainy Day

Dear Reader:

We are about to celebrate to bounty of the harvest and all the blessings that have come to us throughout the year. Traditionally, this is the time when the fruits and veggies have been collected and stored. Instead of eating every bit of the garden produce, we try to grow extra and save it for the long, cold, unproductive (gardening-wise) months ahead.

In days of old, many people lived a subsistence lifestyle–growing their own food, making their own clothes from fibers of animals they raised, creating their own amusement by telling stories, singing songs, and playing games. In that kind of life, it was very important to plan ahead and save.

Today, if we are able, we also try not to spend every penny we make, putting some aside “for a rainy day.” It’s been more difficult to do that in the present economy, but we continue to try. Here is a question though: Where is it safe and ethical to store your money?

A friend and I have been engaged in a conversation of late regarding the banking system and usury (see Into The Black parts I and II to read the comments and replies). Today she pointed out that the first definition of usury is “lending money for interest.” Not exorbitant interest. Not really high interest. Just plain interest. Her point is that when we put our money in the bank and earn interest on it, that is usury. When we invest in the stock market so that banks can borrow our money and we earn interest on it, that is usury. So who am I to point fingers (first, second, third, forth, or thumb) at the banks for doing what I also do every day?

Devil in Disguise?Are we all just devils in disguise?

Once I got over being defensive, I had to ask myself, “Okay, so if I do business with the banks and I put my money in the banks and the stock market and I expect to earn interest on my money, I am part of the problem. So now what do I do about saving for that rainy (snowy, sleety, hurricany, tornado-y) day? Do I stuff money in a safety deposit box? In a hidden safe in my house? Do I just stockpile stuff?

I don’t believe there are any easy answers here. I’m a big believer in putting money in the bank, but I’ve also accepted the current reality that you might as well stuff it in your mattress because inflation rises higher than the interest rates in the bank. Hence, investing in the stock market is one financial option that must be considered since the rate of return has been historically higher. Except when it isn’t.

I’ve briefly (and only playfully) considered taking my 401 K and using it to buy up a stockpile of yarn. Yarn is actual. Real. Something of value that could be traded for something else. I could open a yarn store, for instance. I could plant bamboo on my front lawn (it’s a grass!) and make bamboo knitting needles for sale. But, of course, even a dreamer like myself sees how ridiculous this sounds as a way of saving for the future.

Are we stuck with banks as they are? Are there any options out there?

One option is a credit union. These are non-profit, democratically-run banks where members can save money in accounts and take out loans. Some are federally insured while others are not. They are rated by an organization called the NCUA–National Credit Union Administration who evaluates the credit union for soundness. Click HERE to read some FAQ’a about credit unions.

I also like the idea of doing business with local banks rather than large multinationals. These banks lend to homeowners and local businesses, keeping the money in the community.

However, interest IS paid on these accounts, and even though you are supporting local business, local banking, and local people, you would also be profiting from your investment. Usury. Sigh. Perhaps I should take another look at alpaca farming . . .

Any ideas on how to save money Outside the Box?

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