Discussing the family budget, social pressures to conform and society’s need for instant gratification.
We all (well, most of us) know that the key to successful budgeting is to spend only what we can afford, in other words, less than what we earn. Why is it then, that so many of us spend money that we don’t have by utilizing credit to acquire those things we so badly think we want? Most of us are guilty of using a credit card for a dinner out, a pair of new shoes or your groceries and not paying the full balance off when the bill arrives. And so many of us make our medium-ticket purchases (big screen TVs, furniture, computers) with very expensive store credit programs. What is driving this poor decision making?
The problem is mostly instant gratification. Our society has adopted an appetite for instantaneous responses. Think about the advent of cell phones, email and text messages, the internet, frozen food, microwaves, weight loss programs. The list goes on and on. It is not surprising then that our spending habits have adopted a “see it, want it, buy it” approach. People want to lifestyles they can’t afford and they want them now. It partly social pressure to conform but it also our own sense of entitlement. We believe that we somehow deserve stuff. I have friends who will complain that they cannot make ends meet but miraculously show up in new cars, take extravagant vacations and order take-out five nights a week.
It really isn’t their fault. These people actually have become convinced that using credit is a “normal” and “acceptable” practice and that it is what they should be doing. After all, everyone else seems to be doing it.
My parents would lose sleep at night so they could buy Christmas gifts without using credit or when my Dad was sick for a few weeks one year about how to buy groceries and pay the mortgage. Do people still lose sleep about these things? It would appear doubtful and yet, they should more afraid than ever. Why are people so willing to exchange the peace-of-mind of knowing that they have what they need and the ability to save up for their indulgences and, simultaneously, deal with unexpected emergencies. It’s as if people are afraid to drive the wrong car, not go on an annual vacation, not have fancy new leather furniture to show off or watch a high-definition, big-screen television. They are embarassed if they cannot eat out three or four times a week, serve the best wine at home, and drink Starbucks three times a day.
Published in: Personal Finance