Sometimes I’m accused of being cheap or living in squalor because I prefer to ride a bike, eat at home, and because I generally don’t buy very many things. This does not sit well with the prevailing consumerist attitude in this ownership society. I suspect ownership society means that people are owned (pwned!) by their mortgages. I must admit that I take a certain degree of offense, so here’s my rant.

Over the past century the US has turned into one of the most wasteful societies that have ever existed. Each week parents on average spend less time with their children than they do shopping for more stuff. Each year more Americans file for bankruptcy than graduate from college. Most Americans firmly believe that more is better and that bigger is beautiful. Bigger cars, bigger houses, more stuff. Even clothes sizes are have gotten bigger to accommodate the growing waistlines of an increasingly obese population while still making people believe that they are only size L (our L’s are XL in the rest of the world).

US cars are huge compared to their European counterparts. American sedans are the size of European station cars and our obnoxious SUVs are powered like European box trucks. Heck, they don’t even drive SUVs over there. The roads are simply not wide enough.

Similarly American houses have grown bigger and bigger even though households sport fewer inhabitants than ever before. American homebuilders have realized that their customers are mostly clueless when it comes to quality vs quantity. In general, given the choice, an American prefer to pay as little as possible per square footage. Consequently, 2000 and 3000 sqft eye sores with vinyl siding, faux stone fronts, and multiple additions have been built en masse even though many are occupied by only one or two occupants. I bet in many of these cases, those people really only use the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, and the living room.

Do you really need all that space in your house and all that stuff in it? Have you considered what stuff you wouldn’t need to own, if your house was half the size or even smaller? If you think back over the past few weeks, you might be surprised that the stuff you have needed on a daily basis could probably fit in a couple of large suitcases! Then why did you buy the rest of your stuff? If you’re not using it, why do you still keep it around? Is this the reason you have a big house? Is this the reason you need additional “bedrooms”? Because you “need” to store stuff you don’t really need or use (but which you’ll probably say you keep around because you “plan” to use it)? If you insist that you still “need” all this stuff, you are probably not being completely honest with yourself. The sad fact is that most people grow the amount of stuff they lug around much faster than they grow their net worth.

Freedom is still appreciated more than in other countries, so you have an opportunity to create your own way. As individuals we have a choice to opt out of the collective insanity. What if you didn’t have to pay the huge mortgage for your huge house, and all the bills for all your stuff? What if you lived in a modest home, drove a modest car, and bought quality instead of quantity. What if you found a job that was meaningful to you rather than a high paying job that you hate but which you need to afford the expensive life style you picked to compensate for your miserable job? If you did that, you could easily and I do mean easily save tons of money and invest it to cover your expenses. That way you could become financially free. Financial freedom is the quintessential form of freedom in a capitalistic society. When you are no longer owned by your banker our your job, you will be free. Is that being cheap? I don’t think so!