I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you that America spends more money on consumer goods than any other country, and most of it is junk. I honestly don’t know why. Maybe I grew up with some abnormality that has engineered me to avoid waste as much as possible. There must be something wrong with me, right? Every time I see something we don’t use, my first urge is to get rid of it, especially if the likelihood of us using it again is next to none. I’ve gotten in a lot of trouble with my wife for doing that.
There was one particular time when I wanted to throw away some of my wife’s old blankets that have spent the last three years of our marriage in a tote. It turns out my wife is quite sentimental and when I brought up the idea of throwing the blankets of her past out, the apology was right on its heels because the tears came quickly. So those blankets will remain in that tote for the next 60 years of our marriage, which is something I’ve grown to accept for her sake. That hasn’t stopped me from getting rid of other things, though. My wife comes from a family of pack rats on her dad’s side, so I’m hoping to counter that as much as possible.
As I’ve read different articles about how much we waste and thought about it, I’ve come up with three basic categories of junk that we’re wasting money on: unimportant things, unnecessary things, and unhealthy things. The question you need to ask yourself is, how much are you wasting on what?
Unimportant junk is anything that doesn’t contribute to your goals. Now you can get into semantics about what does and doesn’t contribute to your goals, but there’s no general label of what’s important to all of us because each of us has different passions and goals. The challenge is being aware of what is important to you and what is a trivial distraction. My dad, for example, is an avid golfer, so he puts a good amount of money into his passion and has nicer clubs. As for me, I’m content with the hand-me-down clubs he used when I was five. Having a nice set of clubs would be a waste. I, on the other hand, am passionate about books. I could spend hours in a bookstore checking out the different books without buying any. And if I were to get a monthly allowance (I’m currently on furlough until our emergency fund gets to where it needs to be), I would probably spend it all on books. Okay, and food. But I’m sure some of you reading this think I’m crazy. To each his own, just establish what “your own” is and stop wasting your money on other junk.
This is where that TV show, Hoarding, comes in. We all love watching stuff like that (which is just unnecessary time-wasting junk if you ask me) because it’s extreme, and when we see other people’s extreme issues, it helps us feel better about our own. You probably have this type of junk if you have a storage unit and haven’t touched it in a couple of years. I was recently offered a couple of couches for free from a guy who had them in his storage unit. They had been sitting there for two years and he wasn’t planning on using them ever again, and for some reason he was cool with paying to store them. They were really nice couches too. The only reason we said no was because of the billions of spiders that were most likely living inside them. I don’t care what sort of balance they bring to nature, they all need to die. So if you have any of this, get rid of it. The best time to do so is now, that way the next time you move you aren’t scrambling trying to decide what you want to take to your new home and what you want to take to the dump.
What would happen if Americans took all the money they spent on fast food, processed junk food and soda and put it toward the fight to end world hunger? The problem would probably get solved pretty quickly. Not that I’m advocating an elimination of all of that, but I think it’s a good time for each of us to re-evaluate how much money we’re spending on it. I know it’s convenient, and I know you’re addicted to convenience. But do your body and your wallet a favor. Make yourself breakfast in the morning. Pack your lunch. Spend a little extra time making yourself dinner.
And stop wasting your money on soda. Really, I don’t even want excuses on this one. It’s a ridiculous waste. I met with a potential client once who, through the course of our conversations, realized that she spent $60 onDr. Pepper every month. And that’s just from her work day; it’s not including anything at home and on the weekends. Sure, that doesn’t sound like a ton of money, and it’s not really unless things are really tight. But when you compare that cost with the long-term benefit and the long-term consequences of drinking soda every day, it’s really a no-brainer. There is no long-term benefit, but there are a lot of long-term health consequences. And you’re paying for it. Drinking it every now and then isn’t going to kill you or your wallet, but it’s unhealthy and it’s a poor financial choice.
I’m sure this touched a nerve with some of you, especially some of my Diet Coke-loving friends and family members. So what are your thoughts? Is there something you’re wasting money on?