Weekly Geeks #4 – Getting Political (or in this case, social)

Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

As part of the assignment, Dewey posted a link to social issues, but mine doesn’t appear on that list. Perhaps it’s not a social issue after all, but I feel like it is, and it’s becoming more and more so. The mounting debt and lack of savings in our country are only two examples of how materialism and overspending have become major issues in our nation. As an issue, this is something I have struggled with for years, having come from a family of horders and learning a lifelong lesson when I had to dig myself out of more than $35,000 in credit card debt I accrued in college (I’m still working on the student loans). I now try to keep my possessions to a minimum, but I still struggle. It’s not an easy thing today to say no to wanting things, especially when there is SO MUCH to want. So here are a few books I’m either reading, or planning on reading, to help me understand spending habits and how to keep them under control.

I’m currently reading Dematerializing: Taming the Power of Possessions by Jane Hammerslough. So far I’m not impressed by the book. It seems like a bunch of psychobabble rather than tips on how to maintain a budget and control impulse buying. I was also hoping there would be tips in there about how to dematerialize, you know, get rid of all the junk. But I’m only about 4 chapters in so maybe it gets better (fingers crossed).

In my TBR list I also have Shop Your Closet by Melanie Charleton Fascitelli. I’m really looking forward to this book, but am waiting to read it until I move into my new place in August. I figure since I’ve got to move all my clothes anyway it will be the perfect time for me to get organized and take a look at everything I have in there with a critical eye (when moving I tend to throw tons of stuff away as a way to lighten my load). Shop Your Closet seems ideal for most women, who, if they’re like me, tend to hold on to clothes for years and years without knowing really what they have. In her book Fascitelli argues that instead of going shopping when you feel like wearing something new, maybe you can just go through the old part of your closet and find something you perhaps forgot about. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but certainly appeals to me.

A non-self help type book dealing with materialism is The High Price of Materialism by Tim Kasser. From Amazon:Kasser, a psychology professor at Knox College, certainly does. Drawing on an impressive range of statistical studies, including ones that use his own ‘Aspiration Index,’ Kasser argues that a materialistic orientation toward the world contributes to low self-esteem, depression, antisocial behavior and even a greater tendency to get ‘headaches, backaches, sore muscles, and sore throats.'” I’d like to read this book just to see the stats.

Lastly, I think The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need sounds like an interesting read. In her book, Juliet B. Schor “notes that, despite rising wealth and incomes, Americans do not feel any better off. In fact, we tell pollsters we do not have enough money to buy everything we need. And we are almost as likely to say so if we make $85,000 a year as we are if we make $35,000. Schor believes that “keeping up with the Joneses” is no longer enough for today’s media-savvy office workers.” Although this book was published in 1999, I think it still applies to our society today.

Oh, wait, one more: For a fun read, I recommend Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic. If you’ve ever been a shopaholic you will laugh hysterically at all the antics Becky Bloomwood uses to try to avoid her mounting debt proble (everything aside from paying her bills). When I read this book I identified so solidly with the main character that it was a bit disconcerting. Although I’m ashamed to admit it now, there are several things she does in the book that I have personally done myself.

Another book that has been recommended to me is Rich Dad, Poor Dad, but somehow I’m just not interested in it. I’ve been told by numerous people that I should pick it up, but I have yet to add it to my TBR list. Has anyone out there read it and done a review on it? Perhaps one of you can change my mind.

Published in: on May 20, 2008 at 4:13 pm  Comments (14)  

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  1. Excellent post, Becca — materialism/overspending is definitely a social issue in our country!!I recently part of a book (I record books on tape for the blind, so I only read about 50 pages) about a woman who decided to spend a year NOT buying. I wish I knew the title — it was interesting!And I love Becky Bloomwood, too 🙂

  2. Less is more is a very good idea. I enjoyed your post.cjh

  3. That’s definitely an issue and one that I’ve discussed at home with my hubby.

  4. I read Simple Prosperity by David Wann which is on this topic. I liked it but it the suggestions section is kind of geared to homeowners. It does go into the American psychology of getting stuff as well which is really interesting.

  5. I think the most annoying thing about materialism in this country is the people who go out and spend their money on status-symbol type items – expensive cars, clothes, etc. – stuff that is blatantly beyond their budget, and then turn around and complain about not having enough money. We are socialized to spend, constantly bombarded with advertising telling us that all we need to be better people is this or that product. Then you go out and spend your food money on the newest must-have item and all it does is leave you more in debt. All you need to do to curb your spending is ask yourself when you are considering buying something whether it’s something you NEED or something you WANT. If you simply WANT it, but don’t NEED it, most of the time you shouldn’t buy it. Treating yourself is a good thing to do sometimes, but using shopping as some kind of solution for problems in our lives explains a lot about why many people in our country feel unfulfilled and unhappy.

  6. Chason: You could have written that book I’m reading. That’s pretty much exactly what she’s said so far, but it’s taken her 200 pages to do it.Melanie: I think I’ll check that book out.Kristen: Becky Bloomwood is practically my idol.

  7. There is a movie called Maxed Out which also addresses this issue. I have not seen it yet, but you may enjoy the perspective it brings.

  8. I’m in the process of moving home for the summer after my last year of college, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I managed to accumulate. I’m curious if <>Dematerializing…<> gets better, because it seems like something that might help me as I try to tame the massive amount of useless stuff I have!Kim

  9. Kim: If I were you I’d check out a book on organizing or decluttering instead. <>Dematerializing<> seems to be more about the reasons we accumulate stuff and the stats about how much stuff we have, but so far there are no solutions to the problem. One of the books that really helped me to finally throw away some of the stuff I was hanging onto was <>Organizing Plain and Simple<> by Donna Smallin. She goes through the process with you step by step and really helps you understand WHY you should throw stuff out so that you’ll actually do it.

  10. Fantastic post! I can so relate as well. Not only did I accrue the college debt, when I finally dug out of it, I’m back again. With a husband that got laid off from his job, things got pretty desperate for awhile. I can honestly say though that I will never have this problem again. If I don’t have the cash, I don’t buy. Period.

  11. I think you should do this book. im getting my mom a copy for her birthday.http://www.amazon.com/When-Our-Grown-Kids-Disappoint/dp/074323281X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211690543&sr=1-1

  12. Angela: Seems that book was written specifically for your mom. I probably won’t be reading it though, as I don’t have any grown kids … but maybe I should send it to my Dad for Father’s Day. Hahah.

  13. I saw that movie “Maxed Out” that beastmomma mentioned. I found it really disturbing how far in debt we Americans are. The movie delves into the predatory practices of many lenders and credit card companies. There are a couple sad stories in the movie where parents talk about how their otherwise responsible kids ended up getting credit cards as college students when they were away from home for the first time. The kids were smart, but they ended up charging up to their limits and ended up so far in debt that one of the kids ended up taking his own life. The kid’s mom says that she still receives credit card offers for her son years after his tragic death. Talk about adding insult to injury. Ultimately, for the credit card companies, it’s all about making as much money as possible. To give you an idea of the credit card company’s perspective, they call people who pay off their entire balance each month “deadbeats.” It’s the one time I like to refer to myself as a deadbeat.

  14. Chason: That sounds like a very informative movie; I am sure I will cry when I see it.

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