Archive for the ‘Wealth and money’

September 24th, 2007

Control overspending

In a field one summer’s day a grasshopper was chirping and singing. An ant passed by on its way to its nest carrying an ear of grain.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the grasshopper, “instead of toiling so hard?”
“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the ant, “and recommend you do the same.”
“Why bother about winter?” said the grasshopper, “we have plenty of food at present.”
But the ant went on its way. When winter came the grasshopper lay dying of hunger while the ants lived well on the grain they had gathered in the summer. The Ant and the Grasshopper. Aesop’s Fables.

Many people are more like Aesop’s grasshopper than the prudent ant. To have financial security we need to live within our means and free ourselves from our love affair with excess.

  • There is nothing wrong with wanting something we don’t have, or wanting more of something we have a little of. It is when we are never satisfied that we have a problem.
  • Advertising is necessary but some advertisers are deceptive or try to manipulate us. We need to use clear thinking and logic to analyze and question advertisers’ claims. What are they really saying about their product? Is there a covert message behind the ad? Are we being sold the real product or an idea or feeling? And above all, do we really need or want the product and can we afford it?
  • Unfortunately human beings have a tendency to judge each other. But such judgement is rarely objective. Other people’s responses to us are often more about who they are and who they want us to be than about who we actually are. So the messages people give us about ourselves (who they see us as, who we should be, and what we should do to be acceptable) are often seriously flawed. So giving a lot of weight to most people’s opinions of us (often superficially based on what we own and wear) is foolhardy.
  • Because we are so socially impressionable and the people we mix with have such influence on us, we need to associate with people who are not addicted to consumption or blind to the problems consumerism creates.
  • If we calculate our ‘real’ income as an hourly rate (that is, after we subtract taxes and all our work related costs) we can then work out how much of our life in hours, days, weeks, or years, we have to give for each thing we buy. And then ask ourselves ‘Is it worth it?’
  • We need to become more aware of what we are doing and why. We buy on impulse, we act on impulse. We need to think and ask ‘do I need it, do I really want it?’
  • We need to be aware that there is a difference between who we really are (as demonstrated by the evidence of our past behaviour) and our imaginary ideal self. For example if you have no real aptitude or liking for do-it-yourself repairs (your real self) then buying an expensive set of tools will not change you into a master handy man or woman (your ideal self). So shelling out a fortune for something you really don’t want or need and will rarely use is pointless. Your need to stop your ideal self from fooling your real self.
  • Is it the thrill of purchasing something rather than its use that is most important to you? If so you are at risk of developing a shopping addiction. There are more productive ways to feel good.
  • We are still hunter-gatherers only now we use our credit cards instead of spears and digging sticks. Recognize this natural urge to ‘forage’ and ‘pursue’ and keep it within reasonable bounds.
  • If shopping has become a hobby, recreation, and relaxation find other things to do. What are your other interests, dreams, ambitions, passions?
  • When you look back at the end of your life what will be most important? What will you regret most, remember best? What will you be most proud of? Surely not a collection of shoes, a car, your entertainment system, or a MacMansion.
  • We need to develop forward thinking and planning so that we are aware that if we buy more consumer goods now (especially on credit) we will have less later.
  • When we feel envious or inadequate, when others seem to have so much more than us, we need to look beneath the surface and realize that a mountain of debt probably funds their apparent affluence.
  • Instead of thinking about money and possessions we can focus on what is really important to us–our purpose in life, our relationships, our priorities and goals.
  • Instead of self-indulgence we can develop self-control so that we think before we act and are able to say ‘no’ to ourselves, especially when what we want may not be good for us in the long run. Self-control is, after all, one of the main indicators of maturity.
  • We need to work out what our definition of success is. Does success mean accumulating wealth or living a contented life, owning things or doing things, having much or being much?
  • Self-knowledge. The more we know about ourselves, the more we understand our motivations and real needs, the less likely we are to be easily led or influenced.
  • We need to ask ourselves why we want a particular thing. For example if I want a new mobile phone when the old one works perfectly well what is it that I expect a new phone to do for me? Has it got additional features that I really need, or do I want it because I am bored (a phone won’t cure that) want to be seen as ‘cool’ (an ego thing) want to be the first amongst my friends to have a new technology (a competitive thing) or because money burns a hole in my pocket (an impulse control thing)?
  • A healthy scepticism towards the claims of advertisers and the influence of peers and social messages helps break the overconsumption habit. Lets face it, few things are as good as we are led to believe.
  • Independence of mind and judgement. Thinking for ourselves and making decisions based on our own and others’ best interests reduces the influence of the marketeers. We don’t have to follow the crowd. Can millions of people be wrong? Absolutely. Everyone once ‘knew’ the earth was flat and a whole nation happily followed Hitler to war and annihilation.
  • We all want other people to respect and admire us but if such respect is based only on our possessions and appearance then it is shallow and hollow. Self-respect is far more important than the respect of snobs and fools.
  • It’s a delusion and a myth that anyone and everyone can be great, rich, beautiful, successful or perpetually young. We live in the real world where everyone has limitations and not a fantasy land where some magic cream brings eternal youth or a shiny car bestows virility. We need to stop blaming ourselves for being ordinary and embrace our natural uniqueness.
  • We need to give up comparing ourselves to others (especially celebrities) and trying to match or better them (the pervasive ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ syndrome). No matter how good-looking, smart, or well off we are, in a world with 7 billion inhabitants there will always be someone ‘better’.
  • We need to lower our expectations. These days even people on average or less than average incomes aspire to the lifestyles of the rich and famous and feel deprived and inadequate when they fail to achieve them. If we expect less materially we are more easily satisfied and content with our lot.
  • Take a realistic look at your finances. Then don’t expect or want what you cannot afford. (But you can always start saving and working for it if it is important to you).
  • Cultivate a sense of gratitude. Most of us are far more fortunate than we recognize. If you don’t believe me visit a hospital or a homeless shelter (or travel to a third world country).
  • Wealth or good looks are no indication of character, or human worth. And neither are plainness or lack of material success signs of inferiority or worthlessness.
  • Recognize that our society’s value system is warped and its judgments flawed. We idolize as heroes, and pay millions of dollars to people who are good at kicking a ball, singing, pretending to be someone else, or who are simply famous for being famous. Yet the real heroes of the world such as childcare workers, teachers, firefighters, or those caring for the disabled and ill receive no accolades and modest (if not minimal) financial reward.
  • The thing you just ‘have’ to have today has a good chance of being a five minute wonder. Think back to clothes, shoes, tools, or appliances (such as bread, omelette, or waffle makers and foot spas) you bought years ago and that have lurked unused at the back of a cupboard since. They seem ridiculous now and so too will a lot of the current ‘must haves’.
  • First impressions are important but it’s who we are that matters most. If you know someone who is beautiful or handsome, well groomed and wealthy but is selfish, vindictive, and deceitful, you are unlikely to want them as a friend. We don’t need to have a lot to be the sort of person others like to be around.
  • Human beings have a tendency to take for granted something once they possess it. But we also don’t miss what we never had.

Copyright 2007 All rights reserved.


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