Are you the last of the big-time spenders? Or do you hang onto your dollar coins so tight the loon screams?
We Canadians, I would have to say, are not, in general, very thrifty. The standard of living of the average household, compared with the ones of my childhood and early adult years, is absolutely astounding. The size and grandeur of the houses and vehicles, the quantity of indoor and outdoor furnishings, appliances and adult “toys” amaze me. And though I like to consider myself non-materialistic, I see that somehow over the many decades I have accumulated quite a pile of goods and chattels.
Well, now and then our national or provincial economy goes into a slump. Governments come out with austere budgets, cutting services and raising taxes. And they remind the rest of us to expect some downgrading. “Everyone must share the pain” is the message; be prepared to give something up.
So, loyal citizen that I am, I’ve given considerable thought as to what I should sacrifice. I came up with the following:
Never will I buy another luxury sports car.
No more going out to movie theatres.
Domestic beer only, no fancy imported ones.
I will put only cheese on my crackers--no caviar.
Well, I thought, what a bold start. Proudly I showed my list to Esther.
“Ha!” she snorted. “Of course you can’t buy ANOTHER luxury sports car; you haven’t bought the first one yet. We haven’t been to a movie in a theatre for at least two years. You don’t like imported beers and you hate caviar. Some sacrifice!”
“Surely it’s the thought that counts, I replied. “At least I’ve made a start.” Then I told her it was her duty as a citizen to join the effort as well, and offered a few little suggestions. She could save on dish soap by using less and scrubbing harder. She could save fuel by finding alternate transportation for her appointments (she has a perfectly good bicycle). She could save electricity by cutting out baths and showers (dumping a bucket of soapy water over the head would work just as well)
She listened carefully, then stared at me for a long time – so long it made me nervous. Then, very quietly, she said that yes, she had been considering a few cutbacks too. Such as not making me bacon and eggs for breakfast on weekends any more (cornflakes are cheaper and don’t incur the expense of cooking). We could increase our cash reserves by selling our riding mower and weed trimmer (I could do our two-acre yard with hedge clippers).
Also she would lend me her bike for my trips to the little bar in the next town (where I occasionally conduct research on social issues). When she got to the part about getting rid of my dog and replacing it with a hamster or something I stopped her and suggested we both forget the whole thing if she couldn’t be rational about it.
Kidding aside, this topic gives rise to some serious considerations. Too much overspending has resulted in serious debt problems for governments and individuals. Extravagant consumerism puts a strain on natural resources and often results in horrific and eventually unsustainable pollution and waste.
Yet consumer spending supports businesses, provides employment for citizens and a tax base for government. That supplies revenue for governments to provide education, health services, infrastructure and programs to supply social services for the elderly, the poor, the unwell, the disadvantaged.
Somehow we need to find ways to accommodate both those considerations. And there won’t be any simple solutions. Not from me anyway.