Mrs. Johnson was fond of saying, "Young people, if you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem."
If I heard it once I heard it 540 times.
Eventually Mrs. Johnson's inspiring talks tripped a wire deep in my brain: part of the problem, part of the problem, part of the problem...My future opened up before me.
I have been saying 'no' to stuff ever since.
I realized a few months ago--though it's probably not news to you--that a lot of people don't really want us to get out of debt. And that, unless there is a major overhaul of our nation's economic underpinnings, the actions we take to reduce our personal spending and debt will continue to piss some people off.
The U.S. economy's success is measured by production and consumption. Gross Domestic Product plus a low Consumer Price Index equals a happy country, so we are told. Make and buy stuff, and you get the right stuff: Jobs. Families. Opportunities. The ability to afford a home, an education, a child.
If everyone reduced their buying, then a lot of other people would have to reduce their making, and that'd be a problem.
That's why, infamously, then-President George Bush instructed the American people to go shopping after 9/11. Consumption has come to equal patriotism.
It's why 43 percent of American households spend more than they earn each year, and why the average American household carries as much as $15,000 in credit card debt--which will take 7 years to pay off at $300 per month, and only then if you don't charge a penny more.
The average college senior graduates with $4,000 in credit card debt. Total U.S. consumer debt is $2.45 trillion as of March 2010.
Despite the clear need to change our ways, our abiding love for the myth of the free market economy, coupled with the complete absence of performance measures other than the GDP and CPI, means that you and I, we Cheap Bohemians, are certainly not part of the sanctioned solution.
I still have a really long way to go before I fulfill my promise as a royal pain in the Free Market's ass. In fact, even after all the shell games, I am still essentially carrying exactly the U.S. average in non-mortgage debt.
Still. It's something to look forward to: being debt free, buying almost nothing, becoming part of the problem.
Climb on the back of my bad-ass payment cycle. You know you want to.
[source for all figures: CreditCards.com]