Be Happier by Consuming Less
Consumerist is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever greater amounts. In the American consumption, people do not know how much is enough, do we really need all we buy? Or we just buy it because everyone else has it? Does it make us any happier? In the article “The New Politics of Consumption: Why Americans Want So Much More That They Need” Juliet Schor shares with us her point of view about American Consumption.
In Schor’s article says, “The average American now finds it harder to achieve a satisfying standard of living than 25 years ago” (411). Also that “The competitive consumption, the idea that spending is in large part driven by a comparative or competitive process in which individuals try to keep up with the norms of the social group with which they identify as a reference group” (412). Finally she believes that “Low income children are more likely to be exposed to commercials at school, as well as home” (413). Our personal consumer choices have ecological, social, and spiritual consequences.
Much of what we purchase is not essential for our survival or even basic human comfort but is based on impulse, a momentary desire, and there is a hidden price that we, and future generations will pay for it too. The American economy’s ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods, not better health care, education, housing, transportation, but to provide more stuff to consumers. First, in Schor’s article she says, “The average American now finds it harder to achieve a satisfying standard of living than 25 years ago” (411).
Nowadays people have to work longer hours than 25 year ago, to be able to pay all their desires. Having more and newer things each year has become not just something we want but something we need. The idea of more, ever increasing wealth has become the center of our identity, and this looks like an addiction. For example, my aunt Maria works 5 days a week to be able to pay all her bills and sometimes does overtime. She might have a lot of new and cool things, but she doesn’t even have time to enjoy all these things because she has to be working just to pay all she has.
My aunt has a salary of $9. 25 per hour and getting a check of $740 biweekly which she have to use to pay her car $200, plus her phone $85, personal stuff $150, and the list keep going. I have worked 40 hours a week, going to classes full-time with little satisfaction. Without working that long, I am less stressed, and I prefer to learn how to spend less money, than spending more, and live stressed all the time. People should take more responsibility for themselves and their families and think outside of the box when it comes to life.
Working less hours and buying fewer products is a good way to start. Also, Schor says, “The competitive consumption, the idea that spending is in large part driven by a comparative or competitive process in which individuals try to keep up with the norms of the social group with which they identify as a reference group” (412). People try to be in the same level that everyone else; if they see that somebody bought something, they will try to have that, just because that person has it. An example is the iPhones people are obsessed with them.
The first iPhone was the 3G, then 3GS, 4, 4S, and the 5 that is the last one that just came out. All of these iPhones do almost the same functions; they just changed the size, and some other little things. People spend a lot of money buying the iPhones; the prices are between $300 and $500. The point is that people want to keep up with the newest things, just because other people will have it. For example, my cousin Heysus who is 23 years old, have been buying all the iPhones, because all his friends have them, and whenever came a new iPhone, he ordered it immediately to keep up with what his friends have.
Another point is that people with less income, tend to watch more TV, in Schor’s article says, “Low income children are more likely to be exposed to commercials at school, as well as home” (413). Television and marketing are a big influence of how people spend their money. We watched an example of it in the movie of Super-Size Me, of how the companies spend a lot of their money on marketing, because they know that people is going to buy their products. We need to make people conscious about the problem that we all have as a society.
Without our consumer impulse to buy the newest, coolest things on the market, there would be no market. People should think more about what they buy, and should not do unnecessary purchases I think that some people keep worrying more about what they can buy, and how they can have better and newest things instead of be worrying about how they can live happier, and less stressed. An individual does not necessarily have to live as a rich person to be happy. The thought of shorter hours working is a wealth of opportunity and adventure that no Disneyland or Las Vegas vacation can offer.
It is actually stress-free and can help us to have time to more valuable parts of our life, like having more time to spend with our family and friends. Finally, as a student that works and studies at the same time, I have to be a smart consumer. I ask myself what I need and what I really don’t. Why do I need a car? Is it necessary to have a laptop when we have a library full of computers? We all need to learn that how to spend our money in a better way, and know that we do not need to have the newest and coolest things that the market offer us to be happy.