Vicki Robin

Give me a break! We’re not shopping enough?

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2009 at 4:42 PM

Remember how both Bushes – Sr and Jr – exhorted us  to defend freedom by consuming? Now with the economy gasping, those who’d have you go into debt to salve the nation’s economic woes (say what?) have a new tactic. The psychological peril of “over-saving” – as reported in the NY Times. Over-savers, suffer from “hyperopia, the medical term for farsightedness and the opposite of myopia, nearsightedness, because it’s the result of people looking too far ahead. They’re so obsessed with preparing for the future that they can’t enjoy the present, and they end up looking back sadly on all their lost opportunities for fun.”

Yes, even frugality  – saving like there will be a tomorrow – can be taken to excess and turn into a sort of anorexia, an unwillingness to feed oneself any comfort. When I had cancer and traditional treatment turned so toxic even the docs couldn’t explain it, I wanted to try an alternative therapy. True to HMO illogic, they denied coverage saying the treatment that nearly killed me was plenty good enough. I was faced with major personal expense and realized that I had to shake free of my own hyper-frugality and spend the money. I didn’t want to perish of tightwaddery. So I know this extreme.

The disease of hyperopia, however, could be the salvation of our nation. We are bloated and need to do some belt tightening – lose some collective weight of debt. Most people I know who do this feel trim, fit and energized. Surveys show people can drop 20% of “ugly spending” and feel better, not worse.

Hyperopia suffers, they say, will forgo spending on pleasure and rue it later. They may lie on their death bed and regret NOT indulging in a plasma TV. However, most death bed regrets aren’t about not spending, but about not giving. Not loving people more. Not forgiving. Not fulfilling obligations. Not telling the truth.

Yes, we should our life energy on what gives us real pleasure – but in most cases that’s not the material stuff, it’s the human experience, that brings us happiness.

I’ve often asked audiences: “Who wins if you go into debt?” Ultimately, it’s the bank as they milk you for interest to pay for pleasures long forgotten. And it’s the corporations that profit from you (to quote Will Rogers) “spending money you don’t have to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.”

We promote the pleasure of “enough” – having everything you want and need and nothing in excess. It’s neither hyper nor hypo. hyperopia or myopia.

The very mechanics of the market is that if people stop buying products ultimately they stop producing them. If we stop eating high fat diets, heart surgeons might need to find new ways of making money. Likewise, if we stop overspending, the economy will adjust and we’ll all be healthier.

Buyers… be aware – of those who’d say you are saving too much.

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