Sunday, September 21, 2008

Like you, I love bright and shiny new things

I'm not so much the BMW, fancy name apparel, McMansion sort of consumer, but I can drop a few hundred on books and music downloads in no time flat. And the family and I love sampling new restaurants...oh, and ordering in (what of it you can do in Central Indiana). I never met a new piece of technology that I didn't like. I have a PDA, an iPod and I'm currently coveting a Blackberry and a new Mac laptop. Perhaps this is why, like most Americans, I have more debt than I should...cause I'm certain I need this stuff, when in reality...not so much. In my grandparents' day, "more debt than you should" equaled any debt at all, really, besides the house. Today, it's more than okay to finance something you can't afford--indeed it is the American way. It's the reason we work ourselves to death for increasingly less money and benefits. Got to get our stuff.

Even I, a devoted consumer of bright and shiny new things, saw the writing on the wall last year. The near three-decade-long orgy of unregulated corporate and consumer greed is about to end and a bunch of us are going to have mad painful hangovers. A few months ago, my family began to get its financial house in order, working to eliminate all debt. It's not easy and I am nowhere near as frugal as I ought to be, but when I think of the freedom of being able to make life and work choices unrelated to a Visa or Sallie Mae bill, it makes cutting out morning lattes and bringing brown bag lunches to work more than worth it.

My husband and I are blessed with good jobs that offer good salaries and good benefits. We are (knock wood) healthy and educated. I realize that not everyone has those benefits. But most of us who are not independently wealthy can't afford NOT to break our addiction to the consumer mind set. The occurrences of this past week should provide ample evidence of that.

I think Dave Ramsey give sound advice on how to budget, manage money and eliminate debt. Yeah, I know he's a staunch conservative, but hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Ramsey is right on personal finance. I filter out his thoughts on the economy and big business as a whole, or rather I listen to them knowing that they come from someome with a biased point of view.

If a consumer "sinner" like me may proselytize, Americans need to get the anti-consumerism religion. The holidays are approaching. What better time?


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