Welcome to the first discussion post for the Affluenza, The All-Consuming Epidemic book club. The chapters in this book are rather quick and make for a fast read so I hope you are enjoying it. If you want to participate in the discussion (even if you haven't read the book), feel free to answer a few of the questions or, if you have time, all of them by posting your answers in the comments.
Chapter 1. Shopping Fever: This chapter introduces the fact that many Americans view shopping not as a necessity, but as recreation.
How many of you consider going to the mall a social event? In other words, do you meet up with friends there or plan on going with your family on the weekends as "family time"? If you do spend a lot of time at the mall, is it just window shopping or do you oftentimes find yourself mindlessly buying things you don't really need because the items looked nice or were on sale?
For those of you who eschew malls (and, I guess, also for those who don't) do you spend a lot of time shopping online or buying from catalogs? I really can't believe people watch the Home Shopping Network, but I suppose there are some out there so I'll include that as well. For catalog shopping, do your purchases always follow right after a catalog delivery or do you keep them and reference them later? Do you find that you buy things you don't need but because the presentation looks great or the price is seemingly "cheaper" you do it anyway?
Chapter 2. A Rash of Bankruptcies: Debt is something Americans have a huge problem with. Even children receive applications for credit cards and, with the culture of "shopping to help the economy", it's no wonder that people are overspent, over-mortgaged and overwhelmed.
Do you have credit cards and if so, do you pay them off every month or do you just pay the minimum? If you have a lot of credit card debt have you consolidated your debt or have you thought about doing so? I'm always impressed by how much people spend just on their credit cards. If you're willing to share with the rest of us, how much credit card debt do you have and/or how much do you have to pay each month just to stay afloat? How much do you pay each month in interest?
Most Americans don't put much into savings each month. Are you able to save any money each month? Or is it always, "we'll start saving once we pay off the credit cards?"
Chapter 3. Swollen Expectations: Aaah, living up to the Joneses. A nearly impossible task because just as you think you are getting close, the Joneses seemingly got a raise and are still out of reach. It's extremely wearing and stressful always trying to obtain a lifestyle that will always be just beyond your budget. But you'll keep trying. And manufacturers and marketers will make sure that scenario will always remain to keep them in business.
Do you feel like things are never enough? That there is an incessant pressure to have the newest electronics and furniture, bigger cars and homes, latest fashions, etc.? Once you buy a highly coveted object, how do you feel? Are you happy for a short while and then depressed and looking for the next great thing or are you satisfied with it for as long as you have it?
Chapter 4. Chronic Congestion: In the attempt to always be at the cutting edge of well, pretty much everything, we buy a lot of stuff. But that stuff doesn't satisfy us like we thought it would, so we buy different stuff, hoping that will help solve whatever insatiable need is driving this desire to acquire more and more. When did "declutter" actually become a word we all started using?
Do you feel stressed in your home, office or car when it's full of junk? How do you feel after going through the house and recycling and donating all the things you don't want or need?
Chapter 5. The Stress of Excess: Many people are overwhelmed by the number of choices when they buy something and spend a lot of time worried that they made an incorrect decision. Additionally, when people have excess spare time, it oftentimes is spent watching television which fuels the desire for more stuff. These "swelling expectations" force us to keep up with the latest products and work more to afford them. In turn, we sleep less and are more strung out as a result.
How stressed out are you by the feeling that you need more? The desire to have the huge home with the granite counter tops and the lowered baking center in the kitchen. The master suite with separate closets, a soaking tub, dual jets in the shower and a separate room just for the toilet. What feeling do you get when you think of catalogs from Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel? What about the fancy car, even if it's choosing between the Toyota Camry hybrid over the Honda Civic hybrid? Can you step back, look at what you have and be satisfied with it or, if you do really need something, is getting a used version or the low-feature model okay?
Whew! That was a stressful introduction. I better go buy something online...