Common Sense

Spending Money You Don’t Have

This is my answer to government policy that claim we need to spend more and more money to boost our national economy, even though it means joining the crowd of bankrupt millions who are treading water just to stay alive. It’s a quote by Will Smith.

“Too many people are spending money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”

For a lack of a better word, I would say that this is one of the great evils of modern society, that we feel more or less forced to spend money we don’t even have. Every day companies and advertisers play the game of lets-see-who-we-can-trick-today. And we fall for it. My “favorite” one is: “Get your flat screen today, pay for it next year!” Not to mention the offers that fall into our mailbox at least once a week to get this or that credit card or bank loan, and everything is practically given away for nothing.

Wow, we think to ourselves, what a deal! So well are we tricked – although it should be easy to see the deception – that we are shocked when the bill finally comes, and we have to pay a price we cannot afford – unless, of course, we could take another loan to pay for the loan we couldn’t afford to pay back in the first place. Isn’t it wonderful? The bank will gladly help us out of a tricky situation. And should they fail to comply, then just turn to the loyal friend who always stays near your heart (in your breast pocket): your credit card. He is so generous; he’ll let you buy whatever you please, and you’ll never have to pay for it. Until later.

Can the politicians and financial lobbyists really be correct: that in order to save our collective economy we must put ourselves in personal bankruptcy?

14 replies »

  1. I think it’s because we buy people’s friendships by always giving them stuff with the money we don’t have and if you want to be their friend, just be their friend! It’s okay to do it every once in a while, but don’t “run it in the ground” just save some money for whatever comes up! An emergency or something like that! You know, times are hard and tough!

  2. Hei Louis! Veldig fornuftige ord. Siden jeg jobber på et sosialkontor møter jeg hver dag folk som føler at de “må ha” fordi “alle andre” har, selv om de må komme til oss og søke om hjelp til helt nødvendige ting som mat, strøm og husleie. Bare sørgelig og nå som rentene stiger og stiger og bensinprisene øker og øker begynner det å ligne på de tilstandene det var etter de glade 80-årene….dessverre.

    Jeg er ikke så veldig annerledes enn alle andre…men det gjelder å stoppe i tide og glede seg over det man faktisk har. Selv bygde jeg hus for 2 år siden og det er klart at det merkes på pengepungen i dag… vi gleder oss over at vi faktisk har et eget lite hus og klarer oss med svært lite ellers. Det som gleder oss mest om dagen er å gå ute i det som etterhvert vil bli en flott hage….og se på frukten og bærene som kommer på frukt-trærne og bærbuskene vi plantet i fjor…og se på alle blomstene som kommer (både de vi har plantet og de som kommer helt av seg selv….). Så får det heller være at vi har en bil som snart bør byttes ut, og en tv som er litt mindre enn andres tv’er, og ikke har de dyreste klærne 🙂

  3. What I mean is this: if you think that, “When life is perfect, then I will be happy”, then life will never be perfect enough for you, and you will never experience happiness. But even in times when life is troublesome, if you SEE the sun or the stars or a friends words of comfort, you will be find moments of happiness anyway.

    If you wonder, my mother is dead since several years. I would never have spoken “publicly” about her illness otherwise.

  4. In a sense I can understand that if you are POOR, if you do not have money for your basic needs: somewhere to live, something to eat, and something to wear, yes, then money is a problem. Or the lack of it. But when you have all that, you don´t really NEED more. Then what you need to be happy, that´s that your marriage is happy, that your body is well, that your children are not abused in school a.s.o.

    But many people seem to go through life, thinking that life OWES them luxery. That they should not have to wait for it, or work for it, it sholud just come to them. And when it doesn´t, they try to take it. Most often not by stealing, but by borrowing, not thinking of the consequences…

    I remember very well the breakfast I have ever enjoyed the most. It was a summer many years ago, and I had just escaped from my mother, who was mentally ill, the day before. I had slept in a trailer, and then got up and bought some orange juice and bread – nothing more. I sat outside the trailer with the sun in my face, and for the first time in a long time, I wasn´t afraid. In that moment, there was happiness.

  5. Oh, I would also like to add to my looong comment above; our Heavenly Father does not only bless us with our needs, but also some of our wants, too!! He knows our hearts and he wants us happy! But first we have to step up and do our part and try to live as close to the teachings of Jesus Christ as we can.

  6. Jeanette, Louis; I totally agree with you. Life feels easier and my mind feels lighter when I plan a budget and then live within those frames. I don’t need those extra material things to be “happy”. A loving family means happiness! Taking care of a homeless cat is happiness, because the cat will love you back for that. Finding a bargain at the 99-cent store can mean happiness too! There are a lot of things to be happy about instead of whining about why I can’t have what everybody else has (a fancy cell phone, a new coach, a blender, a car, a house, a flat screen TV, internet at home etc, etc.)

    I also pay my tithing since there is a promise from our Creator that if we do, we will be taken care of. It is true and you don’t have to belong to a certain religion to pay tithing and receive those blessings. The blessings we receive are predicated upon obedience to an eternal law made by Him. I assure you, it works just like the law of gravity. If you just believe in it! This is the safest investment in the world to know that you will have enough for your earthly needs. I love this part when Jesus says in Matt. 6:26: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” Think about it for a while… I did and it strengthened my faith.

    It is not all true that “those living in poverty are least likely to be happy”, as a comment above ends with. Of course, it may depend on how we define poverty, like those in the poorest of Africa or those that are living on the streets in Los Angeles/ New York, or those that we can compare with that are too low waged and can’t afford a car, a house, new clothing, buying presents for their kids…or are having problems in getting things together. A European friend of mine went to Russia and lived among the poorest people in a small apartment. They were a big family crammed into a small space and everything was old and second hand. But their home was filled with love and even as they did not have much money they provided her the best they could bring up; the best home cooked meals, the best bed in the house and so forth. She said that despite their poverty, they were a very happy people who smiled a lot and were grateful for what they did have. It is when you ask for more than you really need that you become unhappy with what you don’t have.

    I am eternally grateful for the trials I have had in learning poverty and humility. As newlyweds, my husband and me could not find employment because of where we were living. For several months we had no income and was luckily able to receive money for the rent & electricity from my mother-in-law who is a retired lady and not wealthy. We had no furniture, and hardly anything but an old TV that my husband had from before plus his car. Our fridge was always empty and we lived off oatmeal, beans and rice. And baked potatoes!

    Our “stereo” was a radio player from the 99-cent store hooked up to computer speakers from the Salvation Army, so that we could play music. We were later on blessed with beautiful furniture’s from members of the Church who had extra furniture they did not need. We still use them today five years later and people always find our home very cozy and attractive even though hardly anything here is brand-new. Our date night used to be hiking over to the library to borrow free movies and on the way back make a stop at Wendy’s only eating off the 99-cent menu! Things changed after we got jobs. Nowadays I always look into my refrigerator with happiness and gratitude because now it is filled with foods that we enjoy eating. I will never take anything for granted anymore, not even my health. I am grateful for it all. However, through paying tithing you will always manage and your blessings may come through other people and definitely not as a fat credit card offer in the mailbox…

  7. You’ve certainly raised an issue which is all too relevant in today’s society – consumerism, and the easy access to “credit”. This is a relatively recent phenomenon, as for most of us, our parents never had access to these forms of credit when they were young. I can recall my own parents telling me how they even had a little difficulty getting a loan to purchase their first home – though they both had good jobs and incomes at the time. But loans or credit just weren’t as easy to get then as they are now. So in most cases, people simply (over a period of time) “saved” to purchase the things they wanted, and purchased them once they had enough money. It may have taken a few years to save for a major purchase like a car. People of my parents generation, who had lived through a world war and the economic Depression were also often quite cautious or conservative with their money, and knew the importance of saving for that “rainy day”.

    But as times have changed, and our communities in general have become more financially prosperous, people have grown up to expect that they should not only have everything they need – but anything they want, as well. Unlike our parents generation, most of us will never know what it is like to be truly financially poor – thanks to the modern “welfare state”. I can recall when I was growing up, my brothers and I thought we were “doing it tough” when my parents did not purchase a colour television set as soon as they became available. And my father worked for the local electricity authority, through which he could have purchased one at a substantial discount! We certainly weren’t poor (in fact, we were relatively well off, compared with many of our classmates), but even so, I never saw my parents spend money wastefully – it was only spent on things that would give us some long term benefit as children, or a family.

    Of course, nowadays the “I want everything, and I want it now” mentality is prevalent, and is fostered by our consumer society, with advertisements everywhere we look, supported by extremely easy access to credit in the form of credit cards, personal loans etc. It is hard to avoid. And as was mentioned previously, people conveniently forget that their own parents did not have “everything” the minute they started their married life. However, I think there comes a point when we need to decide who is going to be in control of our lives and what is best for us – is it going to be us, or the society in which we live? Are we going to spend up big simply because our government says it will benefit the economy, or because the advertisements tell us to buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have? Is our life going to be one long effort to “keep up with the Jones”?

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with advertising as such – it’s the way we sometimes allow ourselves to be taken in by it all, that causes problems for us. We need to learn to take it all with a grain of salt, and be much less gullible! There’s also nothing inherently wrong with providing credit – rather, it is the way we choose to use (or misuse) it, that often gets us into trouble. When used wisely, some forms of credit can actually bring about a financial benefit. But as with all things, we need to exercise a little self-control and discipline, and learn to be satisfied with what we’ve already got. We need to decide for ourselves whether we can really afford to spend that money the government tells us to, or to purchase all the latest technology – whether we need it or not. After all, if every person and legal entity in the country suddenly became bankrupt, it would put a huge strain on the banking and financial system (as happened on a much smaller scale recently with the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the USA), and then where would the nation’s economy be?

    I would be the first to agree that people do tend to value things more, if they know they have had to work long and hard to achieve them. Imagine looking at your new car in the driveway, knowing that it cost you a whole year’s salary, and it took five years of scrimping and saving before you could actually buy it! Chances are, you’ll really value it and look after it, as though it were gold! On the other hand, we sometimes hear stories of people who’ve won several million dollars in a major lottery win, yet after a couple of years find themselves broke and miserable, because they have lost all that money through not investing it wisely, or having frivolously spent it. Easy come, easy go – or so it seems!

    As to that age-old question – “Does money buy happiness?” – I think that is probably best answered on an individual basis. However, I would venture that the aforementioned lottery winners would probably say “no” (though maybe they were happy for a little while!). I have occasionally read about studies which try to determine the links between “money” and “happiness”. According to some of these studies, people usually did need a certain amount of money before they claimed to be “happy”. But beyond that, greater wealth did not necessarily mean more happiness. And those who were truly poor, usually claimed not to be happy. This would indicate that most people don’t need great wealth in order to be happy. On the other hand, those living in poverty are least likely to be happy. Somehow, we really need to find that “happy” middle ground!

  8. Well, I can not disagree with a single thing you said seeing as we live in a monetary based system with it’s sole purpose being profit then living beyond your means will be catastrophic as many have found out. I have never in my life had that problem and was always able to see the pitfall of such money traps. I have been broke in the past but never in debt and I would rather go with out rather than borrow money and I can never remember being sad due to the lack of money. But I speak from a privileged perch. I am not married and not responsible for anyone but myself and up to this day have never had a devastating health problem as (Andreas) experienced or any other uncontrollable economic crash so what I make I keep or spend as I please. It’s a bit obvious that we see money for what it is and I can not help but think that there is a greater problem here than management of money. I really believe money is the problem not the management of that money and I agree with Jeannette and yourself that for the most part I am probably happiest when I am not thinking about money but let’s face it having an adequate amount of money is helpful in a society based on money and profit. I think that the amount of people who manage money poorly do not make up the majority of people with money problem–Do you? I really think that as a society we have the wrong approach to work and how to achieve all that we can as humans and all that it implies to expand our self’s technologically, mentally and spiritually –what do you think?


  10. I know a bit about this after living a bit more comfortable than I could afford 6-8 years ago. I had a promising career and moved to a beautiful apartment in my hometown together with my girlfriend. Life was exciting and going well, but I took a huge hit when I unexpectedly lost my mother. Three months later my mother-in-law passed away too, which killed my inspiration and completely ruined our plans for the future. I was unable to return to work, went to school instead and that didn’t work well either. I didn’t earn enough money but still had the apartment and a lifestyle that I knew would come back as a problem in the future.

    We survived those hard years by spending money we did not have, and after a couple of years everything started to get better. We got our happiness back, and stability in life. I took a long break from the previous career and started working with websites and web design, which quickly turned into a full-time job. But last year I got ill, was diagnosed with anemia and had to leave work again. And suddenly, the money that had kept us alive wasn’t there anymore – and that brought back problems with the old debts that we could no longer pay for. There wouldn’t have been any problem if it wasn’t for the mistakes I made when I was younger, but I couldn’t afford undoing those mistakes – not even all these years later.

    It has been a couple of hard months now again, not because of our current lifestyle but because I didn’t know better years ago. It appears as if the solution to the problem is really easy in theory: pay away all debts and start over from zero! But that is of course only theory, it can’t be done in reality since we can’t solve the problems we caused by spending money we didn’t have – by spending even more money that we don’t have… Or, we could actually do that. But that would only be to move the problem another step up the stair – and it will very likely come back and cause even greater problems some day in the future.

    But we will sort it out in a good and once-and-for-all way that can give us a fresh start. I just don’t know exactly how yet. We have to, or this modern evil will have full control over our lives. They say that money can’t buy happiness, but there is no doubt that it can be used to keep worries away. Or to put it in another way: With too little money, every day is all about survival. But with enough money, one can actually live. My target and my motivation is to get ahead of everything so we can live, rather than just survive…

    Thanks for many interesting posts, by the way! I started reading out of curiosity, and it has been very interesting and inspiring so far so I’ll stay for yet a while. 🙂

  11. Amen to that!

    I actually think that life is more precious when I don’t have to think about money or economy.
    When I’ve paid my tithing and all my bills I feel free.

    I remember when growing up my grandparents didn’t have that much money. My grandfather made bricks out of milk cartons and wrapped them with old gift wrapping paper. And we loved them.
    Now a days children need fancy toys just for playing. I think it’s a shame that children is getting robbed of their immagination.

    It was just my feelings about your subject.

    Copenhagen, Denmark

  12. You’re right, it is complicated. But my point is, it doesn’t have to be! I think you brought out the very core of the problem: that people would like to enjoy this or that, so they spend money they don’t have just to get it. You asked for ideas? Well, first and foremost, we have to learn to be happy with what we’ve got. The happiest moments with my family are not those that are costly. Just yesterday for example, we had a blast teaching our two-year-old how to throw rocks in the water. It’s the simple, everyday things that bring most happiness.

    It’s like we’ve been programmed to think that to be really happy we have to have the latest, biggest, and newest things – especially if everyone else seems to have it. It’s a terrible illusion if you think about it. What appears to bring the most joy only if fact bring the grandest misery. For example, there is one factor that tops all the lists of why marriages split up: economic problems, mostly caused by overspending one’s budget.

    And we can go on and make a long list of societal problems that point directly to desire for quick cash; gambling, insurance frauds, unjust lawsuits (big business in the US), trafficking, and on and on. Of course, the situation is not so cut and dry; there are certainly other causes to economic trouble than moral deficiency. But I still want to bring that up as my second point. And that is that we have to talk more about work ethics. I’m not trying to be a moral hard case, but the fact is that society teaches us today that more joy is brought our way if we win a million dollars on the lottery, rather than working “in the sweat of thy face” for the same amount, with much greater satisfaction as a result.

    I guess it’s somewhat of a sign of the times, that we do all we can to take shortcuts. But if there is something I have learned in life, it’s this: THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS!!! Without exception these will always turn into detours, especially when they so often lure people into doing what they deep down inside don’t want to do (as mentioned above), but feel forced to, just so they can uphold some kind of delusional standard of living.

    And speaking of this standard of living. Maybe this is the great culprit? It “forces” good people to back away from good principles: they overspend; they get more credit cards than need; they get extra jobs, just in order to pay for all the bills; by doing so the children are left without parents in the home, even without mothers. I have met so many mothers that feel they need to be more with their children, but CANNOT because of economic needs. Then I have looked at their high standard of living and thought, I can see why.

    There are so many more things to say here (but I have been to lengthy already), but one final observation: isn’t it strange that young couples today want the same standard of living as their parents have – today. I mean, they want the same house, the same boat, the same means to travel, etc. But what they forget is that it took their parents (and that generation) years before they achieved all that, and much hard work giving hard earned money. But today’s generation just want to skip that essential part, and have it all, without the necessary effort.

    Maybe I’m overdoing it, but this whole thing is troublesome to me – maybe in part because I myself am no innocent bystander. We all need to watch our backs so we don’t stand the danger of being pulled overboard into the currents of debt and economic dependency.

  13. What you say is true to some extent. There are many people that live beyond their means simply because they would not be able to enjoy all that this economy has to offer because their jobs pay so little. It’s so complicated. Any ideas ?

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