People Spending Money They Don’t Have

It’s called credit.

A better way to describe credit is “tomorrows money”.

The problem is, that when tomorrow comes, they are still spending “tomorrows money”.


I read a quotation recently that goes something like this. In rich countries today consumption consists largely of people spending money they don’t have, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like. I wonder if that strikes a chord with you. Sure, we all need a roof over our heads, we need food, we need clothes. But what about all that stuff that we accumulate, and end up throwing out. Do we really need it? And what’s the true cost, the human cost of our fixation of acquiring things? Most people are living with their credit cards maxed out, and the question that I have in my mind is, are we really happy? Does that sort of, sense of having to buy stuff all the time, give us the deep down contentment inside we so crave? Amazing the things that we can find to spend our money on, gold plated taps in our bathroom, luxury watches. I was reading a weekend magazine from one of the weekend financial papers and it was a magazine that was all about politics and power. And it’s amazing how many of those really, really expensive watches were advertised with full page glossy images of men on sailing boats and women at balls, and its just amazing. And these watches cost thousand of dollars. Or do we want to buy boutique ale; do we want a luxury yacht, a five star resort to have a holiday at, and what about our homes? Between 1985 and 2000 the average floor space in homes has increased by 31%, but the average family size has dropped. In 1955 the average family size was 3.6 people. In 1970 it was down to 3.3 people in the year 2000 it was down to 2.6 people. To put it another way, since 1970 the average space per person in the average house has more than doubled. Where do I get those stats from? A wonderful book that I’ve just read called Affluenza, written by Clive Hamilton and Richard Dennis. It’s published by Allan and Unwin. And really if you can get a hold of that book it is so worthwhile having a read. The scary thing with these big houses is that they contribute to our isolation. These massive houses on small blocks with these cavernous living rooms and big plasma screens. There are even homes with two kitchens nowadays. You can live in one of these homes and never see the other members of the family accept at meal times, if you happen to have meals together, (which by the way, a lot of families don’t anymore). And instead of just having a fridge, we have side by side refrigerators, we have super BBQ’s outdoors. You can spend six or seven thousand dollars on a BBQ these days. Somehow the level of desire, the level of what we aspire to has escalated over these last decades. And people think they have to spend thousands and thousands to get what they need. At the same time Hamilton and Dennis point out that the self storage industry is booming. We’ve got bigger houses, we’ve got more stuff, and yet we need self storage. In the USA self storage is growing by 10% per annum, while the economy is growing at 3% or 4%, and 75% of the customers are residential customers storing household stuff; they just can’t fit it in anymore. We can pay $500 for sunglasses, we can spend more on pet food each year (as we do in this country, in Australia), we spend more on pet food each year, than our government spends on foreign aid. When things like Tsunamis and earthquakes and all that stuff is happening out there. You can buy dog jewelry, you can by stuff to improve your dogs breathe, you get it? Something’s wrong. You might say to me, “Berni what’s all this left-wing kind of stuff that you’re having against comfort and wealth?” Not at all. You are listening to someone who has a nice house, in a nice suburb, I drive a nice car and not at the top of the end, I can’t afford that sort of stuff. I enjoy decorating I enjoy buying the odd painting and my wife Jacqui and I love doing that sort of stuff together. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of our labors. But I’m with Hamilton and Dennis when they write this in their book Affluenza. “It’s not money and material possessions that are the root of the problem, it’s our attachment to them and the way that they condition our thinking to give us our sense of self definition and they rule over our lives. The problem is not that people own things, the problem is that things own people.” Now this book affluenza isn’t a religious book, it’s a socio-political book, but actually what they’re writing here is a biblical principle. See often people quote this out of the bible; they say “money is the root of all evil”. You know those Christians have got it wrong, they’re wacco, they think that if anyone has any money they’re all wrong and its bad and its terrible and everyone should be poor if you’re going to be a Christian. It’s actually not what God says in the bible, what he says is the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. And that’s what Hamilton and Dennis are writing about. Somehow we’ve become intoxicated and unbalanced, we just have to have more stuff, we have to buy more stuff. The reason we’re talking about this, is not to say that every body should be poor and give all of their money away and live in grass huts. The reason we’re talking about this is that I believe we need a reality check. I truly believe that we need to stop and think about the way that we’re spending our money. Let me ask you a question. You know what your credit card looks like at the moment. Is it maxed out? Are you able to pay your credit card off at the end of each month, or are you caught up in 17, 18 19 percent interest rates on credit expenditure that you’ve made, for stuff? And when you look at that stuff now in the cold hard light of day you think “ohh I probably could have done with out it. I didn’t really need that fourteenth pair of shoes, I didn’t really need that latest gadget, I didn’t really, I just wanted to get the stuff because I enjoy shopping. People talk about retail therapy as though somehow shopping and spending on consumer goods that we may or may not use is good for you. Truly how are you spending your money? How wisely do you and I spend our money? When we look at the credit card statement at the end of the month, and by the way, a lot of people don’t look at their credit card statements because they’re so embarrassed and ashamed of what they’ve brought that they just never look at their credit card statement which is a dangerous thing to do. When was the last time you went through your cheque account statement, your credit card statement and you thought, “look at all the money I spent on that. Look at all the money that’s run through my hands my fingers like sand, and for what? What have I got out of it? What’s the benefit?” We like to think that we are pretty good at giving money to the underprivileged, and we’re pretty good at giving money to tsunami victims, we’re pretty good at giving money to the earthquake victims. But the reality is that as affluent nations, as the West we as individuals don’t actually give that much at all. If we just gave to the poor the same amount that we spend on pet food each week there would be a huge social revolution. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not some sort of rabid, picco, lefty, commo sort of person that is saying we shouldn’t have money. But I am saying is that we’re on a treadmill, we’re on a cycle of economic growth and consumer spending that we all as individuals need to stop and think about. I love where Jesus talks about the fact that he came to set the captive free, He came in order that we would have an abundant life. I truly believe that he didn’t mean that we should all be living in debt all the time. There’s nothing wrong with buying a house and having a mortgage and paying that mortgage, that’s and asset. But when we just let it all run through our fingers for stuff that ultimately we sell in garage sales, hardly used, exercise bikes and gym memberships, you name it. My challenge to you today is for you in your circumstances to think about what dominates you. What is it costing you? Are you really satisfied? Are you really satisfied? With all the expenditure, with all the buying, is something missing?




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