Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mixed Money Messages

A recent comment on my blog got me thinking about the mixed messages we get about money, and how they impact people's viewpoints.

It's interesting to me how many different messages there are out there about money. Does staying near a job with stable, healthy income mean you are materialistic? You might think so if you talk to folks who tell you it's happiness, not money that matters, and income isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Well, that's great, unless you can't figure out how to pay the bills.

But then, should you have all those bills anyway? Live on less.

Okay, which less? Phone? Electricity? Heat? Food?
The 'live on less' folks are right to an extent - our modern expectations are incredibly outsized. No one needs an iPod or a flatscreen. But I'm not becoming a breatharian to suit anyone, sorry. There's balance here.

So we shouldn't acquire them?
This is where things get sticky. There's an environmental and financial cost to everything we do. And we have to pick and choose. Should you not redo your kitchen? I don't know. I can't make that decision for you. I know that for me, not liking an appliance isn't sufficient reason to replace it - but it's breaking is. On the other hand, if our much-hated washing machine died tomorrow, I wouldn't be sad at having to replace it, not one bit.

I think the folks that replace their furniture every couple years because they feel like redecorating should consider the impacts to the world around them. Then again, I sort of like getting their fantastic, mildly used stuff at cheap prices. Still, it's clear the world can't support wanton acquisition.

Yeah, Moneypenny, we're renovation & acquisition happy in the US. What ever happened to being happy with what you have?
Good point. But even Pa Ingalls in the Little House on the Prarie books kept adding on to his house. This is not a new phenomena, it's just that access to stuff is unprecedented these days.

Like with all things, I believe in happy mediums.

I don't have a perfect answer. I think all you can do is think about what you really want and need. I can't choose it for you, and I don't have the perfect regulations to throw out there.

I do know that wanting a bathroom that doesn't leak water every time you shower and looks kind of nice too isn't a judgement-worthy item. And if you can afford marble subway tile, who am I to say you shouldn't, even though I think the mountains of Carrara, Italy might have looked nicer if they weren't chipped down so they no longer have true peaks.

And maybe that money would be better spent making sure the elderly widow in your neighborhood has enough heating oil for the winter. Yeah, yeah, I know you work hard for your money. Me too.

These are issues that I struggle with all the time - what's enough? At what point can people be judgy? What should be regulated? What's up to us to choose?

It's clear the market in free for all doesn't make good choices, but also clear that regulating things unilaterally often doesn't take into account that one size doesn't fit all.

I don't have answers, but I do know that assuming the worst about people's financial choices is something that has come out of all the mixed messages we get about money....and I don't think it makes us better people. There has to be a better way - banding together to help each other make good choices, rather than tearing each other down for making different ones.

What do you think?

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