Do you feel you are swimming against the financial current?

Spending habits putting stress on you? Learn how to relieve your financial stress.

Do you feel like you’re swimming up the financial stream? Well you are not alone. Many Americans are finding it harder to manage their finances, save money and relieve their financial burdens. This is partially because our society is built on consumer spending: it influences us to buy, buy and buy some more.

How are we influenced to buy? There are four primary facets to the consumerism pressures:

  1. Many unnecessary items are marketed as “must-haves.” These include products that have a one-time use, novelty items or the latest fashion trends. We can all add examples of fads that are pushed upon us such as parachute pants, pet rocks and pong.
  2. We are pressured to buy things that are bigger, better and more than we truly need. For example, do you “need” to buy a bigger house and six TVs to go in it? Do you need a new car? Do you have to have the latest technology upgrade? Once we start paying attention to advertising, you can see it all around: commercials, billboards and pop-up ads overwhelm us.
  3. Ours is a throwaway society. We are encouraged to throw out used or broken items rather than repair them. The mantra has become replace, not repair, even when we can repair or perhaps upcycle. In addition to being pressured to through broken items out, we are urged to replace these items with new and often “improved” items.
  4. We face “designed obsolescence” whereby a product is fine to start with but is simply unrepairable when it breaks after too short a period. Just what should be the lifetime be of a broom, pair of sandals, washing machine, laundry basket or car? Why are these things not designed to be fixed?

With all of these pressures to buy, buy, buy, it is no wonder that consumers feel financial pressure. Wise consumer spending and money management are generally not taught in the schools, and unfortunately are often not taught at home either. As a result, many youth learn about spending and managing money from the hundreds of ads they view each day, which can lead to a lot of financial stress as adults.

A recent article by Michigan State University Extension educator Barb Duvall highlights five tips that can help teens be successful with money. In the article, Duvall points out that with smart consumer shopping and saving early, youth can relieve a lot of financial problems, both now and in the future. In addition, Duvall mentions that time can be an asset for building wealth in the future and youth have the advantage of time in their favor if they face the burden of saving now. Further tips include being cautious of the financial risks we take, asking the right questions, listening to various opinions and taking responsibility for our money. While these tips are great for youth, they can also be applied to adults as well.

While our consumer society can be good for the economy by creating jobs and generating income, it can also lead to too much spending. We need to be aware of the influence this society can have on Michigan youth and help them to become educated about how to manage the constant pressure to spend, spend and spend. In doing so, we might be able to take some of the stress off ourselves as well as we learn to swim with the financial current.

For more information on topics related to money and finances, visit the Michigan 4-H or MSU Extension websites.

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