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The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.

Marketers have become really good at their jobs.  They have convinced people that they can no longer live without certain things, that life is not complete unless they have certain material things.  The marketers have made ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ a way of life for some people.  I have come across a couple of instances recently that illustrate this point quite well.  You’ll have to excuse me if I come across as judgmental.  I don’t begrudge anyone’s choices.  People are free to do as they wish, but I don’t want to hear any complaints when circumstances change and people feel like they don’t have any money.  The first anecdote I’ll talk about is my wife’s college roommate (I’ll call her CR) and the second is a conversation I had with someone at work.

I not sure how exactly how we came to be talking about CR, as my wife’s college reunion was a couple of months ago.  I did learn however that CR’s husband works two jobs and CR also works.  CR has a daughter about the same age as my daughter and has a $400 IPad.  Now, to be fair, my daughter has her own Kindle as well.  I did not buy it for her, nor would I have bought one for her.  Even though the Kindle was only about $100, I don’t consider it a necessity.  It is possible that someone bought the IPad for CR’s daughter.  If that’s the case, then I am being judgmental.  The family is also going to Disney in the next year.  Now, I’m budgeting $10,000 for my Disney vacation, which I’m sure some would consider excessive.  But to me, if you are working 3 jobs as a family, Disney does not sound like something that is affordable.  I should also mention that CR and her husband both have one of the latest smart phones.  Marketers have been highly effective at convincing CR that they cannot live without their products.

My other anecdote comes from a conversation I had with one of the security guards at work.  He is a relatively young guy, probably in his early to mid-twenties.  During the course of our conversation he mentioned that he lived in a 1-bedroom apartment and had both a 60-inch TV and a 40-inch TV.  He lives in this apartment with his girlfriend and his 4-year old son.  I won’t say that someone shouldn’t have a TV, as it can be a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment.  But a 60-inch TV isn’t cheap.  I did a quick search on Amazon and a 60-inch TV can run $900 to $2,000.  I get the appeal of a large TV and I even would like to upgrade mine to a larger version.  I also know that I don’t have enough money to do it.

I wrote before about how it seemed easier for my parents to provide the basics for their 3 kids on a lot less salary than I make now.  Lifestyle inflation has become a way of life.  Everyone now needs the latest smart phone in addition to a home computer.  One TV in the house is no longer the norm.  Now there must be a TV in the living room and a TV in every bedroom.  Along with that, every TV is connected to 150+ cable channels.  It is no wonder that people don’t feel like they have enough money to save for an emergency fund or retirement.  All of their extra money is being spent on what others have deemed to be the new life essentials.  I see these things and wish I could convince people that these things are not the new normal.  Saving for goals and saving for your financial security should be the norm.  Until that time comes, I’ll keep plugging along on my financial path and remind myself that appearances aren’t everything.