Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Hey, Kids, Don't Be a Debt Slave!"

Greetings, Gentle Reader. 

I was witness to many things while living in residence for two years that damaged my faith in humanity, but nothing more galling than the sight of financial institution weasels hawking credit card applications to kids like Vince in a "Slap-Chop" ad.

Thank God my parents beat a healthy fear of credit into my head.  Otherwise, in addition to crippling student loans I would have been burdened with several more in-hock albatross (albatri?) around my neck upon the occasion of my post-secondary rebirth.  I often wonder how many of my peers fell prey to these slave masters during a moment of weakness and eventually suffered for it down the road.

When I left university, my student loan was nothing compared to the burden of others.  Mercifully, my summer jobs and the intervention of my generous parents helped me avoid being completely buried by a nigh-insurmountable crush of financial responsibility in the form of an original sin promissory note.  When I began working for Sears for twelve hours a week you can imagine my horror when I began to receive statements from the bank regarding what percentage of my payments were going to interest and how much was going towards paying down the primary.

Great was the day when I marched up to the bank and cleared the last vestiges of the Cosa Nostra-like arrangement  I had with these suit-clad crooks.  I also vowed never to be a debt-slave ever again.

See, the funny thing is, even after you've cleared student-loan hurdles, banks and other financial institutions keep throwing credit cards and lines of credit at you so that you might stay in the lurch indefinitely.  The media, advertisers and peers alike keep you in a constant state of want, buying crap that has nothing to do with day-to-day need.  I defer to my pal, "Too Much Coffee Man" to illustrate.

Back in my university days a friend of mine was known to espouse his "thatched hut theory".  He maintained that as long as you could live in a thatched hut on a warm beach someplace, with access to food, clean water and  basic health care, while working a simple menial job like making stone fences, with the ability to get drunk periodically with friends, you'd be eternally happy, since we're all born of the village/community experience.

At the time I'd always upset his existential apple cart by telling him: "Yeah, that's great an all, but how does my Super NES fit into all that?"

It was a terrible thing to say but I really believed it at the time.  

But vehicles, clothes, furniture, houses, big screen televisions, ride-on lawnmowers, appliances, patio sets, extravagant weddings and breeding like rabbits all keep us firmly locked into the vicious circle of living beyond our means.  What cost $1.00 in 1950 cost $8.82 in 2009.  Back in the Fifties somebody could work in a supermarket bagging groceries, get in their modest car at the end of the day, drive back home to their simply-appointed house, and spend the evening with his stay-at-home spouse and three kids quite happily.    

Now, since inflation is so crippling and we're totally addicted to spending beyond out means, we're often forced to ask "can we have another?" every time our employer kicks us in the pants.  "Whattaya gonna do about it, drone?  Leave?  You can't leave, you got big bills to pay, sucka!"  Quite often both parents have to work just to make ends meet, leaving strangers and their kid's friends to raise their own offspring.

In order to get off the treadmill I've had to make some sacrifices.  I'm not a home owner since things have been so intolerable at work for the past three years that I've seriously contemplated not coming back the next day.   I haven't dropped thousands of dollars on a high-mast wedding.  I drive an economy car.  I don't have any kids (but my inability to voluntarily hand over a video game controller to my hypothetical heir is actually the biggest stumbling block there).  I've saved a few shekels and, in turn, become liberated and self-determining.

It's admittedly kinda sucked to have lived for the past three long years feeling as if my next work day could be my last.  I want to invest in a house.  I want to travel more.  Every time I watch a terrible McDonald's ad like this:

...I can't help but think that I'd make an infinitely better dad than some of these schmucks.  

My own theory has always been: I can't make someone else happy if I'm not happy.  

So there you go.  It's not too late to stop spending needlessly.  And that's your homework assignment, folks: 

Find your happy.  

EPIC: Some sage advice for crawling your way out of debt. 


FAIL: The sad truth about Canadian household debt

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