Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Living Simply

It is no secret that the U.S' economy is driven by consumer consumption, Americans love to buy. This culture of consumer frenziness also applies to Puerto Rico. Just as in many other parts of the world, a luxury car is the ultimate status symbol here. When a new product arrives in the island, like the iPad or iPhone, you'll also see lines out the door at most Best Buy stores. Just like the mainland U.S, some Puerto Ricans will spend the night outside department stores in hopes of getting hold of some great bargains on Black Friday. I read a very interesting article recently published in The New York Times titled, "But Will it Make You Happy?" It talks about the growing trend amongst Americans to downsize and cut back on spending, as the economy continues to stagnate. People are now buying less and saving more. According to the article, spending is going more towards things which would maximize their "emotional efficiency."

Material things can only bring us so much satisfaction, as the novelty of it wears off soon thereafter. I've never been one to spend a fortune on clothes, shoes or makeup. I'd much rather spend my money on traveling. Most consumers on the island, like their counterparts on the mainland, have also been more conscientious of their spending. While the personal savings rate in the U.S is estimated to be between 1%-3%, I suspect it's even lower here. Unfortunately, many people on the island live on credit cards and loans. The average household credit card debt in the U.S is an astounding $8,000. Most families on the island are in similar financial straits, if not worse. Adopting a more simplistic and minimalistic way of life is the way to go. I recommend reading "Becoming a Minimalist," an excellent blog focusing on living more with less. This is an old adage which seems to resonate with many people these days. One of the lessons from this difficult economic downturn is that it forces many of us to re-examine our lifestyles, and re-prioritize on the things which truly matter in life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Puerto Rico is an interesting beast. Though most people live below the "poverty" level I believe most people here live very very well. The life expectancy is 3years more than in the states and with the familia card these"poor" people have free food and health care and most own their own home. Yes it is a simple lifestyle and one more of us should embrace. The cars are crappy (but work), there is no service (but hey - can you complain if you aren't paying for anything?), expenses are low if you show restraint and don't use air conditioning. Water is cheap and clean, property taxes are practically zero, you can grow food with minimal effort or scrounging on the roadside. The people who get screwed here are the people who do work. Income tax is 33% and you get you really screwed if two of you work. Also, a full time job does not mean you get health care - so you don't work so you can get it free with the Mi Salud program. Darwinism in its purist form!