Companies constantly call the United States a consumer nation. They try to encourage us to buy bigger and better things we don’t necessarily need with money we don’t have, simply so we can fit within an image portrayed by these companies and the media.
Most Americans never even realize what is happening. They don’t realize that what they spend their money on doesn’t agree with what they think their values are. Instead, most Americans are caught up in the consumer cycle spending money on things that they don’t even truly value or need.
Take some time and consider the following large spending categories. Do you really need bigger, better or more of any of these things? Or are you perfectly content as you are now, if it wasn’t for the constant call to have bigger and better things?
Housing Is One Of The Biggest Offenders
Housing size and features have increased dramatically over the last few decades. People used to live in homes smaller than 1,000 square feet but now it isn’t unusual to see 3,000 or 4,000 square foot homes for sale.
However, the fact hasn’t changed that you can only be in one room at a time. All of the extra space isn’t necessary in most cases. Extra space costs more money which causes us to work more to earn that money.
Extra space isn’t the only upgrade in housing. Many people now require higher end finishes such as real wood floors throughout the home, granite counter tops and a gourmet kitchen.
A granite counter servers the same exact purpose as a laminate counter, but it costs many times more. Are these upgrades worth working more every year? Only you can decide.
Since housing is the biggest part of most budgets, it makes sense to really think hard about all of the choices you make about your housing.
Make sure you figure out what is good enough for you and don’t be tempted to go for more to fit the media’s idea of your perfect home. Make that image for yourself.
Cars Have Become Outrageous
Cars are another expensive spending area where we often overspend. Cars become more and more advanced every year and everyone wants the newest, latest and greatest features. While some items are safety features, most new advancements in car technology are simply creature comforts that aren’t necessary.
In reality, cars were made for transportation. They were designed to get us from point A to point B faster than we could walk or ride a bike. Why is it that we now feel we need the best stereo, sweet rims and a custom paint job to travel from one point to another. Why do we need the prestige of owning a BMW, Lexus, Cadillac or Maserati that car makers portray in their commercials? We don’t.
Figure out what you really need in a car and then base your purchase on that. Don’t give in to the temptation of fitting in with the crowd unless that is one of your desires. Larger families may not be able to buy a four seat four door sedan, but a family with one child doesn’t need a Ford Expedition either.
Keep in mind, smaller cars generally cost less in more than one way. On top of the initial purchase price, you may save money on fuel as well due to better fuel economy. Finally, if a car isn’t worth as much money, chances are your car insurance rates might go down, too.
Food and Dining Out Has Become Excessive
Food (groceries) and dining out is another large line item in the budget for most people. Spending on dining out, and groceries for some people, are much higher than they need to be. I understand that people want variety in their meal choices, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.
I remember that when I grew up we considered eating out a treat. I bet we almost never went out to eat more than once a month, if even that often. Now people eat out all of the time. In fact, some people dine out more than they eat meals at home! It gets pricey fast and most people don’t even realize how much money they’re spending on food.
Rather than continuing to throw money at companies that make handsome profits off of your laziness, learn to cook more meals at home and you’ll start saving money! Limit your dining out to the occasional treat and you’ll be shocked how much you save.
Unfortunately, dining out isn’t the only way food spending can get out of control. Even at the grocery store there are many “convenience foods” that can quickly eat up your money. Think of all of the prepackaged or convenience foods you eat. Frozen meals and food that comes in individual servings are just a couple of money wasters. Add on top of that all of the super high end foods you see being cooked on the Food Network and it’s easy to see how a person’s grocery budget could get out of control.
Do You Want Bigger Houses, Cars and Food Budgets Or A Balanced Life?
Rather than trying for bigger and better housing, cars and food constantly, what would happen if we just strive for a level that was good enough for ourselves. Would we still be working 40 hour work weeks at jobs we hated, or would we all be working just 3 days a week doing things we loved?
There will always be people that have to do jobs that they don’t like, but you don’t have to be one of them. Find a lifestyle you’re comfortable with, without wanting excess in every part of your life, and you might be able to live a much more balanced life.
Do you think there is a point that would be enough in your life? When you get there, do you think you’ll want even more? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Photo by: Axion23 Text added by: Lance Cothern