By Caitlin Kelly
A recent piece in The Wall Street Journal asserts that Americans spend way too much money:
You may overspend because you’re bored, you have no budget or you want to keep up with your neighbors.
Or you might be letting your emotions dictate your financial decisions.
Whatever the reason, you may be setting yourself up for a financial disaster.
But fear not: There are a few ways you can rein in your spending before it’s too late.
Tracking your cash flow and tapping into your feelings are two things financial advisers say you can do to curb your urge to spend.
“The spending choices you make now will greatly impact your quality of life later on,” says Patrick McDowell, a Miramar Beach, Fla., financial adviser.
Here’s an honest post by a new Broadside follower (welcome!), a college student, making minimum wage and struggling financially with college costs:
Although it can be annoying, I understand this is making me a better person. It’s not just about the money all the time, it’s about a learning experience.
And here’s a dense and dry blog post, recently chosen for Freshly Pressed, about behavioral economics — written by a professor:
Certainly the evidence that people don’t typically behave rationally is quite compelling. It’s easy to find examples of behavior which conflicts with economic theory. The problem is that it’s not clear that these examples help us much. I’m pretty much obsessed by when, why, how and where we choose to spend our money. Or save it.
Given how little money most Americans save — here’s a blog post from The Economist about that — it’s a tough decision to postpone immediate pleasures (let alone the daily grind of needs), for groceries, housing and medical care in the future, possibly decades away. What if we never get there?
But what if we do live to be 80, 90 or beyond — and find ourselves broke and scared?
Here’s a frightening post from one of my favorite writers, Guardian journo Heidi Moore, about how older women — because we earn less and live longer — end up in poverty:
17.8 million women lived in poverty in 2012, 44% of whom lived in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty means “income at or below 50% of the federal poverty level”, which amounts to less than $5,500 a year…
What is surprising is that the slide into deep poverty is happening so soon, and in such massive numbers, among the elderly. It’s not clear what could have changed between 2011 and 2012 to cause it.
My mother went into a nursing home three years ago, paying — for a small room — $5,000 a month. Yes, really. That certainly made clear to me the very real cost of getting old, ill and needing costly care every single day. She saved, lifelong and ferociously, so she has the funds for it.
Most of us will not.
Our parents and grand-parents, and a few fortunate folk in specific industries, could look forward to a company pension; Jose will receive one from The New York Times, thank heaven. A few lucky people also get a company match to their 401(k) retirement savings from their employers.
But most of us are now expected and required to save and save and save and save, praying our investments retain and grow in value. I’ve been saving 15 percent of my income every year for a while; it’s finally adding up to a sum that makes me feel like the sacrifice is worth it.
It’s also simplistic to shame people who “spend too much” when millions have lost their jobs, often repeatedly, and have run through whatever savings they might once have had. Millions are also now earning far less than they once expected or hoped to.
Wages are stagnant or falling while the cost of living rises each year — and we’re still human beings who actually want to leave our homes and have some fun!
I splurge on four categories: 1) items or improvements for our home; 2) travel; 3) entertaining friends; 4) fresh flowers.
How about you?
What do you splurge on — and where do you keep your wallet closed?