More Than Money
Issue #8

To Spend Or Not To Spend

Table of Contents

“Overabundance at Our Fingertips”

"Do we buy the hot tub?!" It was awfully tempting, imagining ourselves luxuriating in the steaming water, under the stars after a long day. But we wondered about spending thousands of dollars on something we didn't really need. We asked ourselves, "Would giving in to the hot tub start us down the slippery slope of ever-increasing consumerism? Would it alienate our less affluent friends? When others lack their basic needs, is it right to spend so much purely for enjoyment?"

As super-affluent people (compared to most in the world) our spending has few external limits. We don't have to look for the least expensive way to meet our needs and we can regularly indulge in extravagances if we so choose.

The persisting questions remain: How much and at what level do we satisfy our desires? What values and principles should guide our spending? How can we be good to ourselves and partake of the wondrous marketplace before us, without becoming jaded by or addicted to the over-abundance at our fingertips?

In certain respects our relationship to spending resembles our relationship to food. As with food, spending can be a powerful symbol for self-nurturance, self-image, and control. We often carry judgments about our own and other people's spending that can make it as touchy a subject as body weight. Just as we can be labeled as too skinny or too fat, depending on the circles we travel in, we can be judged (or judge others) as too "tight" or too "self-indulgent." The lack of comfortable discussion about spending differences, combined with the natural desire to blend with the lifestyles of our closest friends and colleagues, makes it hard to explore spending habits honestly and to think freshly about what will best serve our needs and values.

What is an appropriate level of spending? On one extreme, the ubiquitous, stylish ads and seductive catalogues whisper, "Spending is fun, powerful, sexy, and so easy. Do it now!" On the other extreme, images of homeless and hungry people peer through funding appeals whispering, "You'll do fine without that extra stuff; give generously to us!" While some of us manage to feel relaxed about our spending choices in the face of this bombardment, many others feel overwhelmed. Amidst the rush of consumerism, it is mighty challenging to build an enjoyable way of life that reflects our true caring and integrity.

Over the years, we editors have learned that living "The American Dream" (a level of consumption often delightful and envied globally) may be creating an environmental nightmare. Researchers warn us that our lifestyle is not sustainable-not as currently practiced, and certainly not if mass-exported to a swelling global population. In this issue of More than Money we're not out to prove or disprove these warnings, but to explore what it means if we believe in their urgency. Perhaps technological breakthroughs will change this prediction, but in the meantime, we believe that we, in the wealthiest nations, face the necessity of changing our ways.

How can those of us in the most globally privileged group respect our own needs while acknowledging our place in a troubled planetary family? This issue describes some of the ways people with wealth can grapple with this question and slowly move toward more conscious spending. For better and for worse, our spending intertwines us with an ever-growing web of economic, environmental and spiritual relationships around the world. May this issue of More than Money stimulate us to act with greater awareness of this interconnectedness, and through doing so to develop greater control, effectiveness, and joy in our personal spending. .

--Christopher Mogil and Anne Slepian

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