For this post, I am only going to focus on personal debt; government debt deserves a series of posts all on it’s own and is not as easily tackled as personal finance can be.
Why are so many people in debt? Because we buy too much.
The answer really is that simple. We are a country of consumers. We are marketed to online, in magazines, and on the radio. Our TVs are filled with reality shows that glorify the rich and (not-so) famous. These people have all the best cars, homes, shoes, clothes, toys, and electronics. And now our mantra has become “bigger, better, faster, more” to try to keep up with others, even if our wallets don’t compare to theirs.
We overextend ourselves on credit. We buy homes that we can’t afford. We want to have a certain “image.” We can’t possibly have less than the people we know, we want to have more than them.
It really is a disease that is plaguing us.
Just the other day, I was shopping at my local department store. I saw a woman and her daughter shopping in the toy aisle and their cart was filled to the brim with Lalaloopsy Dolls. They were working from what seemed to be a huge list (there are a ton of these dolls and they are currently “hot”). I could hear them chattering about completing the girl’s collection and being the only girl in class to have each and every doll. I couldn’t believe it! What a waste, spending a ridiculous amount of money just to have more than everyone else.
What we need to do is change our priorities and live more simply. We need to practice restraint. We don’t need every new product that comes on the market just because it “looks cool” or because we’re having a competition with our neighbor to see who has more. Unfortunately, it will take a lot of mental “undoing” to be free from the clutches of the American Consumer Machine.