Thursday, December 22, 2005

We're Not Doing Our Part

If the US economy folds, it's our fault. I admit it here and now. Send the men with the handcuffs.

Ten years ago in Graduate Business School, I learned for the first time in some detail how much our economy depends on Consumer Spending. I was amazed at the time and nothing in the economic structure has materially changed since then. No wonder that over the decades the push has been harder and harder to increase consumer debt and that it takes a dual incomes to maintain a standard of living.

Everyone knows this at some gut level or maybe consciously as well. We are constantly shocked at the cost of things today versus some vague yesterday. The dollar never buys as much now as it used to. This train never backs up, it only moves forward. I don't know the numbers but it seems more and more and more families send their kids off to government schools and both parents, if there are still two left, trot off to work to maximize their income so they can maintain the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed. I'm sure to many, or most, it seems it's not so much to maintain a lifestyle as it is to minimize the degradation. All that work and associated spending is great for the economy. As long as we can maintain the spending, we'll be fine.

This is where we're not doing our part to prop up the economy. Before our first child was born we purposed to live in a way to enable my wife to stay home with our children. We knew this would mean a "lower" standard of living than our counterparts, less stuff, a smaller house, no new cars, etc... We practiced that lifestyle for a year or two before our daughter arrived, trying out ways to budget and track expenses as well as belt-tighten. By the time maternity leave was over, we were ready to make the big leap into a one-income household.

Through the years since then, we have known good times and slightly lean times but we have never, ever had to do without necessities. We've driven old cars except for the time we were expatriates and my company provided us with new vehicles. Our houses have always been smaller than our peers' and we perpetually barely fit into them. But we know people scraping by worse than us which keeps us humble when we begin to think we aren't getting "what we should" be getting. Paul says it best in Philippians 4 when he writes, "12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

This is one of the many guideposts by which we live in daily contentment with what we have. This is what gives us peace of mind, most of the time, when we see others driving nice, new cars or living in wonderful, large, new homes. We are weak humans, though, and occasionally we will feel some envy. Then we remind ourselves how blessed we are that our children are at home with us, that they are well-adjusted, well-mannered, respectful, bright, talented, and fun young people and best of all they are inheriting our faith in the LORD right before our eyes.

And in truth, all of our needs are more than met at all times. I have been blessed with good-paying jobs even if there have been small bumps on that road from time to time and we had a marvelous two years living as expatriates in Europe. I don't feel sorry for us, nobody should feel sorry for us, the blessings of the LORD are abundant in our lives and I feel humbled to receive such bounty from my Savior.

Meanwhile, though, we're not doing our part for the economy. Sorry. We bought Christmas presents for our kids and our extended family this year and as you can see in earlier posts we dropped a wad at Disneyworld. But we drive used cars, one with over 100,000 miles on it and our home was built the same year I was born. That would make it not a new home.

I wonder what a United States with reigned in consumer spending, and therefore lower consumer debt, would look like. I bet we wouldn't see prices increasing year on year like they have for so long. I bet more of us would learn to be content with less, many by necessity perhaps. For those who struggle now or those who would struggle in that case, I offer the peace that passes understanding through Jesus Christ. You will be transformed through a renewing of your mind.

It's amazing what you can live without.


At 01 February, 2006 07:39, Blogger Christy said...

Thank you for such an encouraging post. Would you mind if I linked to it for a post of my own on a similar topic within the next couple days? I have some thoughts brewing. *laugh*
- Oh, and we're not doing our part, either. *grin*


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