This article is a guest blogger submission from Julie Ali, happy stay at home mum of two elementary school boys who really loves to write.
When I try to write about my unconventional financial thinking, I am forever being shot down. Family members have said that I was a fool for my ways. Other people, no doubt have thought we were cheap, losers or worse. But I have stopped thinking about what other people think about us. I think only about what our family thinks about our family. We think we are doing what we need to do to be self-reliant, independent and happy.
Our journey began with the simple decision to wait for things. Deferred gratification was a practice embraced by most of our past generations. With the advent of the credit card and other banking harlotry, this simple practice is now rarely put into action. Instead, when people want a car, they go out and buy one. When they want a house, they get one. When they want consumer goods, they shop frenziedly. How do they do all this (i.e., how can they afford to do this I ask myself)? Simple. They take out loans and end up paying double, triple or more than the original price of these items. Why are people so stupid?
Personally, I think it starts with childhood training. A child that is given everything he wants, who is pampered and cosseted and munches like a buxom larvae on a particularly ample parental cabbage patch and who undergoes an early and intense metamorphosis with the assistance of absent parents, academic coaching from extracurricular tutoring centres and a whirlwind of extracurricular activities that ensure that the child is adept at music, sports, computers and God knows what else, such a child is really not going to develop into a patient adult. No, this child is going to develop into a hyperactive adult who is going to go for the McMansion in Knob Hill and mortgage his future to the bank as soon as he gets out of his overpriced university with his mediocre university education and multiple university student loans trailing behind him like spent balloons.
A parent needs to be self-disciplined in order to teach her offspring to be self-disciplined in his spending habits. Thus, in our family, we tend not to be over-accumulators of consumer goods, vehicles, property and other niceties. We wait, as we said at the beginning of this article on every financial decision we make â€“ especially if they involve taking out an agreement with a bank. For example, prior to buying our new home last year, we waited for six years until we paid off all our other debts, researched the area/builder/house we wanted and had wrestled a low interest rate mortgage from a bank.
If, we as parents, tend to be self-disciplined, do not indulge in wild orgies of consumerism (shopping) and defer gratification, then I can practically guarantee that the children will tend to grow up to be reasonable adults. It usually happens that when you anchor a sapling tree to two boundary-stalking ties, that the tree will tend to grow up fairly straight and upright. In a similar fashion, if parents set the boundaries of good financial training in childhood, their kids will grow within the boundaries they set.
With our family, we do not take our children shopping on a regular basis. Shopping is not a productive activity. In fact, it is a pure waste of time. We, as a society, are addicted to shopping. We love the high we get when we buy stuff. We then have to pay for the stuff, store the stuff, resell the stuff or get rid of the stuff. Stuff is what defines us. Stuff is what we are. In fact, we are no longer human beings we are human buyers. If shopping is the conventional route to the good life, then we all need to redefine why we are all on this route, which is, in my opinion, in the words of a song that I once heard, â€œthe road to Hell.â€ We need to get off this road and embark on the true journey of our lives â€“ the one marked by risk, terror, anguish, pain, sorrow and real living (i.e., our ordinary lives).
Since shopping is mainstream, we do not do it except to buy food and essentials. We do not, as I mentioned before, indoctrinate our children in the religion of shopping. We let them shop very rarely. For example, we may take them to a dollar store but that occurs only when they have earned money for doing a chore and are only able to spend the amount they have in their possession. We do not give them an allowance and are only this year, giving them a summer allowance of $5 per week per child. A summer allowance gives them the joy of a cold drink that they bought themselves, an ice cream from the store, a candy bar and maybe, saved up it can last them a whole day or two. The money may even get saved up to buy a toy that has been coveted for the whole school year.
These are just some of the unconventional financial thinking that goes on in our family. It is unconventional because it does not buy into the mainstream societyâ€™s values for things over people. If things are all we are working and living for then what is the point of this life? A thing cannot hug you, love you or comfort you (well maybe a robot with artificial intelligence could do this). A thing will not keep you company on a summer evening when the sun is lipping the warm grey earth with ruby red lipstick. A thing will not be there for you to challenge your mind, heart and soul. A thing is a dead thing. A person is alive. Rather than follow the conventional financial thinking of our society, think independently, decide what is the right way of doing things for yourself and just do it. Unconventional thinking is thinking that is right for you.