“After a ten-year bender of gaudy dreams and godless consumerism, Americans are starting to trade down….Upscale is out; downscale is in…Flaunting money is considered gauche….In place of materialism, many Americans are embracing simpler pleasures and homier values. 'I think that people (says one theologian) are going to look back at today as a hinge period in the country's history.'”
Sound familiar? That assessment is as up-to-date as today's headlines, but as dated as the week it appeared, in the April 8, 1991 issue of Time Magazine. It was written at the tail end of an eight-month recession and the beginning of a long period of borrowing and spending. If the trend to the simple life had a lasting impact, it escaped my attention, and, I suspect, yours as well.
Maybe it's time to rethink the simple life, but with a new sense of purpose. Many of us face two alternatives: increase our income or reduce our spending. With millions of jobs lost and retirement savings cut in half, increasing our income may be a pipe dream. The only realistic alternative may be to downshift to a more appropriate lifestyle.
The economic downturn is testing the resiliency of America's families. There is no greater source of family conflict than money. A survey by Citibank once found that 57 percent of divorces “stem from arguments over money.” Simple living gives us the chance to shift our focus from money and possessions to happiness and a sense of purpose.
But to avoid repeating the 1991 “trend” that wasn't, it's important to start small and maintain a sense of balance. Cutting the family budget is like cutting back on eating. Crash diets don't work. That's why they are often called “yoyo diets.” They are so extreme, we can't sustain them. So our weight goes up and down, up and down, just like a yoyo. In the same way, paring our budgets should start small and continue to build. The objective is balance, a reasonable compromise between what we want and what we really need.
One way to think about balancing our “needs” and our “wants” is the concept of “superfluous income.” The concept provides a good rule of thumb for measuring the amount of possessions we need for a decent life. Albino Barrera, O.P., an economist and theologian at Providence College, mentions two ways of thinking about superfluous income. On the one hand, we can think of it as an amount of income that's more than we need to maintain what's required by what was once called “our station in life.” On the other hand, we can measure our income and our possessions against the needs of others.
This second way of thinking about superfluous income is what drives so many people to give substantial amounts of time and money to others. Economists use a term called “opportunity costs.” We can snosis,attraction,meditation & Psychic Energy'>Mind Force Library-hypnosis,attraction,meditation & Psychic Energy