There is no escaping the fact that Americans like “BIG” from the Big Mac to the Big House and Big Car. We either have, wanted to have, or work towards having those things as our goals in life. Because of that single fact, Americans spend and spend their money and, oh yeah, it’s money they may not even have! Today, as consumers, we acquire more than double of what we did about 50 years ago in material goods. That translates to an average retail credit card debt per household in the USA today of over $8,000 per family. This begs the question: why are you spending more than you make?
I have to laugh a little now talking about this subject. After all, I’m no different than you. I think I used to be obsessed with bigger is better and more, more, more just like most of us have over the years at one time or another. We seem to have that idea in our brains almost from birth. It continues to find ways into our lives all the time, for example just last month, McDonalds introduced a bunch of new Bigger and Better (I guess only time will tell if they are actually better) big sandwiches that border on the ridiculous! In fact, they’re big and also budget-bustlingly big. It’s certainly not uncommon these days to see prices at fast foodies as high as $7-$8 each.
But beyond the obvious like bigger and more expensive food, there is a lot more to this story. Being obsessed with spending and accumulating loads of stuff shows a fundamental weakness in us that we just don’t like to admit. Did you know that today, the personal storage industry is a $32.7 billion revenue business as of 2016? It’s a fascinating fact that we are storing things in droves that we bought and that we just can’t or won’t ever use. I know you have things in your closets, garages, and maybe even under the bed in your home that haven’t seen the light of day for years, and that’s bad enough. But when you are actually paying for space someplace in a storage facility that you may never have a use for, then that becomes the point of absurdity. That space and money could be being used for far more important pursuits that could free us of debt and make our lives better. So why is it that we don’t do just that?
Why You Are Spending More Than You Make
Here are 7 reasons why we spend more than we make:
1. We think “things” make us secure
Security. We know that if we have a roof, clothes, food, and transportation, that makes us feel secure. Logically then, if we have more of all of that and even more then we will feel even more secure. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. Physical possessions will fade, spoil, and eventually disappear. The “security” we want to believe in just isn’t true and the feelings don’t last.
2. We think “things” make us happy
No one admits that they pursue material things to make themselves feel better and happy (sometimes to the point of illness). But, the truth is that we all seem to buy when we are sad or depressed. We think new, bigger, and better may just make us feel better for at least a little bit. That feeling though quickly disappears and then where are we? Probably in debt and still needing something else to make us feel better it seems.
3. We saw it on TV
OMG, how many commercials do we get bombarded with every day about the newest cars, trips to the Caribbean, and special sales from new clothes to home improvements? We are exposed to over 5,000 ads a day on TV, radio, internet, magazines and other types of media and we are very susceptible to it. Almost every ad we hear and see basically has the same message: “Your life will be better if you have _____ in it”. We hear and see it so often that we actually start to believe it and then BOOM, here comes that credit card as fast as you can say “charge!” The first step to break this chain is just being aware of what the ads are doing to you. That’s why so many recommend never buying on impulse. I certainly don’t and when you have a little time to think about your purchases you generally make better decisions.
4. We like showing off
It’s the old “keeping up with the Joneses” thing or even more so, keeping ahead of the Joneses. We all simply like being the center of attention. Most of us have a great need to show off. It helps us feel that we have influence, power, and success. That’s why we spend so much more than we have. It may be an illusion of success, but we seem to enjoy living in that illusion.
5. We are just plain jealous of others
It is in our nature to envy others and to want what they have or even have more and better that what others have. I’ll go back to the TV and the advertising and blame a lot if it on that in our lives. No matter how little money you might have, you probably have a TV set and what you see on there looks mighty tempting. It sort of sends a signal to your brain: if others have that than we should too!
I think that’s why they make 100+ inch TVs today. They’ve become a phallic symbol for a lot of the men I know in their “man caves” chock full of every electronic creature comfort there is in the world. It’s a competition and sometimes we buy just because our friends did.
6. We try to overcompensate for our deficiencies in life
We look to project confidence in the clothes we wear and the car we drive. When we are lonely or sad a lot of us shop and try and fulfill ourselves with material things. It seems we are trying to impress others with “things” rather than who we really are as people. The worst part of this is that we never really achieve that goal, but rather the buying is merely a distraction from our feelings that ultimately prevents us from really addressing them. There are many ways to deal with those feelings, but spending money you just don’t have isn’t a good one.
7. We are much more selfish that we want to admit
We may not want to admit to the fact that we are selfish and even greedy, but history has shown that to be true when it comes to the human race. Most of us seem to want to increase the size of our personal kingdoms and this is borne out throughout the past by coercion, force, dishonesty, and even warfare.
Excess material things will ultimately not enrich our lives. Having what we need and not the excesses we pursue gives us more time to enjoy life. The sooner we come to realize that, the better our lives become.
Have you realized that material things do not solve all of you needs in life? Are you a big spender? Do you live within your budget or are you staring at credit card debt because you need to expand your kingdom? What are you doing with now that you can really do without?