I'm tired of spending every dime I make
To finance this way of life I've learned to hate
I'm going back to a better class of loser
This up-town living's really got me down
- Randy Travis and Alan Jackson
A New York Times/CBS News poll said that over the past year, half of Americans were spending less money and spent less time shopping than they did in the previous year.
My late mother used shopping as a hobby. If she were still alive, I wonder if she would be looking for something else to occupy her time.
It seems many Americans are.
A New York Times article notes that Americans are spending more time taking part in civic and religious activities. They are also spending more time cooking.
They don't need a credit card to have a good time.
I am riding the cooking wave, but for different reasons. In order to eat healthier, I learned how to cook last year. I switched to a mostly organic, mostly low-carb diet and lost 40 pounds. I used to eat in restaurants frequently. Now, I seldom do. I used to belong to two private clubs. I dropped them. They were nice places but it seemed silly to pay dues for a place I rarely visited and didn't serve food that I wanted.
Times have changed.
I've had more guests in my home in the past year than in the past decade. I've yet to have one suggest that dining out would have been superior. You can have good conversation without big expenditures. When I cook, the food is high quality but cheaper than a restaurant.
I'm finding what a lot of Americans found through economic necessity - - You don't have to spend lots of money to entertain.
There is a school of people who are "waiting" for things to go back to how they were.
There is not any "there" to go back to. We are entering a new world, where people realize that we don't need to base happiness on the size of our wallets.
I frequently receive emails and Facebook posts from people who have adjusted to the new economy. They have cut up their credit cards, scaled back their spending and made moves to live within their means.
None sounds unhappy. Most are thrilled that they are doing something to take control of their lives.
They sound like someone who started a diet or quit smoking. They can visualize the long term results.
In fact, they often sound like someone who has been born again or who has kicked an addiction. They are starting to see life from a different perspective.
There are many temptations to fall off the controlled spending wagon. Credit card offers are still flooding the mails. Payday lenders and tax refund anticipation lenders are preying on the poorest of the poor.
Politicians give lip service to cutting back credit card and payday lenders, but neither is probably going to happen.
Credit card companies and payday lenders pay big money for lobbyists and campaign contributions. Poor people don't have the same clout.
Thus, the only way for America to change is for people to take responsibility for themselves. They have to get the moneychangers out of their lives.
Since 50% of us have done that, we need to be patting ourselves on the back.
Good job America!
With little leadership from Washington, where they are so focused on sucking up to Wall Street, we have found for ourselves that happiness lies outside of the shopping mall.
We need to keep the momentum. We need to maintain the willpower to cut up their credit cards and not sign up for new ones. We need to continue to find new hobbies and new ways to entertain ourselves that don't involve spending large amounts of money.
It's not wrong to want things. The question is what do you want and why do you want it?
If you are looking for happiness, you might find that it comes from developing stronger bonds with your family, friends and neighbors.
And you don't need a credit card to do it.
Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is one of the world's leading authorities in helping people deal with "Big Money" issues.
McNay is an award winning, syndicated financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.
You can read more about Don at www.donmcnay.com
McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983 and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at www.mcnay.com
McNay has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.
McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery
McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.