My husband and I have been watching TV shows lately that chronicle the purchase of homes by individuals or couples who typically have great expectations. It’s quite entertaining. Some are first-time buyers, clueless as to the real cost of a home. They expect to find the very best in everything and are shocked to discover they have to settle for something less. Others are relocating so they want something comparable. Some just want bigger and better. We’ve spent hours watching as buyers walk through homes that put most people’s houses to shame, yet they are so critical of the beautiful homes they are going through, you would think they were walking through my garage! Sometimes their criticism makes me wish I could send them to live for a month in a small African village!
There is a lot of discussion recently that we may be on the brink of another worldwide recession. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is warning that if Europe doesn’t deal swiftly and decisively with Greece, the entire world will suffer. So far Canada seems to have been spared from the worst effects of the last recession, but our country’s attitude about consumption is not necessarily any different than those around the world that plunged into an economic abyss.
Many world economies find themselves in a mess that is hard to believe. How could people in government spend so recklessly for so long? It is easy to point fingers at those who have held elected office, but the problem rests closer to home. How many of us spend more money than we bring in and then rationalize it because we think we “deserve” it? Statistics show Canadian retirement savings are abysmal, and consumer debt is precariously teetering, and about to topple when interest rates increase. The only way things will improve is if we recognize the difference between wants and needs, buy only what we can afford, and develop a lifestyle of living within our means.
The Vanier Institute has warned that personal debt has passed a psychological barrier moving into the six-digit mark. The average Canadian now owes $100,000, a record-setting 150 per cent of average income, compared to 1993, when the debt-to-income ratio was only 93 per cent. This gives us cause for concern, but what does it mean? It means the material girl of the ’80s is growing up into ‘insolvent woman.’ We want it, we want it now, and we want it on credit.
Last month I paid $7.99 for a fine suit from my favourite thrift store. It’s now my favourite, and I’m tickled that I bought it at about 95 per cent off the original price. There are some people, however, who would rather die than wear something second hand. Does that make them too good for a used suit? Perhaps. Or they may just be financial idiots.
If we all lived like our grandparents did, where you save for what you need and then you buy it, we would come to expect the same from our government. But right now too many of us expect too much from our government and when we don’t get it, we get angry. So in the end we get what we want but we forget that eventually someone has to pay for it all.
This current economic crisis will not be solved by government. One person at a time has to choose to live more simply. That means not having all the latest toys. It doesn’t mean you can never have them, but if you don’t have the money to buy it, you wait until you do. Imagine that. A monetary system where money is required. Now that could change the world.
St. Albert Gazette | Wednesday, October 5, 2011 06:00 am | Dee-Ann Schwanke
Dee-Ann Schwanke’s wardrobe is mostly second hand, but she did go on a payment plan for her dishwasher.