In these tough economic times, it hardly matters where you live, because it is becoming more and more difficult just to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. If you have ever seen a homeless person rummaging through trashcans for scraps and other discarded items essential to his or her survival, I’m sure you must have wondered how someone could get into such a bad situation.
If you think really about it, it is not hard to figure out; some people never create a plan for survival beyond their next paycheck. Yet, so many of us continue to spend without depositing anything into a savings or investment account. Adding to this neglect is the fact that our society makes it so easy for us to not be practical. Once we are approved for one credit card, more offers keep pouring in and tempting us. We take the creditors up on their offers, acquire more credit cards, and continue to increase our debt, assuming that we can handle it. We often do not recognize the insidiousness of this behavior, until it has snowballed into a significant problem.
Compounding our escalating credit is the phenomenon of coupons and major sales. To take advantage of these and save, for example, $10, we have to spend $50. We find ourselves spending that $50 if we don’t really need to, because we’ve bought into the deception that we are saving in the long run. Retailers give us a double whammy with offers of saving 10% on our first purchase, with the commencement of a store card. If you do not shop at a particular store very often and you get the card for a one-time savings, it is not worth it because in the long run, it can adversely affect your credit rating.
Other enticements are layaway and easy pay plans, which help to precondition us to useless spending. How many times have you scanned the clearance racks, purchased an item because the price was right, and later decided after wearing it once or twice that you really didn’t like it. You stuffed the item in your closet until you did your spring-cleaning and eventually donated the item to charity. So, what seems like a bargain, often is not.
Of course, human nature also works against us. Women may be gatherers and therefore, collectors of merchandise and men may be hunters. But regardless of sex, some of us are driven to compete and “keep up with the Joneses.” Ironically, while our peers may be envious of the things we have, they may not know about the stress we put ourselves through, worrying about how to pay the bills and how we have max’ed out our credit cards. We want to have it all, but in the end, what do material things really matter? We need to accept ourselves for who we are and what we can accomplish, not for how many things we can amass.
If you have ever seen the British comedy “Keeping up Appearances,” you know that this show embodies everything I’m talking about. The program’s main characters are Hyacinth Bucket and her husband Richard. Hyacinth is always hosting parties, inviting the right people to prove to everyone that she is someone important. Given her attitude, she does not embrace the less fortunate side of her family. She is always careful not to have them around too much for fear that they will embarrass her. Most of the time, her parties and get-togethers do not end well, despite her great pretenses.
So, the next time you see a homeless person or someone in need, try not to be judgmental. Sometimes, things happen that are beyond our control, including job layoff and health issues. Knowing this, we have to be more vigilant with our spending and saving habits. While big business and our government have created some economic problems, we do have to assume some of the blame for the mistakes we have made in our spending habits. I am not suggesting that we stop spending, because we must spend in order keep our economy flowing. But, let’s think more about how we are impacting ourselves negatively by overspending and getting sucked into buying things that we just don’t need. We have to come to the realization that, despite the actions of our government, we do have a degree of control over some of our problems.