Archive for June, 2008

Is Advertising Making Us Poor?

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I read somewhere that on average Americans are exposed to between 500 to 1000 advertising messages per day. This bombardment comes to us in from television, radio, magazines, newspapers, the sides of buses, taxis and trucks, labels, logos, T-shirts and the Internet, to name a few plus other sources I may have forgotten to include. Advertisers spend billions of dollars each year to compel us to buy their products – and it seems to be working. We are a nation of debtors living in a nation deep in debt.

This statistic about advertising made me think of how much stuff I already own. In my adult life I’ve moved 8 times, and each time I threw, or gave away things I was no longer using, or had never used in the first place. After getting rid of these possessions not only did I feel lighter and freer, but I never missed them, and not for a second did I wish I’d kept any of it. The other thing that amazed me was that when I went to move the next time, I’d acquired as much stuff as I’d given away all over again.

I’ve now gotten to the point in my life where I no longer wish to add to my possessions. I’ve come to see that owning more stuff makes me less happy as I have to find the means to safeguard all of it. I’m tired of being driven to distraction by all the advertising pushing us to buy and own more and more. In a way, I think all this stuff clutters the mind and obscures the simple essence of what life is all about; enjoying time together and making memories with the people you love and care about.

Currently, the advertisement I find most annoying is one for Macy’s Department Store where every celebrity hawking a brand is in the store checking their wares. I absolutely hate this commercial. I am not interested in making any of these celebrities any richer, nor am I interested in buying their products. When did we all become such suckers that the mere dangling of some shiny object in front of us by some celebrity makes us run out and buy it?

The other thing that drives me crazy - store sales during holidays like Fourth of July, and Memorial Day, and Presidents Day, etc. Just because the store is having a sale must we run out and buy more of what we probably already have? I cannot think of a worse place to spend an afternoon on a beautiful day than inside a mall.

I can and do buy things when I need them, but I have to really need it. In these difficult economic times, I’m thinking more about my purchases and putting back more things than I buy. You can absolutely live without most of the stuff you take to the check-out counter, or order online. And, you can absolutely be happier when you aren’t receiving credit card bills in the mail that you have no way of paying off. Think about it – as soon as you put something on credit you become a slave to it. Is that the kind of life you want?

How much more precious time could you spend with friends and family if you weren’t shopping, storing, cleaning and maintaining more stuff you probably don’t need in the first place?

Moving Day

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Yesterday was a beautiful June day. It was too nice to be stuck indoors. Around 11 o’clock I could resist no more and slipped away from my desk to take a walk in the brilliant sunshine.

A few blocks from my house I rounded a corner and saw a moving van in the driveway of a cute brick ranch. The lawn was dotted with open boxes and odds and ends. A woman wearing a baseball cap sat on the lawn petting her dog as she watched the movers bringing her possessions out of the house. As I got closer I spied a county sheriff’s car that had been hidden by the huge moving van, and two police officers leaning up against the car overseeing the scene. I suddenly wished I’d chosen a different path to walk.

The woman sat perfectly still as I passed. Only the two policemen turned to look at me. I cannot imagine what that woman was feeling as her home was emptied by strangers. I had a lump in my throat as I choked back tears and sadness for this woman. It’s a scene I hope I will never see again.

Today The New York Times reports that Congress is working on a new bill to help home owners facing foreclosure. It can’t come fast enough as far as I’m concerned.

To read the full NYT article paste this link into your browser:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/25/washington/25housing.html?th=&adxnnl=

1&emc=th&adxnnlx=1214442039-FhfmemDQ0cHTZqvyXwY+tQ

More Depressing News About the Housing Market

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

U.S. Housing Rebound to be Prolonged: Harvard Study

By Lynn Adler

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Record foreclosures and limited access to credit will make it harder than usual to rebound from this U.S. housing market slump, the worst at least since World War Two, according to a Harvard University study on Monday.

———————————-

This isn’t the news anyone in the real estate industry wants to hear, but I can’t say I’m surprised. My gut feeling is that we will not see a real thriving RE market for another 5 years, or so. That said, I think it’s time we Americans re-evaluate our continual striving to trade-up and take on more debt. Maybe this go-round with a depressed housing market/economy will allow us to ease-up on ourselves and be happy with what we’ve got?

Would you rather have a really big house, or really big life?

Any opinions on this? Please share.

To read the entire Washington Post article paste this link into your browser:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/23/

AR2008062300042.html?referrer=emailarticle

Want Advice About Buying Your First Home? Start Saving!

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Many people are still very unrealistic about what it takes to get financing these days. Despite the unrelenting headlines some people still don’t get that there’s a credit crunch going on that’s not about to end anytime soon.

A friend of mine had the following experience while working with a young couple in their early 30s looking to buy their first home. Both had excellent jobs with strong income. Between them they were bringing in over six figures a year, and their rent was a meager $1400.00. When she heard that she was elated. She thought these two were going to be a shoe-in for a loan. The trouble came when she asked about a down-payment. They hadn’t saved any money at all and wanted 100% financing.

They’d both been working for at least 8 years making oodles of money but they hadn’t saved anything, aside from their 401Ks which, thankfully, they wouldn’t touch. They were also leasing expensive foreign cars and had huge credit card debts that were never paid off because they just kept buying more and more stuff every month

When she told them they were going to have to start saving money, you would have thought she’d thrown holy water on Linda Blair’s character from The Exorcist.

“You only need to save up about 3% to qualify for an FHA loan,” she said as gently as possible. They still didn’t like it one bit. After their heads stopped spinning around they said they’d go home and talk about it, but she confided that she was pretty sure she wouldn’t be hearing from them again. She said she didn’t think either one was willing to give up a latte, let alone their $1000.00 per month shopping habit to save for a house. It’s a shame too, because with their income they could have afforded a really nice house.

One More Reason to Slow Down to Save Gas

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

USA Today ran an interesting article. It seems that some police forces in GA will soon begin charging a fuel surcharge when you’re pulled over for a speeding ticket.

Drivers caught speeding in one Atlanta suburb will pay $12 to cover the additional cost of chasing them down at $4+ per gallon.

To read the complete article - paste this link into your browser:

http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20080618/

1a_bottomstrip18_dom.art.htm