Living debt free isn’t easy. Well, at least not in the United States.
Our culture of entitlement makes it hard to resist collecting things we can’t afford.
You can point to several culprits that encourage Americans to overspend: the consumer based economy, the wide availability of credit, or the collective lack of discipline to properly manage our money.
Today I just wanna keep it simple.
So, who or what do I think is to blame for the I-deserve-it attitude that so many of us fall victim to? Television.
Think about your favorite television shows. Now consider whether the characters, based on their profession, can realistically afford their lifestyle.
I know it’s not real, but the average American watches FIVE hours of TV per day.You can’t ignore the influence it has on our lives.
One of my favorite shows, of all times, was the HBO original series, Sex and the City.
As a young, single career woman, I strongly identified with Carrie Bradshaw. I understood her desires, her quirks, her frustrations. She totally got me. And since I was miserable living in family oriented Orlando, Florida, I desperately wanted a change.
At one point in my early twenties, I was obsessed with moving to New York City and enjoying an incredible life similar to that of Carrie Bradshaw.
The fact that I ended up relocating to the Washington, D.C metro area is beside the point. Try to stay focused.
After talking to a few New York City based headhunters about job prospects and checking out apartments on Craigslist, I realized something. HBO lied. Carrie didn’t get me at all. Like her creator, she was a liar too.
I’d shamefully bought into the fantasy that you can work from home 5 hours a week as a columnist of a local New York City newspaper and bring in enough cash to pay for a Brownstone apartment on a tree lined street of the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
I thought you could buy $400 shoes, eat out almost every single day, and not have to worry about getting molested on a packed New York City subway during rush hour.
If you so desired, you could smoke a pack or two of $11 cigarettes per day and enjoy the same lifestyle as an art dealer (Charlotte), a partner in a law firm (Miranda), a PR executive (Samantha) and a talent agent (Stanford).
Yes. You can afford everything the most expensive city in America has to offer that’s generally reserved for the upper echelons of society.
No. You don’t have to use public transit. You don’t need to cook or buy your shoes from PayLess. Forget about living with a roommate in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Your place is in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods on the island of Manhattan.
HBO sold it. We bought it.
The realization that it was all a big, fat, filthy lie was a little heartbreaking. I expect shampoo and conditioner manufacturers to exaggerate the benefits of their products. But this…It was almost too much.
When I picked up the entire season of Sex and the City from Target, I thought I was buying entertainment. What I really bought was a dream – a way to escape my everyday life. No doubt countless other single and fabulous (?) women bought this dream too.
It’s all in good fun until you don’t wake up. Media companies are such geniuses at selling a ficticious life, we waltz right into a restaurant or a shoe store or a nail salon half asleep. We don’t wake up to the reality that we can’t afford the life we’re living. And so, we spend unconsciously. We go into debt.
I mean, after all, other “people” just like us can have these things. Why can’t we?