Life is a cycle. We move from infancy to senescence or old age. Then it is over. Your money is also being spent in a cyclical manner. It funds your education, it purchases your immediate wants and needs such as food. It also is used to acquire some luxurious commodities such as a vehicle, your own home or an expensive wedding. Then, it is over. Just as there was a time when your first started earning money, there will also be a time when you  will collect your last paycheck.

My question to you is this: At whatever time you cease to have a regular income, will you be satisfied when you look back that your money was used in the way that YOU really wanted it to be used?

Several months ago I saw a television commercial that had the slogan, “It’s my money and I want it now!” That, as amusing as it may have been developed to be, contains definite sense and is worthy of examination. There are hundreds of things competing for the consumer’s dollar. In our societies, roles and status expectations seemingly drive persons to spend their money on commonly accepted commodities.  After graduating from formal schooling, most persons get busy acquiring  land and house, a vehicle and a family. These are all good and commendable.

But are you consciously making the decision to buy these things because that is what you really want to do, or are you spending on those commodities because it is the norm in your society and you figure you are expected to get those things? The important thing about consumer  spending is that the money is spent the way the consumer wants to spend it. The highly competitive marketing world of consumerism today sees business entities going all out to convince you to buy what you may not really need.

The businesses have already set out their marketing objectives and strategies to do their best to relieve you of your  money. Don’t be fooled. No thriving company exists  where the owners and employers just put on their clothes and go into town to open the business and sit and watch to see if anybody will come in on the business day to buy something.

Yet, most of us consumers walk into the commercial centres with money in our pockets and no plans or objectives whatsoever in our heads as to what we are going to buy, why we are going to buy it, how much we are going to buy it for and what we are going to get from buying it.

I am seeing on the international scene that just spending as a sign of having money that can’t run out is no longer guaranteeing a secure financial future. The US economy, the largest in the world, had to have hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out its banks and businesses. Within the last few days the world has watched with nail-biting nervousness as America struggled with raising its debt limit.

We all have had the idea of America as the land flowing with milk and honey. Money to infinity. Now,  America has borrowed all that it can. It has literally used up all its credit. And most of us working people use America as the standard of what success is. I hope we are learning that spending like there is no tomorrow, or spending just because you have it, isn’t necessarily in your best financial interest.

Because of the financial complications of wanton spending in times past our consumer price index is on the rise; inflation seems to be getting healthier each business day. The consumer’s spending power is quickly diminishing. It is amazing that when you break a $100 before you know it, you have like a few dollars remaining. And we have developed a lifestyle that is dependent on a lot of luxuries and imported commodities or services. The production costs of supplying these products, coupled with the speculators call on their “futures” are quickly pushing many of these items out of reach of the average consumer.

By the way things are shaping up, just now the average consumer will be the poor consumer. The basic items such as LPG gas, grocery, electricity, public transportation and communication seem to be on board the space shuttle en route to another galaxy.

And many  people who are working or are the middle class are having a hard time making ends meet; in fact, the middle seems to be dropping out as we try to make the ends meet.

It is important now that each consumer takes charge of his or her personal spending. Write down some short-term and some long-term goals that you want your money to accomplish. No longer should you just get the hire purchase, the credit card, the quick cash or the loans just because the financial institutions or the business place appeal to your desire to spend. Remember, at the end of your life you will want to look back and know that you have not just worked for the creditors or to put money into the business owner’s pockets.

Decide not to buy anything on impulse anymore. Do not leave home without a specific shopping list. Find simple ways of reusing or extending the use of products that you have. Focus on savings. I shall always remember a friend I acquired in Grenada who said that when he started working as a young adult, his monthly income was $30  but his rent was $25. He deposited each month into his savings an average of 5 or ten cents. Today, years later, he owns several properties, antique vehicles, and he travels to Canada every month to see his wife and child.

As a consumer, all of us have to learn the discipline of giving up certain things we can enjoy today in order to achieve future goals. It is the classic case of now or later. Our society constantly shoves  instant gratification down our throats. I want to urge you, however, to move from instant gratification to delayed gratification. The future you will thank you for it.

I am saddened when I hear public servants and others who worked long and hard complain that they are not getting their retirement monies or that the roof of their house now needs repair. The roof is the most expensive part of the house. That means the life money done. I don’t think the current labour force hears from our current retirees about how they are able or not able to continue their standard of living.

Another concern you should have is that population growth means that your pension and gratuity have to be spread among more persons: “more mouths to feed.” You must begin to think of making your money work for you, not just you working for money. Also, start familiarizing yourself with producer goods–not just consumer goods. You see, consumer goods generally end up being an expense. For example, I am realizing now that given my circumstances, keeping a vehicle is not in my financial profitability. While a vehicle is a great time convenience, the recurring costs of insurance, increasing licenses, servicing costs, the unending potholes across the country and the single road network are all things I can do well without right now. Oooh-la-la-la-la, don’t even talk about the rising price of gasoline. Right now we are paying over $15 a gallon!

That is a decision made as I determine my own financial goals in the long and short-term, preparing to invest in producer goods–items that make back money–I will have ample opportunities to buy another vehicle be it in this country or abroad, where even wider, straighter, smoother and a more comprehensive road network exists.

Similarly, you must be the one to determine how your money is to be spent. Do not allow the common spending pattern to spend your money for you. Do not be intimidated. Sure, you might be somewhat inconvenienced now, but in the future the tables will turn.

Start taking charge of your finances today. Chart your own course. Not because your neighbours have a good house means that you must buy a house. There might be other factors to consider. I recall a doctor saying to me that he built his huge house to reflect a “doctor’s image”; however, he and his wife and two children are not enough to fill the house. Soon his children will be on their own. And of course, the mortgage payments leave precious little from their salaries.

Whatever you spend you money on, be sure it is what you really want to do. And if you are not sure what to spend money on–save  your money.

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