They say that it is impossible for a family to live on one income. They say you need a bigger house for the tax deduction. They say schools need to budget for palm pilots for students, even though they can't afford to pay the teachers. They say that you need a compact car because we're going to run out of gas. They say you need a big SUV so you'll be safe on the road. They say you need to be a vegetarian or you'll die. They say you should eat a lot of meat so you'll lose weight or you'll die.
Over the centuries, human beings have been compared to sheep over and over again. I never cease to be amazed at how true that is. If one sheep decides to head down a road that goes right over a cliff, they all follow. Even in history when people march and demand the right to be individuals, they still always seem to dress and act alike. Remember the "flower children" of the 60s? Even with their "free to be me" attitude, they were horrified if a man walked in with a suit and tie, since it was different from what they would wear.
If children are doing drugs, drinking or just wearing strange outfits, they justify it because "everyone is doing it." So often, the parents' response is "If everyone jumps off a cliff, that doesn't mean you should do it, too." Is that the story we tell them with our actions? Kids are very shrewd and have no tolerance for hypocrisy. We hurt our families and ourselves if we blindly follow the crowd. "They" (I still haven't figured out who "they" are, but I don't think I like "them" or "their" ideas.) have set a standard of living that we must live by, no matter what the cost.
"They" say you can't live on one income. Many moms who strongly feel that it is best for their families if they stay home get jobs outside the house because "they" say "you can't make it." Never mind that the extra expense of child care, work clothes and (for many) "guilt offerings" purchased for their kids often exceed the extra income. "They" say that's the way it's supposed to be.
How many dads have become only figures the kids wave good-bye to in the morning before heading off to two jobs because "they" say that is the world in which we live. Too many people who do this find that later in life their marriages are suffering, their kids are rebellious and resentful of their absence and the employer for whom they've invested all their time "providing" for the family lays them off.
"They" say you have to pay to send your children to college so they can become a success and make a lot of money. When did "they" come up with the idea that going to college makes a person successful? How many parents have accrued $40,000 in debt for their son or daughter's degree, only to find the student working in a field that has nothing to do with his degree? Certainly, a college education can be a useful tool, but it is one that is wasted if the student doesn't need it or fails to use it.
I find that the most successful human beings are those whose parents spent time with them and had the time to teach them values, self confidence, self reliance and love. You can always lose your stuff, but you can't lose your values or the knowledge that your parents love you.
Stop basing your financial decisions on what "they" think you should be doing. Financial worries are the biggest cause of stress for Americans, leading to all sorts of physical and emotional problems. These worries are almost always avoidable, but many choose the worries over the common sense.
The point of this story is not that you should never spend any money on anything. The point is that it is important that you decide whether or not spending your time or money some particular way is a good idea for your family. Keep in mind that when "they" tell you that you should do something, "they" are often trying to sell you something you don't really need.
Whenever you find yourself reflecting on your life and you realize you are doing something because "they" expect you to do it, tell "them" to butt out of your life, decide yourself what is really best for you and your family and do it!
Jill Cooper is a frugal living expert and the co-editor of LivingOnADime.com/. As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income.
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