Saturday, March 04, 2006

Saturday Soapbox Or, Weekend Economics-How to Drive Your Readers Away in Less than 30 Seconds

So Hubba-hubba, lucky for me, is very into money. When I say that, I mean that he is into the particulars of money. Stock markets, bonds, savings accounts, interest rates, investments, all the different ways that money can be used. This works to my advantage, because I just let him do most of the work when it comes to making our money work.

His reading rubs off on me once in a while, and I rather lazily glanced at a website he had recently visited. What it said shocked and surprised me, although I really should have been neither. It said that the savings rate for America has dropped to a -.4%! Do you know what that means? It means that since the first time since the Great Depression, people are either dipping into their savings or spending money they don't have just to live on a daily basis!

The economy has been driven largely by consumer spending in the last 4 or so years, perhaps even longer. If it were not for consumer spending, the economy of the United States would most likely crumble.

But why are people spending so much?

And really, to get so little?

There is a horrible disease I see around me, and it isn't bird flu. It is the mindset that your possessions define who you are. Don't have a plasma flat screen? Then you're a loser. Drive a car older than six years? Pathetic. No cell phone with custom ringtones and a camera feature? Then you should be living back in the Stone Age where you belong.

People seem to think that the more things they have and the more they have paid for them, the better they are. I am not sure if it is a sign of low self esteem or lack of self-control or a combination of both. Where is the realization that we cannot have everything we want, right now? I see both teenagers (who I expect it more from than anyone) to baby boomers spending money like it is going out of style.

Even worse, is that there will always, always be someone who has stuff that's better than yours. It is a game that is impossible to win. But people keep trying, hoping that Wolf rangetop will make them feel superior to their neighbors, or that somehow they are a better parent because they bought a Bugaboo stroller.

To be truthful, I have jealous feelings about friends and family that own nicer things than me, that get to travel and go to fancy restaurants. Hey, it's not hard to have nicer things than me, since when I began staying at home things like basic cable and DSL were luxuries way beyond our means. I wear clothes that are over ten years old. Most of the really nice things I have, like my iPod, and even the songs I bought to go on it, are gifts. But when I stand back at look at my life, I am pretty satisfied with how it has turned out so far, and how it is shaping up.

Is it just so difficult to discern between needs and wants?

Or are we just a nation of mindless, irresponsible fools?


Awesome Mom said...

I am on the same page as you are. I find it crazy how so many people are just barely hanging on, one paycheck from disaster. My brother in law and his wife are very much into things. My husband and I sit back with our nice fat savings account and wait for disaster to happen because we know it will some day soon. He already had to work a ton of extra shifts to cover christmas gifts. I like having nothing too expensive because it means we have no reason for someone to break into our house.

Deb said...

I spent years and years when I was in grad school having lousy financial habits -- and I was just trying to get by with basics, not have the latest and greatest. Thank goodness I improved my habits over the past few years, so that I had some bit of money to help me through this health crisis -- but I still couldn't have done it without help from my parents.

Can we really be surprised, though, about our nation's habits? Look at what the media shoves at us? And no, we don't have to listen, but when it is drilled into you 24/7 from the time you are a young kid, what can you expect?

Heather said...

Preach it, sistah! I'm right up there on that soapbox with you. We had to cut back alot too when Marcel decided to stay home with the girls, but we haven't regretted it a bit. All the extra stuff we could have bought if we'd both kept working would only have served to clutter our house more - who needs that?

J said...

It's kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't thing, since after 9-11, what were we told? "We're all in this together"? "Sacrafice for your country"? Nope. We were told to go shopping. To spend spend spend. That seemed so barbaric a thing to say to me, that I will never forget it. So people spend (not because GW told them to, but because they enjoy it), and the economy stays stronger. If they save, the economy weakens. But, of course, not saving at all, them's some mighty big chickens that will eventually come home to roost, and it won't be fun.

Good post, and you're right, we all need to save more. At least most of us. Sounds like your husband is already all over that. ;)

Piece of Work said...

I agree Gina, and I think about this a lot. It's on my mind when people spend $50 for toddler shoes, when every mother in the mall is pushing a $900 baby stroller, when the teenager next door comes home in his Sean John sweatsuit. We try to save and spend carefully, but it is definitely true in my marriage that I am the saver and Lance is the spender. I drive a much nicer car than I need to, which Lance insisted on because of the safety factor. He also drives a nice car, and only for a minute considered something more practical. But other than that, we don't spend a lot on things, and we definitely don't spend beyond our means. If we do the remodel, though, that will be a stretch. And sometimes I think we should just make do with the small house.

Lots to think about!

WordsRock said...

I've never bothered feeling jealous when other people have nicer things than me. But then I've never been particularly materialistic.

The past few years, despite having a kid in college, our household has implemented the most aggressive savings plan ever. It's more than a state of mind.


MissKris said...

I was raised by two New Englanders who managed to live thru the Great Depression. To this day, my 84-year-old father will NOT eat pork 'n' beans because he survived on them so much as a child, ha! I'm not the least materialistic and never have been. I spent many years as a SAHM when my kids were younger and we never gave them fancy trips to Disneyland and they survived just fine, thank you very much. As adults they often tell Dear Hubby and me that they wouldn't trade their childhoods for anything because they felt like they got the best. I don't need anything...I want even less...and 99.9% of the time I'm blissfully happy right where I'm at.

Karla said...

I find that whole "spend spend spend" mentality shocking. Hubby and I are aggresive investors, and live quite frugally. Well, we have to now since I quit work to volunteer, but even with both incomes, paying off the mortgage and retirement savings take precidence over almost everything. I say almost, because, well, we still enjoy the odd splurge every now and then.

Sometimes I am a bit envious of my friends, who on a whim fly to Vegas, or book two week trips to Hawaii, or buy a new outfit everytime they go out...but the greedy grinch inside reminds myself that we're building personal wealth and will retire early and comfortably long before most. :)