Think about consumerism and our “way of life” for a moment. Most of us fall into a general category that follows the following course.
We sell our time to an employer – our ourselves if we own the business – in exchange for a paycheck. We all know that time is our most valuable commodity, so I don’t need to explain that absurdity. The mighty paycheck is spent on necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing. Whatever is left over is discretionary income to be spent or saved how we see fit. If all goes well we build a little savings account and take two weeks vacation each year.
But advertising says that you need better stuff. Envy says you need bigger stuff. Your friends say you need cooler stuff.
So you go into debt to keep up with society’s expectations. The big shiny car and the four bedroom house with the fancy furniture sure makes you feel good.
A strange thing happens now. That discretionary income goes to something called interest. You seem to make the payments but the balance on the loans and credit cards never seems to go down. Soon you find yourself paying off things that you no longer have, don’t use, or don’t need. Suddenly you don’t feel so good.
The best thing to do now is buy something bigger and better. That way you regain that I-am-a-success feeling. But that just means the payments are bigger and the interest eats up a bigger chunk of your paycheck. Time to work longer hours so you can make the paycheck larger.
Better yet, get a job with more opportunity. Sure it’s more stressful and eats up even more of your time, but you can put up with that. Yes, the commute is a bit farther and you don’t see the kids as much. Oh well. While you are at it, go ahead and cash in that vacation time. It’s better to have the money and pay those bills. If you work this way for just a few more years, it will be easy street after that.
Don’t kid yourself. According to the Department of Labor, at 65 years old over 90% of Americans are either broke, dead, or still working. “The system” is broken. The pursuit of happiness is taken from a roadmap that is leading us in the wrong direction.
Fortunately broken does not mean dead. We can fix this thing.
Ignoring what society, your friends, and advertisers expect of you is the first step. I fell into this trap and am still paying for it years later. It seemed as though my goal in life was prove to the world how cool I looked and acted. Read The Minimalists or mnmlist.
Avoid debt as much as possible. Even mortgage debt is no longer the safe haven it used to be. Debt will eat you alive without mercy. Realize that what you buy on credit can end up costing you twice as much – or more – than the price you paid for an item. Read Adam Baker’s work.
Don’t let anyone take more time from you than you are willing to give. You can always make more money. Once time is gone, it’s gone forever. Take every vacation day you are entitled to and then some. Don’t just live. Experience life.
Read this blog. Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but I felt some levity was in order.
The fix will take time. The repairs are not easy. We can rebuild this thing, and make it better than it was.