If you listen closely around the urban corridors of this land you will hear the faint sounds of belts loosening. We’re spending again!
Retail sales have crept up in most categories, notably in footwear (gotta cover those tootsies), appliances and furniture. And as the dollar teases parity, cross border shopping is, once again, becoming a weekend pastime.
But with those numbers comes the question — Why are we spending? A surprising number of people buy stuff in order to keep pace or face with family, friends or co-workers. This kind of spending can put you on a path to debt and dissatisfaction.
One couple I worked with had a circle of friends who went out for a fancy dinner together every couple of weeks, continuing a tradition they’d developed pre-kids. With babysitters, drinks, tips etc. they were blowing nearly $500 a month, money they simply didn’t have. The cost just kept mounting up on their credit cards.
After agonizing about their situation, they fessed up. To their surprise they found everyone was experiencing similar difficulties with their enjoyable habit. But no one wanted to be the first to say, “We can’t afford this anymore.” One of the wives actually wept with gratitude at having their big secret out in the open.
The same group still meets regularly, but now they take turns hosting. The kids are stashed in the family room with a sitter hired for the group, the food is potluck, the drinks are BYOB and the entertainment is, wait for it, board games. Each week a different couple dusts off one of the boxes they have stashed in the basement. Clue, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, Cranium, Mastermind, Balderdash. Fun!
Another couple were part of a yacht club crowd. They kept up the membership, even after the husband was downsized, for fear of losing their friends and, even worse, looking like losers.
Two years after selling their boat they have a whole new set of friends who kayak.
– Alison Griffiths is a financial journalist, author and host of Maxed Out on the W Network. Write to her at email@example.com.