Living beyond your means

Here in America we complain that the prices of food, gas, and now utilities are rising. It is getting harder to make ends meet. We may have to give up some of our luxuries. I just spent $350 for a full cart of basic groceries this morning that would have cost at least $100 less last year so I’m in this too. Still, I can’t wonder at people who fill their carts with mostly junk food and complain about being poor.

America is one of the richest countries in the world. Our idea of poverty is rather wealthy overall. Very few in this country have any idea what true poverty is. True poverty is living on $1 a day. True poverty is eating only one meager meal a day. True poverty is having to choose between food or housing. I don’t mean eating out or having chips and candy but choosing between basic food like rice and beans or a roof over your head. True poverty is having 5 people in a one room hut.

Yet we have become accustomed to a high standard of living that is in danger of crumbling. This standard is being shored up by government programs that allow people to live beyond their means. If our current recessions becomes a true depression and these programs disappear, people will really be hurting. Here are a few reasons I don’t support government welfare and social security programs as they stand today.

We have several tenants who are on some sort of government assistance program and for the most part these programs only allow people to live beyond their means rather than being truly needed. Food programs designed to keep hunger away are greatly abused. For instance, I found a receipt left behind in an apartment that had about 20 items paid with a food assistance voucher. Of them, more than half were for junk food like chips, tv dinners and other quick foods. There was also frozen shrimp and some expensive steaks. Why should my taxes pay for them to eat this way? I wouldn’t mind if the vouchers were used for wholesome foods, but not junk food or expensive cuts of meat. It seems they aren’t allowed things like alcohol (and for some strange reason sliced cheese) but just about all other foods or drinks are fine. This is wrong. They need to be limited to wholesome foods and basic staples. If they want junk foods or expensive meats, they should have to spend their own money.

There is also a housing program for low income that pays all or almost all of their rent. This allows families to live in larger apartments and homes than they can afford by themselves. They are nice large apartments with newer carpets, paint and appliances. Again, why should my tax dollars pay for them to live in a nice apartment they can’t afford? Why should the government pay them to live in a 3 or even 4 bedroom place because they can only afford a 2 bedroom? If they can only afford a small 2 bedroom, that’s what they should live in or make sacrifices in other areas to afford better housing.

Living beyond your means is what caused this current recession. People were lulled into borrowing now and paying later. Sacrifice later to live better today was the theme of the country. Well that later is now here and people didn’t plan for it so they are in trouble. I don’t think the government should help out someone who didn’t plan.

Add to this, credit companies massive advertising and marketing campaigns designed to keep Americans in debt so they can increase their profits. Personal savings are almost non-existent. Unless you pay your balance in full every month now is not the time to rely on credit for day to day purchases. Worse yet, impulse purchases on credit make it hard to plan for paying the balances off. Here’s a recent article about consumer credit crisis.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of buying habits our credit obsessed society encourages. There is a simple solution. We need to start encouraging self reliance instead of government assistance or credit which allows us to live beyond our means. This means making some tough choices, but if we don’t make them now, it will only be worse in the future. So unless and until we start living within our means, we shall continue to have major financial problems.

We all want something better than what we have, but it isn’t the government’s responsibility to help you pay for it. This is leaning toward socialism. Food programs, housing assistance, credit and mortgage bailouts will only make the problem worse by allowing people to continue living beyond their means and increasing our already ridiculously large national debt.

People need to make sacrifices or adjust their standard of living to their current situation. I don’t mind short term emergency assistance or one-time rent payments but not long-term social welfare programs. We need to return to a theme of sacrifice today for a better tomorrow by living within our means. If this means giving up chips and sweets, eating out, movies, or even downsizing your living space, then do what needs to be done and stop asking the government to help you live beyond your means. I have.

My husband did the math a few weeks ago and it worked out that we earned $0.65 per hour last year for all the work we did. That’s right, just 65 cents! So for everyone who thinks landlords make lots of money because rents are high, think again. It also shows with careful planning and living within your means, you can be comfortable on a (very) low income without government assistance if you don’t covet (want) what others have.

“Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s” Exodus 21:17 KJV “He that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days” Proverbs 28:16.


4 Responses

  1. Those are logical opinions, but I have had to face the reality this past year that the average worker in America works a minimum wage job. I did the math. You can not support a family on minimum wage (even if both parents are working).

    In our little town, those are vast majority of jobs available. We have an entire population of people that work full time, but literally cannot make ends meet. It’s not a matter of budgeting. I’m a budgeting master, and I can’t make the numbers work. One accident or illness, and you sink into a hole from which you cannot climb.

    And when you live in such a hopeless state – knowing you may never pull out of it – ever – always living on the government … well, sometimes a steak for dinner can bring you a smile. You would rather pay for cable than go to the laundromat, because a sitcom every night will bring you joy. Doing your laundry, surrounded by others in your same boat, just adds to the depression. Dirty clothes for a laugh? Okay.

    Our town is full of farmers. I also learned recently that almost all farmers don’t make money without government subsidies. They ALL receive subsidies. They ALL have insurance on their land. Our farmers live off the government, and there is no end in sight for them to ever make their own living.

    A great jumping off place to truly understand poverty and the mindset and realities of the poor would be to read Shane Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution.” It’ll rock your world.

  2. Christine,
    Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry your community is in a rough spot. I will still say that cable is a luxury not a basic necessity and a lifestyle choice as to pay that bill or another (speaking from my personal experience here).

    I went to high school in a wheat farming community so I know how hard it can be but choices still are made as to how you live with what you have. The tenants I mentioned having steak weren’t farmers but a young couple just starting out. He worked part time and she didn’t at all. I’m talking about people with means to pull themselves up who choose not to but rather live the easy way off the government.

    It’s sad how fast we have come to rely on our government for subsidies. My grandfather was a wheat farmer in Idaho. He never had subsidies. I doubt if he would have accepted them anyway. He said that our government will fall because of 2 things: social security and minimum wage. It’s slowly proving true as cost of living rises higher with each increase in minimum wage and social security is almost bankrupt. The only solution is for everyone to live within their means and just accept the hard fact that some people will always have more than others.

  3. Even those with more than others have to make choices. i chose to stay home with kids and homeschool. We know this was the plan before we got pregnant, so before kids we made decisions that would enable a huge drop in income once kids came. An example, we bought our 1st house about 13 yrs ago (before kids) and we chose one that was 1/2 of the price we were approved for. Since my leaving the corporate world, we have had times when we shut off cable, shut off long distance, made sack lunches, cut off cell phones and much more to make the ends meet.


  4. KW,

    Sounds a lot of logical choices and good planning. Part of good planning is reviewing to make sure the plan is still working then making changes as needed to be sure you’re still living within your means.


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