This post contains some colorful language and for that I do apologize.

I just need to rant a little bit on the state of things in regards to personal finance and the amount of spending and the amount of consumer debt people have these days.

I cannot help but think that a lot of people must be stupid. Okay maybe that is a bit harsh. What are they…? Uninformed? I don’t know.

I was born in 1970. I grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. My dad worked his entire life at a Michelin tire factory and my mom had decided to forgo her teaching career to be a stay at home mom. We had what I thought of as a very good, sort of middle class life. We had a house, new car and we were spoiled.  Life was just good. Kids played outside all the time. Neighborhood parents looked out for each others kids.  I never thought that we went without for anything because we didn’t.

My parents somehow managed to pay off their mortgage ahead of schedule. And this was the time of 18% interest rates!! Try and get your head around that.

And like I mentioned in my post about the biggest money mistakes to avoid, we always had a new car. But there was only one car in the driveway! All of this was done on one modest income.

Here’s the thing. There were no credit cards. There were no home equity line of credits. We did not take fancy vacations. And we didn’t care. We played games. My dad and I played catch. My friends and I played in the woods and played street hockey and built forts and went biking all over the place.

My parents had people over to play board games. Actual real people!! Is that even a thing anymore?

Some of my friends parents made more money and maybe I had some sense of this but hell I didn’t care. No one flaunted that fact. These were my best friends. And get this. Those best friends are still my best friends to this day. We still hang out. I think that is kind of cool. 40+ years later and still going strong. Anyway, I digress.

Now there were a lot of people in the town that did “have money”. People that had started car dealerships or businesses or had purchased income properties etc. But for the average working person it did not seem that people were spending money that they did not have. Maybe it happened but unlike today it wasn’t as prevalent.

People just seemed more frugal. They understood the value of a dollar. They did not go shopping as a pastime. Clothes were handed down from kid to kid. It seems that compared to today we all had more frugal, simpler, less flashy lives.

Consumerism was a thing for sure. This was the 1970’s and 80’s. Obviously people had credit cards. But not like today.

When I was growing up I thought money was for groceries and house repairs and maybe a new bike at Christmas. My best friend down the street did have an above ground pool put in at some point. But you know what? Even though his dad was a manager at the tire plant he also had some side hustles going on to make extra money! How cool is that? They didn’t spend foolishly either! No one in the neighborhood did as far as I could tell. I did not see it as something people flaunted. Again, unlike today!

So where the hell did we go wrong with understanding the value of a dollar? How did we forget how to be frugal? Why did we start spending more money than we earned?

It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Somewhere along the way the average person decided that having the appearance of wealth was more important that actually building real wealth.

We can blame marketers and advertisers for making us believe that our lives suck if we don’t have the newest cars or clothes. We can blame our schools for not teaching basic financial literacy(I call bullshit on that BTW). We can blame banks for allowing access to new, easy-to-obtain credit products. We can blame our governments for their monetary polices that lowered interest rates and allowed for damn near 0% interest loans!

But at the end of the day you have to look in the mirror and blame yourself. If you are in debt and living paycheck to paycheck, as 70%-80% of people are, then it is your fault.

Showing off fake wealth in the form of new cars and “toys” and bigger houses became the norm. It makes people feel important. After all it is all about “Keeping up With The Joneses”.  Don’t forget to post all that fake happiness shit on Facebook! Jesus we are a sad society.

Make no mistake. I fell into the consumerism trap as well. I went to college in another Nova Scotia town and walked into the local Sears department store and got myself a Sears charge card. I don’t even know why. I bought a fancy Hi-Fi VCR that turned out to be a piece of junk(of course it did). I bought it because I wanted to to feel important. I wanted my friends to think I was cool.

Read: Should I get Rid of Cable TV?

If memory serves me correctly I ignored the payments for a while. I cannot quite remember. Anyway I graduated and did not get a teaching job. I did end up with a job I liked and bought a house and I rented out rooms to friends to help pay the mortgage. Now this was actually kind of smart.

But then I met a girl. Uh-oh. She moved in and my friends moved out. Oh no! She had a son and then we had a baby. And so it begins. You start buying stuff. The house needs repairs. My income alone barely paid the mortgage. Bills add up, and before you know it you are in over your head.

Somewhere along the line I read two books that helped me see things differently from a personal finance point of view. Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The Wealthy Barber. It would still take many years to get things straightened out financially but that was at least a bit of an awakening for me.

All you need to care and worry about is you and your family. I am sorry to say this but fuck everyone else. To hell with what they have. My argument is always that I don’t really know their financial situation. I don’t know what their monthly payments are. Sure their life looks grand but how are they paying for all of that stuff?!

I value my freedom. I now earn my income through substitute teaching and I have small lawn care business that I LOVE. I get paid to exercise. Plus I am providing a service that people need and want. No it isn’t glamorous. IDGAF. I am debt free and I save for my retirement. I have a few shekels in the bank.

So if you want to get yourself to a better financial situation you need to check your ego at the door. You are going to have to change your entire mindset. You are going to have to embrace frugality. Our grandparents did it. And our parents did it although maybe to a slightly lesser degree in some cases. You will need to start doing it as well if you want a life of actual wealth.

I wonder what times were like in the “olden” years. My great grandparents and grandparents time. They are called “The good old days”. Maybe because it was a simpler time. It was not because things we easier. People worked hard and times were tough. The Great Depression happened. People raised chickens and pigs and that was where your actual food came from. People had gardens and baked their own bread. They did their own house repairs and car repairs or they had a friend who could help.

Back then thriftiness was actually valued!

I know that my paternal grandfather went to the USA for months at a time to work. All this while my grandmother was here with 3 young children to raise. Sweet merciful Jesus!

My maternal grandmother had 9 school aged children at home at the same time! How in the actual hell did that work?!

Back then if people worked hard and made some money maybe they actually started a business and earned their wealth. They were successful. Hard work paid off. And showing off that wealth was certainly a sign of status. Other people aspired to this standard.

And now here we are in 2019. Things are both fucking incredible and in the shitter at the same time!

Children have supercomputers in their pockets. You can access all of the knowledge of the world while sitting at home.

And most significantly, credit is so widely available that anyone with a heartbeat can sign up for tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Two feet and a heartbeat and you can get credit. Payday loan outfits and finance companies with loan shark level interest rates are in every town. You can lease furniture for crying out loud. And people willingly do this without even thinking about it!

Throw in a little planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence and you have people pretty much salivating at the chance to keep on buying stuff. It is baked right in to our very psyche.

Don’t believe me? Watch this clip.

 

You can buy anything you want, even if you have no money at all. People buy houses with an 80% mortgage, and then get a second mortgage for the other 20%. Cars are bought with zero dollars down and termed out for 7 or 8 years. And almost every single person does this.

Of course it is easy to follow the herd. Most of us are Sheeple after all.  If everyone is doing it it must be the right way to do things…right? It is so much fun to indulge and spend and drive your car that isn’t paid for to the restaurant for pizza and beer. This is what life is all about! YOLO!

And then you lay awake at night worrying about how you are going to make this months payments. You argue with your partner about the bills that are piling up. But life sure does look good from the outside doesn’t it?

There is a better way. It may not seem popular or even easy. But it actually is easier. And many studies show that spending less will make you happier.

There are people out there who have come to realize that spending money willy-nilly and buying everything on credit is complete bullshit. They have learned how to create a household budget. They have a spending and savings plan.

They see where they are wasting money and they come up with a plan to actually save a huge portion of their earnings.

It does take a strong person to commit to this new frugal way of living. You will need a lot of self discipline and you may not be popular with most people who just want to keep on spending.

I personally believe that rampant consumerism is ruining the lives of most people. Plus the planet is damn near done from an environmental standpoint. Consumerism is to blame for all of it and I do feel very badly about all of that. I have children and maybe someday I will have grandchildren. What the hell will it be like for them in the next few decades? Is it too late? I am am afraid it may be…

So the only reason to not live a frugal lifestyle is that you are basically too stubborn and/or too fucking stupid.

Are you willing to smarten the hell up and make a change in the way you live?

There are many people out there who have done it. And this community of like-minded frugality loving people love to show off how frugal they can be! They like showing off their 10 or 15 year old vehicles. They like to share stores of how they can feed a family of four for $200 a month.

When you choose to embrace this new way of frugal living you have something you can actually be proud of- you are showing others a path of sustainable and frugal living that anyone can live. Brag about that. Shout it from the roof tops.

There is so much more I could write here but let’s leave it at that for now, shall we?

What’s your story? How was money handled when you were growing up? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

14 thoughts on “How Did We Forget About Frugality?

  1. Just have to say, Mark, that I’m enjoying this series of posts you’ve been doing. I’m in agreement with you on our misplaced priorities and consumerism in society. It’s astonishing, really, how the average person lives with so much debt and how absolutely normal and seemingly necessary it is. Lots of food for thought here, and inspiration. Thanks!

    1. Wow. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I have been in a blogging rut lately but the personal finance aspect of things is something I have always been interested in. Hopefully others are getting some value from the posts as well. Thanks so much 🙂

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s