Are you thinking about money this morning? That's what most people are doing--fretting over how much they have to spend and where they can find the best deals. Money should be the first thing on your mind today and, conversely, the last.
In case you hadn't heard, Black Friday has an alter ego: Buy Nothing Day. It's a loosely organized event designed to help you unplug from money for a day. No transactions. No gifts. No buying gas. I like it and advocate it, though I won't be a strict adherent today. I have a car with a bad axle and I need to fix it. So after I finish this article I'm on my way to Autozone. No gifts for me, but I will spend $60 on a car parts.
The Enquirer has a story about Christmas shopping and how parents are having to explain to their kids that Santa's on a budget this season. To me, this illustrates that the kids have been taught (as most of us were) to expect a slurry of gifts (which is crazy) instead of a simple token of affection and that the most important aspect of the holiday is what you get out of it (as opposed to what you can give of yourself).
Yuck. All that filthy money.
It's crazy that we're encouraged to spend more than we have and to embrace a culture of credit. It's a way we fuck over our future selves, delaying pain of debt instead of delaying gratification. It's the reason that we're in a recession.
Ideally, even in the context of a whacked acculturation that teaches us to embrace excess, we should try and drive money out of the picture. It should be the last thing on your mind. Most of us have the day off and you could, y'know, spend some time with people we love.
In the real world, axles break and the fridge goes empty. Transactions are important parts of our relationships and keep everything moving. In this way, in the world in which we live, money should be first in your mind--how to live within your means and avoid buying junk.
CNN Money has a bullet list of fiscally responsible demands, asking the new congress to address that other financial mess, the one in our wallets. It includes crazy ideas like outlawing credit cards for kids under 21 who don't earn income, transparency in closing costs and counting payments as on-time if they arrive on their due date (that's not always the case, believe it or not).
And as we (hopefully) make these legislative changes, let's change ourselves, too. Economic reform truly starts at home.