Fiscal irresponsibility

Most Ontarians are grumbling about the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). I certainly don’t like the fact that I received a letter telling me that my meagre salary disqualifies me from getting the much-advertised tax rebate despite the fact that people I know who make $20,000 more than me got their cheques weeks ago. I won’t launch an analysis of why this tax regime sucks because it’s honestly not that big a deal to me. As long as those bastards send me my refund.

What I’m most concerned about are aspects of my finances that I do have control over. I realize it’s maddening when someone (1) takes your money; and (2) wastes it.  But how much do we really care? With the proliferation of consumerism and mounting consumer debt, it seems that the issue isn’t so much that our money is being wasted. It’s just that we’d rather be the ones wasting it. Here are some questionable ways in which we blow our dough:

Vice Why it’s stupid
Lottery tickets AKA a tax on people who can’t do math. I know, I know – someone will win. It just won’t be you.
ATM fees Because you’re too lazy to take cash out at your own bank, you’ll be charged around $1.50 by the bank that hosts the ATM, and then about $1.00 by your own bank, which no doubt enjoys your loyal patronage.
Coffee Many people are perfectly willing to drop anywhere between $1.50 to $5.00 on this fabulous beverage daily. That works out to $45-$150 a month, or $540-$1800 a year.
Bottled water We all know it’s tap water anyway, and it takes next to no effort to pour some into a container.
Impulse buys If you didn’t walk into the store with the intention of indulging your curiosity about Angelina Jolie’s latest meltdown, you need to put that damn magazine down. Actually, put it down regardless. I’m positive that stores understaff the checkout on purpose for this very reason.
Designer products These things are several times more expensive than they should be, like Lululemon yoga pants ($100 – this company may very well end up the subject of a future post) or Coach handbags ($500 – why do I see this on the shoulder of practically EVERY woman on the subway, and why are people willing to spend so much for what essentially looks like a fancy canvass dedicated to one letter of the alphabet? Do they use them on Sesame Street to teach kids about the letter ‘C’?). This is not to say I’m the most disciplined person myself. Months ago, I bought a pair of amazing Michael Kors heels that are really only appropriate for clubbing (which I don’t do) or swinging around a brass pole (which I also don’t do).

 

Somehow I have a feeling that parents, being afraid to, you know, parent these days, aren’t teaching their children that being spoiled actually makes us impoverished as a society. Heaven forbid we should see something we want and not buy it because we don’t need or can’t afford it. And while the lower and middle classes harbour disdain for the wasteful lifestyles of the monied classes, I don’t think we’re that much better.

There’s another dimension to this issue: spending can also be a form of addiction. People use it to fill a void and achieve some sort of comfort or high. So on a serious note, people who do waste their money, as I put it, may be selfish, greedy or even bored – but not necessarily. If you or someone you know is struggling in this regard, try taking this shopaholic test or read up on the issue here.

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3 Comments

Filed under Politics & Society

3 responses to “Fiscal irresponsibility

  1. Nice post. It makes a lot of sense but it is also hard when you work for a company that makes clothing like I do. Granted we are probably much more progressive than many brands but do you think there can be a healthy balance between consumerism and supporting companies that are focused on helping planet and people as well as making clothes?

    Cheers! Andre’

    • Thanks for your comment, Andre. I think what your company does is great! I work for a major corporation – that’s how I pay my bills – so I can make all kinds of observations, but I definitely can’t judge. There will always be contradictions and controversy when a company that tries to make a difference does so within the capitalist framework. When I read Yoga Journal, I cringe when I see some ads. Om necklaces with diamonds? Somehow I think the designers are missing the point. But compared to Gucci or the Gap, your company is promoting consciousness, even if we are still consuming. Regardless of the people who will buy into progressive products and services for the cool factor, the movement is real, and the work you do is an important step toward awareness.

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