The Problem With Money

Thursday, July 23, 2009

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I've been thinking a lot about money lately. I read a news story today about a guy who lives in a cave right here in the United States of America, has been doing so for a few years now, and doesn't work for a paycheck or owe anyone anything. He just... lives. I'm not saying I want to live in a cave, but I must admit I was inspired.

So, why do we feel so tied to this mystical method of exchange? We like what money can buy and feel that we NEED money to make us happy, healthy and whole. When we get bored or feel down, what do we do? We buy something - go see a movie, buy a new CD, get some new clothes that make us look the way we want to look. But how much of this do we really need? Obviously there are the basic essentials - healthy food, basic clothing, basic shelter, and necessary health care. These essentials are largely taken for granted here in this great nation of ours, essentials that a shamefully large portion of the human population that covers the globe go without. But, we go about our daily American lives, drinking our clean, nearly free tap water, or guzzling gallons of filtered or spring water that comes prepackaged in convenient little 20 oz. bottles that we either, if we are at all conscious of the impact we have on our world, recycle, or we throw in the trash to be shuffled off with the billions of other discarded food containers to the local land fill. Whatever, we (the consumer) never see it again, so what does it matter to us? But, back to money (before I get on my environmental soap box - there will be more of that later).

If we look at the amount of debt most of us carry, and then look at what we're actually spending, we will quickly begin to see (if we let ourselves - if we remain conscious) that we are using money like an emotional band-aid. There's no end to the madness. If I'm feeling depressed about how much money I've spent in the past month, what better way to cheer myself up than to buy myself a ticket to the movies or a nice dinner or maybe just a little thing... a cheap pair of earrings, a cheap book, a cheap candybar. Because there's plenty of 'cheap' to go around, isn't there? If I'm feeling good and want to celebrate I'll treat myself to a $5.00 latte and maybe a nice lunch. If I'm feeling frazzled and stressed about time and money and work and family life and everything else, well I'd better drive through for lunch because I don't have time for anything else. There's another $6 to $10 just for one person. And what if I don't actually have the money to pay for these things? Well... I've got plastic. I can charge my Visa or Mastercard and pay for it later... with interest... but whatever, because I got what I wanted NOW, and that's really the magic word in this society, isn't it? NOW.

So, I've decided to stop the madness and look for a better way to live. I know there's got to be one. I'm not claiming to know exactly how to get out of this downward instant gratification spiral yet - I think it has something to do with emotional awareness, a concept very dear to my heart. I've read a few books, considered their information, and put them back down again. But I think I might pick them back up. Because maybe I don't need that new ipod NOW. Maybe I can wait until I've saved up the money... and maybe by then I won't even want it anymore.

I'd like to recommend the following two books on the topic.

The first is "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin and Monique Tilford. It's a very informative and refreshing book, and definitely worth the read for anyone still swimming in the economic flow and wishing they had a little more control and a little more choice.

The other is called "The Scavengers' Manifesto" by Anneli Rufus and Kristen Lawson. This one's good for anyone - whether you're participating in the economic flow or not. Full of economic and environmental philosophy, it will have you taking another look at the grand scheme of things and rethinking your place in it.

So, I'm going to start counting my pennies. The goal is to be more aware of my own spending habits and the impact that has on my life and my world. Can I be free of debt and free to lead the life I truly want instead of just "getting by"? Perhaps. At the very least, I can be more conscious.


CK said...

claps and cheers....
We are after all the land of conspicuous consumption but it takes two to tango. We can blame the media for spoon feeding our needs to us but have to take responsibility for not having the self discipline to say NO. Concerning the essential need for healthy food---- I must ask why does healthy food cost more than overly processed crap? Shouldn't tomatoes that are just tomatoes cost less than those that have MSG, high fructose corn syrup, salt, and red lake # 5 added to them? Stepping down off the soapbox and passing it on to you.---CK