Friday, May 2, 2014

Comfort Trap

I saw the following pins (or many similar) on Pinterest, both posted by the same person.
Things like:


The two seem a bit contradictory to me. Here’s why:

Most people in this country will never travel, but most people would like to. That’s why the movie “The Secret life of Walter Mitty” was so successful. So many dream of doing something like traveling but instead spend their lives working. I think it’s also a very American trap to fall into, having seen the way people live in the rest of the western world. For example, most people in America are unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘gap year’, where young people take a year between high school and college (or sometimes after college) to travel and explore. Everybody would love to do that right? If only we had the money…

The thing is, nearly all of us have the money. Just by living and earning a wage in this country, you have far more money than most of the rest of the world. The problem comes when it goes to things we think we need.

Most children and pretty much all teens own a cell phone. Many of them have smart phones. The data plans alone cost a crazy amount per month. If you cut the cell phone bill for a single year, that’s a plane ticket.

But it’s not a matter of knowing how to save. Americans know how to do basic math. What we don’t know how to do, is to deny ourselves. Every luxury is deemed an absolute necessity.  I heard a story of one woman seeking help at a church to pay her bills. When asked to present the bills, she handed in her cable bill along with the others. What’s worse, most people reading that sentence will not have found it shocking. How on earth can a person deem television such a necessity that you need to ask for charity to pay for it?

We have no idea what we actually need, and as a result are spending our whole lives slaving away for things that are completely unnecessary. It becomes a trap.

What we really need is a safe, clean and stable place to live.
What we think we need is a large house with separate bedrooms for each person in the family (that need to be individually decorated), a huge kitchen (that will probably need to be updated), several bathrooms (why would we share one?) a lawn (that we now need to pay bi-weekly to get cut). Then comes new furniture. We’ll need a lot more of it to fill all this extra space, most of it will be decorative (unnecessary). Then new appliances. Dish washers and clothes dryers are necessities right? (They’re not.) We need an entire little room dedicated to laundry as well won’t we? (Not really.) Pinterest will help you spend money to decorate it. Now the home feels empty without large flat screen televisions. We’re going to need a few tablets and laptops too. Let’s bundle the cable and internet bill so we’re only paying over $100 a month (only!). Everything in the house will be thrown away and replaced with brand new items every few years.
Don’t forget the landscaping.

This house is in the suburbs, miles away from anywhere we need to be. Now we need cars, multiple ones, maybe one for each driver in the house. And nobody wants an ugly one, or one you may need to repair. Let’s buy brand new ones that will keep us in debt for years, then trade them in for new ones (and more debt) as soon as we pay them off.

Or maybe it’s not a house or car. Maybe it’s the newest apple device. Or maybe new clothes. Most of us have to actually get rid of bags and bags of barely worn clothes to make room for the new ones we buy. Or maybe it’s food. For the sake of comfort or convenience, we feel we need to spend 10-20 times more on a meal than if we had made it ourselves.
No wonder we have little money to spend on (or save for) anything else!

Not only are Americans not traveling or pursuing dreams, but the majority of them are living paycheck to paycheck, even those who make over $100,000 a year!
Most people my age think “If I ever make that much, I’ll have plenty of money for traveling.”

I’m sorry, but you won’t. If you buy things you don’t need now, your expectations for your standard of living are only going to grow as your income does. Your idea of “need” will get bigger and more absurd.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with big houses. There’s something wrong with the idea that you NEED a giant house filled with unnecessary brand new things. If you’re idolizing that big house and all it entails, there will not be room in your life for much else. We are raised with the idea that buying and buying and buying will make you happy. That idea needs to be destroyed.

We all spend money on what we think is important. So decide what is really important to you and don't spend your life wondering where all your dreams went.

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