Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Please note the time stamped on this post. It represents what might be the only time today (this week... this MONTH) that I know where all three of Mr. Bug's pacifiers are.


My rantings about the indebtedness of our society.

Yahoo has this banner add for their DSL service that is so typical of how so many people seem to approach financial decisions. It says something like "DSL for just a few dollars more than dial-up. It's a no brainer, isn't it?" Yeah, only if you are willing to set your brain aside so you don't have to answer the question "can I afford a few more dollars (per month?)" Or how about the question "is it worth it?" I think, in general, that Americans are easily convinced that they NEED things which they don't and they are willing to go into debt to get them.

Or, forget about need. People think they DESERVE all this stuff. (Marketing exec's love to tell us we deserve it.) Somewhere along the way, the requirement for deserving something has become "liking yourself enough to think you should have it." Forgive me if I sound cynical or rude, but I am sick of that mentality. Does anyone ever think about what they deserve for cutting someone off in traffic? Or what they deserve for speaking unkindly to someone? Or what they deserve for not keeping their word?

No, we only think about what we deserve when the latest cell phone hits the market. Or when the newest CD comes out. Or when we "need" a car and are salivating all over the one with the sunroof and the dual climate control. Or when we decide we don't like the color of the living room carpet.

And, of course, we are completely willing to go into debt to get it... after all, we deserve it! What's a little bit of debt when we are deserving? Well, when you can't pay off your debt, you deserve to to into bankruptcy. You deserve to have your car repossessed and you deserve to have a terrible credit rating for many years to come. (But no one ever thinks they deserve that, I suppose.)

We tell ourselves that only the best will do. Then we let others tell us what "best" means. Last Christmas, while shopping for Ms. Boo, I had an epiphany, of sorts at the toys r us store. In one of her books is a picture of a child playing with a farm set. It had a red barn, some fence, and a few farm animals. Every time she read the book, she would point and say, "I want to play with that." So, I went out to find something as similar to that as I could. Mind you, this is not a light-up, spin-around, noise-making kind of toy, so there was very little to choose from. I found two sets: one was a HUGE $30 barn (way out of my budget) which made animal noises and such, and the other was a tiny, cardboard barn. It was red, just like the picture in the book. It had a fence, just like the picture in the book. It had realistic animals, just like the picture in the boot. Yet, I could not help but look at this cardboard barn with disappointment (and imagine Boo doing the same.) It was, afterall, cardboard. It wasn't big, and it didn't make noises...etc, etc.

So, for a while I entertained the thought of buying this huge, $30 jobby, despite the fact that I couldn't afford it. Then, in a moment of divine clarity, I thought... how ridiculous am I? Ms. Boo has no idea that this huge barn even exists! She won't be disappointed by cardboard, she will be happy to get a set that is just like the one in her book!

Driving home (with the cardboard barn) I thought about how I almost got sucked in. Sucked into buying something that wasn't really quite the right thing (the animals weren't even realistic looking, and there was no fence) because it was the "better" one. No, cardboard was better because it was exactly what Ms. Boo wanted...and she loved it. I was just doing what hundreds of other parents probably do, buying into what everybody else tells us is the best.

How often do we do that stuff? How often do we spend more than we have because of what someone else has convinced us we can't live without?

I heard a statistic (Don't know where, so who knows if it's accurate) that for every $1 that Americans make, they spend $1.20. Does that seem insane to anyone else? Makes me wonder what a "disaster" situation could do to our economy. Who cares, right, 'cuz it'll be the government's job to bail us out (afterall, we do deserve it)... which they will simply do by spending more money that doesn't really exist. (Am I rambling? I think I might like to take a few econ courses b/c I swear, nothing about how our economy "works" makes sense to me.)

ANYWAY, this, to me, is the no-brainer:

If I want item A and that costs X dollars I have to ask the following questions: Do I have X dollars, right now? And, if item X is a recurring expense, do I have the ability to PAY for it (not put it on credit, or borrow the money, but PAY for it) when the bill is due?

If the answer is no.... first, convince myself that I don't need it as much as I think I do. Second, DON'T BUY IT.

Then I will live life without it and see that it wasn't as big a deal as I thought... and laugh at my "near-debt" experience.

And, please, tell me I am not the only one who thinks this way!


Blogger Luisa Perkins said...

You are not. I think about this all the time. I'm sure people wonder why I wear the same dress to church every week. I'm the Bishop's wife, for Pete's sake; can't I afford another one?

I don't think I can. Not when there are so many people starving and homeless. Plus, I really like my dress. Don't get me wrong. I buy myself stuff sometimes. But I try hard not to consume mindlessly.

Wed Mar 07, 01:37:00 PM  

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