Okay weird title, I’ll admit it. This is personal finance right? What do chairs have to do with it? Stick with me.
Abundance. That’s all my generation (FYI: Gen X) has known – everything in excess and all the conveniences available 24/7. Don’t have it but want it? Don’t have it and can’t afford it? Meh, no problem, go out on a whim and buy it on credit. Am I right? The North American dream that stares us down, bold faced and demanding, tells us every day that’s the way life should be lived. That spending wisely is not the path to follow.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A dream should be yours, one that you create, not one that someone else makes up.
Reject, eject and push away from the silly notions of how you should spend. It is possible.
One chair at a time is my paternal grandmother’s story. The story of living with the bare minimum, of life in post WWII Canada. I had the lovely pleasure of having dinner with my grandmother and family this holiday weekend and it was immensely fun. She turned 90 this year and she is quite the sparkplug. It was a night of stories; of life lived in a different time with a different mindset.
“I didn’t tell your Grandfather what I was doing” she started out matter of factly. “I knew the kids needed a table and chairs. Where were they going to sit and eat otherwise? So I went to the store and picked out a table we could afford and one chair.”
At the time, the family of six were living in a 400 sq.ft. apartment, parents and four kids, all making do and trying to get by without a table and chairs to eat on.
“It was unheard of to buy on credit and your grandfather would have been extremely upset if I did. So, as we could afford it, I bought one chair at a time.”
One chair at a time.
It was humbling to hear her story and many other family stories of living through hard times. My dad’s recollection of his “best Christmas ever” was when he received a train set from his parents, purchased at a second-hand store, when my grandfather had no job. They told all the kids there wouldn’t be much that Christmas. If my grandfather had no work, the family went without.
They went without. It wasn’t bought. It could not be purchased. There was no such thing as buying on credit.
After listening to her recollections of our family history, I was angered, disappointed and frightened for our society today. All we know is plastic. All we know is credit. And stuff. We accumulate a lifetime of crap and spend that lifetime avoiding the consequences. Those consequences being overindulgence and debt. Our minds are constantly plugged into the next best thing, the next piece of “Made in China” crap to add to our collection that we will never be buried with. Psychologically, we have become hardwired to hand over a plastic card for everything and for many of us, spending until the maximum and an invisible number stops us.
Who am I to say anything about this?
I have debt. I’ve fallen prey to all of it and have relapses on occasion, I must be the biggest hypocrite right?
You’re not when you are trying to turn it around. You are not a hypocrite when you try to fix it, and when stories of hardship hit home and allow you to realize the many blessings around you; credit not being one of them. When the battle against debt gets difficult, I feel helpless in defending myself against the same behaviour with money that angers me.
The anger I will forgive and forget, as it does nothing but vilify money in my mind. It becomes an internal roadblock toward growing wealth, not what you want floating around in your head. Instead, I will remember one chair at a time and free myself from what holds me down in debt. We all can if we believe in our ability to overcome any obstacle with focus and determination.