Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Today's New York Times article, "Given a Shovel, Americans Dig Deeper Into Debt," inspired this post. Click the title above to read the article. Or you can start with these lines from the article as food for thought:

"For decades, America’s shift from thrift could be summed up in this familiar phrase: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Whether for a car, home, vacation or college degree, the nation’s lenders stood ready to assist."

"As the profits in this indebtedness grew, financial companies [credit card companies, mortgage lenders] moved aggressively to protect them, spending millions of dollars to lobby against any moves lawmakers might take to rein in questionable lending."

"Eliminating negative feelings about indebtedness was the idea behind Mastercard's “Priceless” campaign, the work of McCann-Erickson Worldwide Advertising, which came out in 1997."

All these excerpts made me think, but the last quote truly gave me pause. The "Priceless" campaign has been an incredibly successful campaign (who hasn't made up their own version of the commercials), but it's underlying message is certainly damaging - that we should feel good about indebtedness. Debt is good!? We need to educate ourselves and our kids so that we (and most importantly, them) are not slaves to credit. See my previous post about "The Money Mammals Challenge" or "Goals" and start teaching your kids (and maybe even yourselves) today. Financial literacy education and being debt-free is priceless.

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Cluttering Down"

Kids like things. That seems to be a fact of life. Heck, we all seem to like things...probably much more than we should. In my ongoing effort to reduce clutter, I have tried a solution with my five-year-old that seems to be working. In addition to giving away something each time she receives a gift (let's call it "gift neutral"), I've implemented an even more novel system that I call "Cluttering Down." My daughter loves bags and purses and containers in general and I receive lots (read "too many") promotional bags and containers from various vendors. I initially resisted giving her these items as they just added to our clutter pile - until I saw an opportunity. If there is a bag/container that she wants (and I don't need it and think she might actually use it), I tell her that she can put 3-5 old toys or things in a bag for Goodwill. She does this willingly (with minimal whining) and she typically accompanies me on the trips to Goodwill to drop off the old things. This works well for a number of reasons:
  1. Some other kid will get to play with toys that she's not using.
  2. It reinforces the important concept of "Sharing" with others.
  3. It reduces the amount of nagging I have to endure at home.
It's arguable that number three is the most important because without it, this blog probably wouldn't exist. I might be locked up somewhere, muttering to myself about being overrun by an army of dolls, trucks and beads.

Let me know if you have any success "cluttering down," and remember that the ultimate goal of all of this is to reduce the amount of things our family accumulates and values.

Good luck.