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Why we feel so cash strapped

2011 October 14
by Aaron

I got to thinking about this the other day:

“How in the world did my parents survive without cell phones?”

Right? I’m sure you have thought of this too. And, I’m old enough to remember when we didn’t have them. I seem to remember that I managed okay. Sure there were those occasions when you would show up for a meeting only to have just missed the phone call telling you it was canceled. But those were few and far between right?

But this cell phone – it’s truly become a must-have in our day. And with it, another monthly bill.

This got me to thinking about other things that have been developed in my lifetime, that have soon become “must-haves”. Like bottled water. What a goofy idea. Packaging tap water and then selling it in a plastic bottle. Now it’s a “need” at our home and another added expense.

Or, how about cable television (You have to have 10,000 channels!) Or – the health club? Monthly movie subscriptions? Eating out 5 times a week? One television for each room…one desktop and a laptop…a bunny for Johnny, a fish for Lucy and two dogs for mom and dad…a boat…three cars…

And, the list goes on.

I sometimes feel like I have been sold a pile of crap by a fast-talking salesman and didn’t have any option but to say, “yes, please, may I have another?”

My parents never had cable, a cell phone plan, an iPod, a personal laptop, four televisions, a family gym membership, a movie subscription service or 15 credit cards*.

In fact, my parents – come to think of it – never had debt.

We don’t have to buy it

I work in marketing. Our job is to convince and aid in the selling process by eliminating the barriers between the customer and our product. We want to provide enough value to the customer they can’t help but to buy. There’s nothing terribly wrong with that (unless you’re selling an inherently immoral product).

But, I’m going to tell you something: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY IT! That’s right. I said it. Freeing isn’t it? Just because Apple has come out with another outstanding product doesn’t mean last month’s model isn’t going to serve you just as well (“but this one talks to me!”)

I realize there are temptations galore to buy the latest and greatest. To keep up with the neighbors, family and friends. But, there is another option.

Getting tired of it

After I was $40k in the hole and had lived well beyond my means, I reached a point where I was just sick of being so cash strapped that I finally hit the wall. Sometimes when you are in a situation for so long, it’s hard to imagine anything else. “Can it really be better than this?”

Let me tell you. It can be! Before crawling my way out of debt, I loved TV. I would watch it every moment I had. But when I got a get-out-debt plan, cable TV was the first thing to go. And, you know – a month or so into it – I didn’t miss it all. I actually cherished the new free time I had discovered!

This is the same with our penchant to buy and have the latest and greatest. Honestly, we have just grown accustomed to all this. We don’t know any better but to buy, buy and buy!

If you decide to stop following the crowd and stop buying – you will discover and cherish the feeling of being free from the grip of paycheck-to-paycheck living and the must-haves.

There is a better way.

 

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Aaron

Helped start Three Thrifty Guys with his friends Charlie and Mark after being inspired by how they lived their lives “on the thrift”. A designer by day, Aaron was once $40k in debt. After 5 years – he dug himself out and lives to tell about it. Aaron also blogs at the StarTribune

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