Americans are pretty depressed people. We are the most medicated and most in debt of all first world countries. We take prescriptions for ailments we make up, we are gaining weight and contracting fatal diseases at an alarming rate, we buy new cars and TV’s at the rate that some people in poor countries go grocery shopping, and we think we are entitled to anything we want no matter the consequence. It’s not only our national debt that is out of control – it is also our personal debt which has spiraled to a whopping $13.8 TRILLION dollars, which is up 20% since 2005. Combine our “need” for the latest and greatest (even when we cannot afford it), keeping up with the Joneses, and the recession we are sitting in right now, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. We are doing our best to buy our way to happiness – and it just doesn’t work.
Sure, a new TV is nice – but after a while it is just a TV and it probably does the same thing your last fully-functioning one did when you threw it away. A new car? Smells great, doesn’t rattle – but after a few thousand miles the initial high wears off and it just moves you from Point A to Point B. Believe me, I have been there – buying things that I didn’t need because I was bored or sad or whatever. And all those purchases went on credit cards that then took me YEARS to pay off – at one point I had about $35K in credit card debt. Most of that was useless crap that I didn’t really need, but rather I thought would make me happy. But after the initial rush, it’s just stuff – and stuff cannot make you happy for more than a few minutes. And even then it’s not a true happiness – it’s an external happiness that does nothing for you on the inside.
We Americans always thought that the day would come when we could get a new job and pay off our bills. Or sell our house and pay off the bills. Or worse yet, take out a second mortgage to pay off the bills. That thinking has come home to roost and left us with that $13 trillion in personal debt – with no way to pay it off. Credit was too easy to get – people with barely any income were given home loans and lines of credit that they could not afford. $35,000 cars were allowed to drive off lots with no money down. Well, those days are gone at least for a while – and I think it is a very good thing. Consumers should be forced to save up for what they want and not be given carte blanche with someone else’s money. It’s very easy to blame the banks, but it is also our fault – we are the ones who thought we needed a new plasma TV when our tube TV works perfectly fine. Or that we needed a 5 bedroom house for our 3-member household. Or that we deserved to to buy $500 handbags because we “had a rough week”. Truly, it’s about time the credit crunch came along and people woke up – we as a nation were trying to buy happiness – and hopefully we have learned that it cannot be bought.
It is time for us to BE more and DO more rather than BUY more. Go outside, go for a hike, go camping, take the kids to a baseball game. Start reading, join a club, start a new hobby. Stop watching TV 5 hours a night getting sucked into the newest advertisements for crap you don’t need.
I am not against purchasing items that you want – you work for your money, you should be able to buy things you want with it. We do it as well. In fact, I am buying a new laptop this week. But it is replacing a laptop I have had since I met my wife, which was 6 years ago. But buying when you can afford something goes a long way toward your financial health, and it makes items worth more as you know you really worked hard to be able to afford it. More importantly, you are not buying anything because you are unhappy or just bored – you are planning in advance and saving the cash you need for the item . Not having debt from your purchases can lead to true happiness!