I often think about the spending habits of different generations. I have only been alive for 42 years, but from what I have heard and read, previous generations did not seem to be as free-wheeling as people are today with their money. Well, maybe not going back one generation, but a few generations…
Let me explain. I spent a lot of time with my grandma, who was born in 1904, and her generation was the epitome of frugal. They had survived the Depression, wars, and things that people my age cannot fathom nor appreciate. After she passed, I sorted through some of her items, and she had a little black book detailing each of her expenses. The items she specified were almost exclusively fixed expenses, there was not much discretionary spending in there at all.
Flash forward many years later to my generation, and it is a much different story. For many, it seems that ‘extra’ spending takes priority. People pay the minimum on their credit card and then end up buying an Ipad or whatever strikes their fancy. There seems to be a ‘live for today’ mindset, instead of ‘prepare for the future’.
So what is the reason for such a difference in attitude? I think part of it is how easy it is to spend money. I remember for me personally, I received many credit card offers while I was in college, and especially after graduation. Providing a college student with credit can be a recipe for disaster. It isn’t bad enough to offer credit, but also allowing kids to then withdraw cash from their credit card like they would a debit card can also be destructive. I did have to resort to that a couple times while I was in college, and I really paid for it in interest charges. In addition, I remember back to when I was pre-approved for a mortgage. The amount that we were approved for was way more than we were comfortable spending. However, I know many people bought houses right up to the upper limit they were allowed. I would hate to think of where we would be now had we bought a much more expensive house. We would definitely be underwater given how much house prices have plummeted. What a depressing thought.
In addition, I think the media may be somewhat to blame. All these television programs that show the glamorous life of teens and young adults that seem to have it all. What they don’t show is that reality is nothing like that. But many people strive for some ‘ideal’ that really does not exist.
Finally, part of the reason I live in a generation of spenders may be that there are so many interesting things to buy these days. When I was in college, I wanted a Sony Walkman. I think it cost about 30 dollars. Now, the items that kids want are way more expensive. Xboxs, Ipads, Ipods, flat screen tvs, you name it. These are not small ticket items! So many kids have television sets and computers in their rooms, and all those items are very expensive. When my grandma was raising my dad, fancy electronics did not exist. There was no line item in her ledger marked ‘new laptop for sonny’. However, I have a feeling that even if laptops did exist back then, my grandma would not be buying one for my dad.
Unfortunately, I know that I too have probably overspent on things I should not have. I cannot even imagine comparing my ledger (if I had one) against my grandma’s! At least we do pay off our credit cards every month and our last remaining debt is our mortgage. But I do know that we could improve too.