Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Taking "No" for an Answer

What is it about our culture, our modern age, that makes it so hard for us to hear the word "No"? Is this quirk of our nature a modern plague? Is it made worse by the sales and service world we live in? Look at the sales and marketing section of any bookstore, and you'll see dosens of books on how to get a customer to say Yes!

Lately I have been going back to "No." It isn't just that the economy is in a slump; it's that I am overrun with stuff. Heck, I spent most of my weekend cleaning stuff, reorganizing stuff, getting rid of stuff. How much better would my weekend have been were I to live my life more simply, with more No's and fewer Yes's?

I'm itching to go to a bookstore, now that I've finished The Constant Princess, but I found many books this weekend that I haven't even read yet. I picked up the anniversary edition of Roots, a couple of new books by Lisa See (wonderful writer who writes about ancient China), some Rita Mae Brown, a couple of books by Barbara Kingsolver (another of my favorite writers)... Those books have been gathering dust, waiting for me. I have a tendency to make several impulse purchases when I go to Borders or Barnes & Noble. I will see one book I want on the "3 for 2" table and will buy those other 2 just because it's a package deal. (See how they got me to say yes? A clever ploy). Well, I'm staying away. (God, this is going to hurt).

Hubby and I almost went and bought a new TV last week. We are so behind the times. We have two Sony WEGA TVs which were all the rage in 2001 when we bought them. We got one for our bedroom and one for the living room. We paid a pretty penny, too, but now flat panel LCD or plasma sets are all the rage. Well, we don't have one. We resisted the cunning salepeople. We avoided filling out the credit app that would give us 18 months same as cash. Boy that is tempting, isn't it? But we want to pay a few things off and then pay cash for a new set, just as we did with the new refrigerator, just as we did with the new washer and dryer. Cash is king with us now. The salespeople don't understand. "You don't want to charge it?" they ask with a bewildered stare.

The credit culture we live in is so scary. It means we can all live beyond our paychecks. We can have things RIGHT NOW. We never have to hear the word "No" even from our own lips. I watched a video this weekend called, "Maxed Out," which is about the way Americans pay for everything with plastic, some making only the minimum payment every month and never ever paying off that TV, that appliance, or that furniture. Scary. Sad. We are such suckers for a pretty bauble. I don't know what it's like in other countries, but one of our problems now is the presence of credit grantors on the college campuses at check-in time. They hand out plastic like nobody's business to kids who may have never been away from home or had a job before. In this video, two moms talked about their kids who ended up killing themselves over credit card debt they incurred after going away to college. So sad!

So I am trying to learn the word "No" again. With less debt, I would have less worry. When I pay cash for something, I get to just enjoy my purchase without hearing that little voice in my head saying, "Okay, now my own personal deficit is up to $____, 000." I don't like the word "No," but I also don't like the stress of debt.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this topic. What is debt like where you live? Are you facing any kind of economical crunch the way we are in the USA? Do you pay cash for things? Do you like to tell yourself no about things?

For now, I'm saying no to the computer. Need to take a break after a long work day.

Peace (out) - D


CrazyCath said...

It's just the same in the UK Momma. I think it might be a "Western World" thing. Credit is freely available especially to youngsters who can't afford it. I got into terrible debt as a young 20 something and have managed to pay it off. Then a student loan as a mature student, which I have just paid off this month - 11 years after first taking it out.

I like cash. It's mine then. I don't do holidays on credit (thankfully never have) and refused to do my wedding on credit. I am so glad I did. I have learned some sense now but it took maturity. They should not be allowed to hook in youngsters as they do.

Funny you should mention the TV. I was looking at LCD flat screens just this weekend...! But I didn't buy. I stuck to the intended purchase.

I hope I have some balance now. I have some debt (minor in comparison) but that is mainly down to sickness preventing me earning and hopefully it will be rectified soon. It could be so much worse.

Momma said...

Hi Cath - Okay, so it isn't just us! Good to know! We really have made a mess of personal economy though, haven't we? But then again, the countries are being run the same way. Buy now, pay later and pay and pay and pay....

The bill never seems to really come due.

Peace - D

Not Afraid to Use It said...

I insisted that I get a credit card when I went to college. I told my mom that it would be a good way to build my credit. That I would only put my gas on it and would pay it off at the end of every month. So I got a $500-limit card from my bank, and I did exactly what I said. They kept raising my limit, but I didn't let that influence me. My husband and I are one of the few people we know to be credit card debt free. I hope we can instill the importance of "debt-free" to our kids.

david mcmahon said...

Sometimes, `No' is a great word.

Maggie May said...

I don't believe in credit, so I always say "NO". I come from a culture that thinks, "If you can't pay for it, don't have it". (Except for mortgage that is!)
This was a very good post!
Keep on saying "No", there's nothing wrong with that
You know, since this blogging started, I've got such a back log of books to read. Maybe I should say no to blogging! That would be hard,

Momma said...

NATUI - Yes, you are a rare one. I'm hoping my son is going to be the same way. He has a low-limit CC from our credit union, and he is making payments on his own car. That's as extended as he cares to get. He took a personal finances class in HS, which has helped him tremendously.

David - I'm so honored you chose this as post of the day! Glad you didn't say "no" to me!

Peace - D

Merisi said...

I came over here via David McMahon's POST OF THE DAY. Congratulations, well deserved, I agree wholeheartedly with your spending philosophy.
I moved to Vienna from the States not too long ago. I think there are people who can't seem to say "no" to themselves and their kids on both sides of the big pond.
I would never buy consumer goods like a TV set on credit, I cannot understand why anybody would.
When my kids were toddlers, they started to beg for candies every time we went to the grocery store . One fine day I decided saying "No" was not enough, and handed each of them a dime, to be spent on whatever they wanted. Would you believe how fast they learned to save their dimes instead of spending them? When they realized that "all" of their money would be gone for a few minutes of sweet indulgence, they decided it was not worth their pretty dimes. To this day I am grateful for that moment of enlightenment, when I handed them not only a dime each, but the responsibility to decide where and how to spend it. They are all good money managers now.

Don Mills Diva said...

Hmmm - we're in Canada and there's no question we have a ton of debt. However we also have a ton of assets - far more than our debt. Yes we live above our means to a certian extent but I find it scary when people are borrowing against assets they don't have...

Momma said...

merisi - I am going to have to think more like a European on this one. I don't like debt. We started getting upside down in our lives because of our daughter's medical conditions. It seems we may never quite be unburied, but we are working on it.

DMD - I wholeheartedly agree with you. We should never have to live with a negative net worth. I think moeny problems contribute to poor mental health more than any other single cause.

Peace - D

Crafty Green Poet said...

There's a huge credit problem in the UK in general. I've never had a credit card, my only debt is my mortgage.

I have huge piles of books waiting to be read....

Alaina said...

Great post! I came here from David's blog of the day.

I have always stereotyped debt as an American problem, it's interesting to read about different perspectives from different countries. I had the good fortune of being raised on the philosophy if you don't have the cash for it, you can't afford it (exceptions being education, houses and cars).

ed said...



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