When is “enough” enough? For many years now I’ve wondered about our unsatiated desire to have more and more, bigger and better. We are working ourselves into an early grave in order to have more stuff!
Does this make us happier? I’d bet it does not.
Several years ago I participated in a Simplicity Circle where a group of people met weekly to discuss what was truly important in our lives. We talked about how we often felt manipulated by advertising or by feelings of inadequacy. We all realized buying more stuff didn’t help. So why were we doing it?
I’ve been thinking about this more this past week as it became clear we were going to be stuck for $900 billion (including previous bailouts) due to Wall Street greed. How did we get to this place?
According to Market Watch, “personal credit card debt is at an all-time high at just over $9,200 plus 16 to 30 percent in monthly fees.” We not only spend every nickel earned, but when that’s gone, we keep piling more onto credit cards. We don’t know how to cook anymore, so we eat the majority of our meals in restaurants. We buy cars the size of a cabin because the automobile dealer was giving us 60 months, no money down, no interest loans on them.
According to the Census Bureau the average single family home is now 2,521 square feet with 38% of new homes having 4 or more bedrooms, nearly double the rate of 20 years ago. More than 57% of these homes have 3 or more bathrooms. But while home size is increasing, family size is decreasing.
We are a nation of epicureans, lacking completely in self control.
In less than 4 generations, we have gone from a nation of savers to being a nation of spenders. What message are parents giving their children when they are constantly robbing from one credit card to pay the other one?
And make no mistake, we have had absolutely no leadership on this issue from our elected officials. After 9/11, President Bush urged us all to do our duty and hit the shopping malls! And when Bush gave his press conference over the weekend, he explained that this big bailout was needed so we could continue borrowing more money to buy stuff we really don’t need. Our entire economy is now based on buying a bunch of crap from China.
I have no easy answers to the fix we are in, but I’m certain that the spending frenzy the country has been gorging on recently has to come to an end. Government needs to find ways to encourage us to spend within our means and to begin saving again.