A few posts ago I wrote a cheeky item on how money will keep circulating no matter how dumb capitalists are.
My credit card bill this month was about half what it usually is, and about what I would like it to be every month. Despite spending too much on groceries because each time feels like it could be the last, and too much on restaurant delivery, and a few treats online, it was still the kind of bill that lets you breath a lovely sigh of relief.
I did not have any big charges this month, which helped a lot. Many months there are business charges which I budgeted for but still make the total way too high – I hate having to use my savings which are intended for this purpose to pay for these things – insurance, licenses – things I need to make my living.
Still, with even lower vehicle gas charges than usual, without meeting friends out for lunch or dinner, without impulse shopping with my adult kid (I’m a generous mom) without the very odd I’ve-worked-hard-and-I-deserve-it treat, this month’s bill was soothingly low for me.
I feel for businesses – small businesses, which I do try to support over big chains – and restaurant servers, hair stylists, hot dog vendors – and wish them the best in getting that government support that is talked about. But I feel also that we needed to stop spending money. Our society is so dependent on it for us to feel busy and productive and like good parents and to fill that empty space where our souls used to be.
I stopped to buy some wine and beer on my way home from a patio-6-feet-distanced meeting with clients. It turned out to be a nightmare shopping experience that I won’t risk again – an elderly woman with many bottles of hard liquor in her cart, kept pushing by me in the too tight aisles, even after I asked her not to. But the thrill I felt pulling up to the store and anticipating the eye-candy, the choices to be made, the delicate balancing of want and ability to pay, took me back to pre-COVID days, when simply spending money made me feel awesome.
I believe our economies are based on spending, not producing; consumerism drives production, not need or trade. We buy too much, and Gen Z and millennials already know that they can’t do this. Even without COVID, economies would have had to change as baby boomers aged out, post-baby boomers maxed their mortgage capacity, and the following generations chose not to live in debt.
Why are car companies sacharinely offering 6 months free payments on new cars right now? Who needs a car right now, when we are venturing out only once a week and have time to walk to local suppliers? I admit, when I see the ads, I think it would be nice to send both our twenty-year-old cars to the landfill and drive a nice, shiny, new-smelling car for free for 6 months. I work in the financial world and even I am tempted, knowing that new car purchases are the worst financial decision people make, and that paying $269 every two weeks for the next 7 years is indentured servitude. In the end you have nothing except the freedom to do it again.
New car sales are one of the items that the government follows to judge how the economy is doing. If car sales are down, it’s bad news – recession. How did this happen? That the value of a nation is based on the sale of over-priced private transport. Car prices are wildly out-of-proportion with inflation, which reflects the reality that car companies make money on the financing, not on the product itself. Since people stopped buying cars with cash, car sales have become the acceptable MLM of our day. Our economy should not be measured on the questionable value of what is illegal under any other measure – a pyramid scheme. Add $5000 to the price of what you are buying and the upline makes their goal.
With a bit of grit, maybe we the consumer can change the value of our own economies. If we buy what we need as directly as we can from the businesses that provide it, instead of supporting gigantic corporate structures (Costco, I’m looking at you), that make money for the sake of making money by monopolizing the supply chain and clear-cutting the toilet paper we buy. It will cost more to support small business, but we will buy less, so it will even out. The budget will look after itself.