Sometimes I can’t help but shake my head that we as a society feel compelled to buy crap just because we feel we “need” it.
There are millions of people here in the U.S. that, although not by choice, manage to live on $2 a day. But when it comes to the middle class, even with increasing salaries, most families buy and buy and still feel like they need more stuff.
Why do people love to waste their hard-earned money on crap?
I’m not above this, but I think I’ve changed tremendously over the past decade. I’ve really become much better at just living more simply.
When I was working during my college years, I was a spender. I’ve talked about how I used to go out with a group of friends to dinner and would just pay the tab for everyone like I was a high roller or something… except I wasn’t.
I incurred so much stupid credit card debt over those years it was ridiculous. And it took me years just to dig myself out of it. What a waste.
Ever since those years, I feel like I try to do what I can to simplify and eliminate the non-essentials.
Why Do We Buy Crap?
I’ve been thinking about why people love to buy crap and here are a few reasons that come to mind…
- Some people have a general dissatisfaction with life. They think that if they buy crap it will help alleviate that problem. HINT… it doesn’t. I think the mid-life crisis might even fall into this line of thought.
- It’s human nature to want what others have. Unfortunately, a lot of us then start to buy crap to keep up with the Joneses. You want what your friends or neighbors have, so you buy what they have… maybe even something bigger or better. Then your friends or neighbors see what you have and want it – so they go out and buy something better. The cycle then continues onward.
- Others crave attention. They feel like if they buy crap it will make others think more highly of them. It’s a matter of trying to impress people with the expensive house, expensive car, and whatever else they can buy. They feel they deserve the best and want others to know it.
- Then there’s the idea that some people just don’t care (or know better). Maybe they don’t have enough money for their future, but to them, all that matters in living in the moment. Sounds great now, but down the line, this is definitely a strategy that will come around and kick you in the $%.
Here are a couple of things that have been bugging me as of late…
Stuck in the Hood
I have good friends who married when they were very young and had a couple of kids. They couldn’t afford much, but still managed to buy a small house in a not-so-great neighborhood.
They’ve lived there for over 20 years now and the neighborhood’s gotten much worse and the property values continue to drop.
It’s an ongoing complaint from them. They want out. They talk about where they want to move to and what kind of house they want to buy. They also tell me their different financial ideas for making the day happen sooner than later.
Sounds good, right?
The problem is that they’ll complain about it and how they’re going to get out, but it’s mostly just talk. They buy nice, new cars every few years. They book vacations a couple times a year. Their kids are grown up and have moved out and so they go out to the bars and grab dinner while there a few times a week.
I get it. They feel like they didn’t get much of a chance to play in their twenties because they were raising kids. But, they’re not going to get anywhere at this pace.
Mrs. R2R is always asking me why it bothers me so much. I don’t have a solid answer, but I’m guessing it’s because they say they want one thing, but then seem to purposely sabotage the goal for themselves. If they were content with where things were today, great… enjoy. But, that’s not the case and it drives me up a wall.
I just don’t get it. And they’re not the only ones that frazzle me – here’s the ongoing saga in the family…
The House and RV Dilemma
This is a dilemma for my parents, but it drives me crazy. My parents have made a living running their own business for a couple of decades now. The issue is that it’s a job that requires some physical labor and they’re both getting to the age where they can’t handle it much longer.
The good news is that their house is paid off. The bad news is that they don’t have a lot of money and want to travel.
They bought a top-of-the-line, Class A $85,000 motorhome.
That makes sense, right?
No, not at all. Just like the typical American, they decided to buy crap and go into debt just because they wanted it and not because they can afford it.
Now they’re stuck working so they can pay for the RV that they can’t use because they’re always working. That’s fun, right?
To make matters even worse, they now keep the motorhome down in Florida (that’s a whole ‘nuther story). So, when they want to use it, they drive their car down from Ohio to Florida to get to it (a couple times a year).
Right now, you might be thinking “um, isn’t the point of a motorhome to drive it from point A to point B instead of your car?”
Yes! I pull my hair out just thinking about it.
The smart move would be to make a choice:
- Sell their house and actually enjoy traveling like Steve at ThinkSaveRetire.com is doing.
- Or cut their losses and sell the RV. Cut back on their hours and then travel using that money they get from working. The struggle in their case is they’re a big victim of the sunk cost fallacy.
- Or find a happy medium to retire faster. Sell the RV, sell the house, and downsize to a smaller house. Quit working and use the extra money from the proceeds of the old house to use toward some occasional traveling.
Unfortunately, they just run through the same routine every day and nothing ever changes.
Since I’m on a rant, I have a couple other wastes of money that are bothering me…
Let’s Start Our Marriage with a $26k Expense!!
According to Cost of Wedding, the average wedding cost in the U.S. is $26,645. What the $%^&????
How much is it to just go and have a Justice of the Peace marry you… maybe a hundred bucks?
Don’t get me wrong, I know that the pressure is on from friends and family to have a big old wedding. After all, it’s your big day and you only live once, right?
That’s all fine and dandy, but who wants to start off their marriage with a bill of over $26,000?! I’m hoping that average is being skewed by the very expensive weddings, but ouch – that’s a lot of money!
The problem is that a lot of us just ante up because that’s just what people do. And most of the time, you’re young and stupid at the time you get married.
I was somewhat lucky. My wife has always been price conscientious, but we still ended up spending a good chunk of change on our wedding day. It’s been 10 years, but I’m guessing our day ran about $5,000.
And it really was a great time. But when all’s said and done, we basically just blew five grand for a party. That money could have been a great down payment on our financial future instead.
If you haven’t gotten married yet, don’t fall for the hype. Sit down together and have a discussion about your future. With so many marriages that end in divorce and money issues being a big contributing factor, wouldn’t it make better sense to at least talk about something less costly?
Why not rock the Justice of the Peace and then have a get-together with family and friends at your house or someone else’s house? You could even take it a step further and make it a potluck. I would take a pretty good guess that everyone would still have a great time and your wallets would be even happier the next day! 🙂
Time to Pay the Reaper
Even when we’re dead, it’s as if we’re still not done feeling the need to spend.
The National Funeral Directors Association stated that for 2014, the national median cost of a funeral was $7,181 (including viewing and burial).
Why do we feel like we need to spend thousands of dollars on funerals?
We’re dead – it doesn’t matter!
Sure, I get it – we want to show how much we care about our loved ones. But spending over seven grand isn’t the answer.
The issue, obviously, is that we usually don’t do enough planning on this beforehand. Your loved ones then spend money on a lot of unnecessary funeral expenses simply because they’re worried about offending your memory.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Have a talk about this with your spouse, or parents, or even your older kids if you have any. Let them know what kind of service you would like. Take it a step further and document it. Make it a part of your estate planning plans you’ve put together (or should).
If you haven’t gotten the message of this post, it’s pretty simple… live below your means and you’ll go far. It’s not hard – don’t buy crap you don’t need. It’ll ruin the financial buffer you’re working so hard to build.
Here’s a great SNL skit that pretty much sums things up:
Live simply and enjoy your life.
Any thoughts on why people love to buy crap?
Thanks for reading!!