November 30, 2006

Conspicuous Consumption

As I sheepishly looked at my bank balance last night (yikes, not pretty), I started to think about why I am not in the black right now. That's when I realized something. I have a lot of stuff. Material things. Stuff that I can use and wear and look at. And they are all very nice. Some expenses are for services (not that kind) but they are still luxuries, not necessities. Although, one can argue that digital cable and a dvr are not essential, I would have a hard time giving those up.)

At any rate, I used to think I lived a simple life with very few possessions to bog me down. And then I moved to Orange County. I am not blaming Orange County for my materialism, I'm only noting how easy it is to fall into it without really being entirely conscious of it. There is really no excuse for it and I really need to start prioritizing things better.

Sure, I need a car to get to work, but do I need a fancy car (albeit one of the safest ones)? No, just something reliable. My BFFs have cars they drive that are from the 80s! There cars are older than some of you. It is inspirational.

To demonstrate how out of whack my priorities are, here is a list of recent gifts and/or purchases followed by a list of things I should truly be spending my money on.

Video iPod
Fancy night out and a hotel room
Trip to the Grand Canyon and Texas
Fancy new coat
New digital camera
The Underachiever's Manifesto (which incidentally, I haven't even read or opened yet)
Other miscellaneous items bought while traveling
A pair of boots
Many many trips to Starbucks
Many many beers
Et cetera, et cetera

And that was just the last two weeks.

This part doesn't take a rocket scientist...

What I absolutely need:

Shelter & basic utilities (gas & electric)
Modest clothing
a reliable car

Now, I am engaged in a fierce internal battle. I want to stop the insanity and the material madness! I want to save every single penny I can, so that one day I won't have to worry about anything. But then someone says "meet me for pizza" and I don't even think twice about it. I am weak!

Then again, I don't really believe in depriving ourselves of things (very nice things even) if we can do so within our means. You know the world may end tomorrow and you can't take it with you. Might as well enjoy life now.

But on the other hand, too much stuff makes me unhappy. I buy something and in no time, I am tired of it, it doesn't fit right or I find something else I like better. Consumption fuels more consumption and seems to breed discontent (in me). I know my communist ideals aren't the answer either, but isn't it true that the more stuff you have, the less satisfying it feels?

Maybe there is a middle ground. My slightly premature New Year's resolution will be to cut back on such lavish spending and simplify a little. I will keep cable and DSL, my cell phone, my computer, and the decent wardrobe I have. But I will try to buy fewer useless things and instead save money for something else more enjoyable. And, I will pay my bills first before going shopping, drinking, or out to eat! (Novel concept for me!)

Besides, I'd rather spend all my money driving across country or backpacking South America or Europe anyway. So, there's an incentive to spend less and save more. Right? Right. I am so glad you agree with me.



At 04:14, Blogger Shafa said...

Ugh, I hate the phrase "conspicuous consumption."

It reminds me of a professor I dislike.

At 06:27, Blogger Richard said...

Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that you are doing your part to heroically keep the national economy afloat.

The key to everything is balance and moderation (oh! how simple those words are - now if only someone would actually map it out).

You have got to face up to that "B" word - budget. You can become anal and micro-budget everything or you can be more sensible and just divide your money into reasonably large chunks: necessities, long term savings (for those big purchases), contingency fund (rainy day), retirement savings (the pay yourself first principle), and, of course, a play fund that you go and blow every month.

At 09:53, Blogger luckybuzz said...

Yep, I totally agree. And (as anyone who's ever read my blog knows), I have very similar issues.

But also, yeah, I think you should save your money for a cross-country trip. New England is a lovely destination. :)


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