In the earlier chapters of my life, I seldom asked “Do I really need this?” It was because money was so scarce that my family bought only the needed items, no extras. For example, I buy one pair of shoes big enough so that it would last the whole school year, even though my feet grows 2 sizes during the year. We bought food and ration out exact measurements so we stretch the budget. A gift of a simple t-shirt becomes an object of awe due to its rarity.
I am presenting these spending habits not to be judgmental but to present something which I hope would get you thinking about buying tendencies and make decisions on your next purchase based on your own research and critical thinking and not due to the relentless bombardment of print, TV and electronic media advertising (not to mention the social pressures of tradition).
We will cover only a few this time around.
Cars – Do we really need to get a car with overwhelming electronic gadgetry? For example, handheld navigation devices are much cheaper than built in devices and you can take it hiking or offroad (depending on the model). The DVD player, navigation, satellite radio, bluetooth connection, etc. all add to distracting us from the activity that we should be doing in the first place: driving! That’s why it’s been proven that these distractions in general causes more traffic accidents than ever. California now is pioneering driverless cars. Do we really want to rely on electronics for our own safety? What if there’s a computer malfunction?
Smart Phones: those devices can be good for organizing (as long as they don’t crash or run out of power), plays good video games (do we really need entertainment all the time?), and enable us to communicate with friends at an instant (at the expense of ignoring those sitting around us in the dining table). What’s worse, is when the new model comes out, people even camp out just to be the first one to purchase (at a very high price), only to repeat it 12 months later when the new model comes out. Things are purposely made to be obsolete in a shorter time span now in order to promote consumerism.
Engagement Rings: I would probably get a lot of grief over this from the ladies, but a lot of cheering from the guys! Diamond is actually a very common gem available in our planet earth. There’s a few groups that cornered the diamond market, controls its supply and introduction to the market so that it would be scarce. Less supply = more demand = higher prices. There’s a lot of people who gets killed in the diamond trade, hence the term “blood diamond” which means that stone you may be buying was at the expense of somebody else’s life. But since ads shows a gorgeous looking lady in a formal attire being given a ring by a very handsome man in a suit, inside a $500 a plate restaurant, we fantasize that we can be looking exactly like them or that we are entitled to that kind of lifestyle too. Then the jewelers give you a formula to adhere to when buying engagement rings: two months salary worth of wedding ring, just to make sure that you spend more – if your income is higher! For your relationship, if a ring is important, maybe you can substitute a plain thin metal ring. But a ring no matter how huge, how clear the diamond, how precise the cut – is no substitute to the daily commitment to making the relationship work. Relationships must be strengthened daily by conscious action, not by what Tiffany’s told you on their catalog.
Sports equipments – there are bicycles out there that are about as expensive as brand new 2012 Honda Civic. Riders want to copy professional bike racers but they only copy the equipment, not the hardships that they have to go through to be a bike racer. There are Golf drivers that are $2,500 each. Golfers think that it will add 30 yards to their swing without additional practice. Then they turn around and cheat at their scores anyway. There are basketball shoes from $150 to $300. Most buyers are kids of average income families, who doesn’t have much “disposable” income. There’s even fights erupting when buying those basketball shoes, causing injuries and havoc from Washington state to Georgia. It’s OK if the people buying them can actually afford them, but “afford” really means you can pay for it in cash and you don’t owe anybody anything.
Sports tickets – watching sports in TV takes out a lot of our productive time. When you buy a sports arena or stadium ticket, it’s normally over $100 for the ticket alone (for a seat where you need a telescope to enjoy the game), then there’s food for maybe $50 for each person and beer for $10 per plastic cup. Then you have to buy a jersey, a t-shirt, or a patch to remember the game for another $50 or so, maybe more. At the end of the game, your team loses, you are out $350. and you feel miserable. Then the team owner with a net worth in the hundreds of millions has the audacity to ask your city to tax you so they can build a stadium for the sports team they own. The city then finds out years later that due to their lack of business savvy, they have to pay millions of dollars a year to the team owner because the stadium is not getting filled (and the city guaranteed that it will be full all the time). It’s a lose-lose situation for the city and the taxpayer.
There are countless other things that may fall under the banner of the title of this post. The important thing is whenever we are purchasing something over a certain amount, we should always ask ourselves, do we really need this? Most of the purchases above are desires, not needs. There’s only basic materials necessities: food, clothing and shelter (and maybe transportation in our modern age, if public transportation is not reliable).
There was a man who said something like this (I am sorry but I cannot find the exact quote now and I even googled it but I can’t find it):
A man’s wealth is not based on the the abundance of the things he possesses but on the things that he can do without.