The lives of ordinary workers in the U.S. are full of pressure, anxiety and isolation. People are told they should live in big homes and drive big cars and own big televisions. We need big garages to park in and big closets for all those shoes and clothes. The cost of all this excess is much bigger than the amount of money needed to pay for it.
Most people’s paychecks can’t buy these things outright. So we acquire debt, the obligation to pay over time. The acceptance of a debt obligation requires that we assume conditions and costs will not change negatively, so that we will be able to repay. But we are not in control of future conditions or costs. It’s only a guess. Things change. Accidents happen. People get sick. The company you work for merges or closes or moves away. If financial planning was a science, economies wouldn’t crash. Economics contains a variety of theories, none of which take into account the effect our psychological and social needs have on our consumption habits. If someone close to you gets hurt in some way and their personal economy crashes, would you refuse to help them? At some point it is likely that you WILL be in debt.
There are only two ways to rebalance your life ledger. The usual first way is to try to increase income, and/or to save more. Saving money is the same as making money, the end result being an increase in liquid capital resource. This path works well for people who possess youth and aptitude. Many education and training paths are available. Learning how to spend properly is a process, and experience makes a big difference. Every consumer must learn the difference between salespersons and friends. Vested interest rules everyone. We must learn what is in our own interest, and what interests motivate those we come in contact with.
The emergent understanding of the second way usually comes after sufficient life experience. It involves a deep examination of what is most important, most fulfilling and most sustaining for you, and how to live with only what is most essential. This generally requires people to learn how to live with less. How much space do you really need? How many things must you really own? Do you really need the newest and best things to meet your needs?
The process of learning to live with less is often painful, but in the end it is also the path of true liberation. It is this process which leads to green philosophies and a more ethical life in general. The more we examine the differences between what we WANT and what we NEED, the more we can make informed choices that promote our own growth, and sustain and encourage the growth of everyone and everything we love.