Friday, February 01, 2008

No Strings for Me

When we sold our old Victorian house to the ladies from Arizona, we left them a box of things they might need, plus a few little gifts. One of these gifts was a bottle of wine. As we toured the house with them one last time right before closing, one of the ladies noticed the wine, and, a little flustered, said something about not being able to drink it because she was a recovering alcoholic. Ed laughed and said he was one too, so they would just have to find someone else who would enjoy it. Thank goodness there are recovering alcoholics wise enough to know the sensible course of action.

Well, I’m Carol Tiffin James and I’m a recovering consumer. For many years I let spending get the better of me. I have had the acquisition fever, with its never-ending wants and out-of-control accumulation. Three years ago I started on the journey to simplicity, trying to curb my consumer’s appetite for stuff, concentrating more on downsizing, frugality, people over things, all the goals that I list to the right of this post. On the journey, I have learned how to appreciate the present moment and achieve a sense of peace and contentment.

Then what happens? The federal government wants to send Ed and me several hundred dollars in a massive rebate package.

Now, this would ordinarily please me, as you might imagine. We are paying extraordinary bills for heating in Maine these days, high prices for gasoline, food, and every other necessity of life. We have debts like everyone else; we’re feeling the pinch with the rest of the middle class. Now, I’m not going into the financial pros and cons about the decision to issue the rebate. That’s not my point here. What greatly disturbs me about the whole thing, however, is that those in power are urging us to spend this money. Not on necessities, but on “stuff” or luxuries. They don't want us to pay the oil bill; they want us to buy things or services that we wouldn't have bought otherwise. “By a new big screen TV, take a trip to Disneyland” are two of the pieces of advice I read. “Spend and acquire! Go shopping! You know how to be a consumer par excellence - now go out and be one - for the good of the economy, for the good of the country!” They are waving the flag with one hand and dispensing wads of bills with the other.

OK, I can understand their reasoning. But I just can’t do it. Call me unpatriotic, but right now I must tend to the needs of myself and my family. I will consider that money (if it ever comes!) as a gift, no strings attached, and I will do with it what I consider prudent in our circumstances, whether it is paying a bill or putting it in savings. As much as I would love to spend it all at for books and DVDs or go to the quilt store (my personal consumer heaven), I will have to restrain myself.

Consumer restraint is not something the government and businesses want to hear. I already messed up my piece of the economy during Christmas by making most of my gifts instead of buying them. I have spent the last few years learning to curb spending in order to enjoy life more fully, and I’m not about to let the federal government undo all my hard work.

So I hereby sincerely apologize for my unpatriotic behavior. I won’t refuse the bottle of wine, as I would enjoy being able to buy a couple of books, but I won’t get "drunk," either. I have to be sober to walk the road to simplicity, else I take a wrong turn and forget where I was going altogether.


Cuidado said...

Why does the government issue rebates and does everyone get one?

Carol Tiffin James said...

They're doing it to jumpstart the American economy, thinking if all these consumers have some money to spend, they'll spend it. There is an income limit to who gets it, only those who pay taxes gets it, and the Senate is determing whether to extend it to disable veterans and Social Security recipients, I believe. There's also some kind of rebates for businesses.