(Apologies on the late post. Technical difficulties after being slammed with an illness.)
There are two tracts with saving money: plugging in the holes on the leaky boat or replacing the mast. To put it another way, you can save money by lowering your expenses—cutting out things you don’t need, using a lower cost item to replace a higher cost item when it works just as well (sometimes even better), reusing what you have, or replacing things when they actually need to be replaced instead of when the shiny new one comes along.
Or you can save money by purchasing the more expensive item that has more value. It’s the difference between buying flip flops that break a month later or a pair of sandals that you use for ten years. The sandals are no doubt priced higher. But if you get enough use out of them, they have much higher value, because the cost per use is lower. Not to mention the impact to the environment of using less materials. It also means you don’t have to spend any time or mental energy looking for new flip flops every summer.
Deciding value for a spiritual practice can be very tricky. Value isn’t just money spent vs how many times you use it. It is also less tangible value, like emotional and social.
Figuring out what has value to you and your path also requires some time. This is a huge part of why you should get what’s functional first. If I bought the fanciest statue of every god that I found intriguing, I would have run out of room and money years ago. You just don’t know if you are going to form a long term relationship until you spend time communicating, doing rituals, and really sitting with a god. This goes for non-god entities as well. But once the relationship is formed, investing in their altar has value, because in truth your are investing in the relationship.
There is nothing wrong with borrowing books from the library (if you are so fortunate) or exchanging books with friends as you figure out what works for you. The flip side is, you do have to invest a bit to see if something works. Don’t just read those books on green witchcraft, run out and buy another one and fill your bookcase before you have actually done any of the exercises or rituals listed. Sometimes it can be more fun to read about something than to do it, because action becomes nitty gritty. But it is only in the doing that you learn the value of what a book contains. Once you realize a book has value for you, go and buy your own copy. Both for the convenience (and ability to make notes in the margins) as well as to support the author and publisher.
Yes, not everything out there is available to use. (See my post on cultural appropriation) This applies to open traditions that have information readily available in published books.
Another reason to read widely is every author is human. Everyone has their blind spots, and getting different perspectives is helpful in analyzing if something works for you.
There are plenty of Pagan authors that might have teachings of value but they themselves are problematic, or the teachings were gained through problematic ways. The truth is, there are some topics that the only person who has done any research is someone you would not invite for dinner. Whether you can separate the teaching from the teacher is an individual choice, and everyone has different lines. But be honest about the bargain you are making. Or you can always borrow a hard copy from the library so the author doesn’t get any more money.
There has been an explosion in spell kits available. Treat these like a recipe box—the ingredients are all included and measured out in the amounts you need, with a recipe card, but you need to do the work of cooking. The value of this will vary, but always take notes. Also wait until you have some basic skills and knowledge before jumping in to spellcasting, and there will be more value from it.
Value of Community
Yes, buying from your local witchy store is going to be more expensive than going online. But that money is an investment in the local community. A store that hires other practitioners will have more value than an algorithm, because they can help guide someone to what resources they need using their experience and contacts. It also keeps money in the pockets of the community instead of going to somewhere outside of it.
Value in Groups
Some are solitary by choice, some by their situation. A healthy group provides structure, resources, and support. A healthy group might not ultimately be the right fit, so don’t be afraid to leave on good terms. A healthy group that has been around for some time will have dealt with conflict in the past. The pandemic isolation has lead to a drop in conflict resolution skills, and unfortunately people will have conflict. But conflict doesn’t necessarily mean a group is unhealthy. It is how the conflict is navigated by the leadership that shows the group character.
An unhealthy group is worse than being solitary. If you are putting more work in a group than what you are getting out of it, or if you have a countdown labelled “Days Since the Last Drama Llama Invocation”, leave.
Value in Pagan Services
If you had asked me in the before times if remote readings worked, I would have said no. However, we were all forced into that boat and I have to admit a remote reading from a skilled practitioner is just as valuable as one done in person. The rise in remote services also helps with access, for people who can’t physically make it to a practitioner. But there are downsides.
Paganism lacks strong institutions. This is part of its appeal to many people, and allows us to have a Big Tent of Paganism as opposed to a single orthodox tradition. But this also means there is little authority to vet and hold people accountable. Specific traditions and organizations might have requirements for membership or certification. There might be some local groups that do netting for their specific area.
Anyone can create a website claiming they are the leader of a tradition/skilled in divination/best teacher and offer readings and teachings that are baloney, and there is no authority to stop them. The internet is a toddler that rewards attention. Someone can invest the time and money to gain an online presence (through attracting attention) when their product is shit. This is not an issue unique to Pagans, but when there is so much misinformation out there it makes finding the good information harder.
A good provider of services like readings is worth every penny. The services of a skilled practitioner have value. In my experience, they can be harder to find because they tend to have clients come to them and don’t need to go searching for them. I am personally cynical that someone could make a living just off providing readings or other spiritual pagan services. Most either see providing a needed service as part of their path and simply want reasonable compensation, or are using it as a side gig.
Con artists unfortunately exist. See the many posts on fake Instagram accounts trying to scam people. There are malicious actors trying to extract the maximum amount of resources as quickly as possible, trying to build their own kingdom where they are the king or both. There are people who have some skill and/or knowledge but didn’t progress beyond a beginner level and represent themselves as an expert. There are people with genuine abilities who have discernment which makes most of what they provide in truth worthless. There are also people who have not dealt with their own shit, and who are full of themselves. Then there are the combinations of some or all of the above.
I don’t want to make this sound like it is difficult to find good teachers. But use the same vetting with spiritual services that you would for any other services. Ask for recommendations within your circle. See who is respected within the tradition they practice—this can be different from who is known outside of that tradition. Use resources like trustworthy Pagan blogs and podcasts. Find past customers or students, and ask about their experiences.
Value in Taking Time
Decisions made without proper thought are rarely the best ones. If something has value, taking time to ask yourself if it really has value to you won’t change it. There is a reason we say the path of Paganism and not the highway of Paganism. You are not in a race to get to some spiritual destination quicker than everyone else. Stopping to take a breath can also help weed out bad actors who are pushing the sale. Don’t spend money on an online class when you haven’t read a few books on the topic to see if you really do want to study it more in depth, or without vetting the teacher or where it is being taught through.
This takes work. But finding what has value is going to be worth it. Having the right technique, the right ritual that works for you, and the right things that bring more to your practice will make everything more rewarding.