“Putting a Price on Love” is a post by Adina J in which she shares some random musings about our love affairs with consumerism. ALSO TODAY IS THE LAST DAY OF THE TF FIRST ANNIVERSARY GIVEAWAY SO ENTER NOW!!!!CAPSLOCK!!1!
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, RateSupermarket.ca did a very unromantic thing: it put a price on love. To be precise, a price on the (dare I say it?) typical, modern romance – year-long courtship, year-long engagement, wedding; at the end of it, the lucky “average” couple gets to walk into the sunset almost $45K poorer. I don’t know about love being blind; it’s certainly expensive going by the numbers shared by RSM. A wardrobe makeover in the first year of dating, worth just under $1,000, with another $6,000 or so spent on dates and other miscellaneous incidentals. A $3,500 ring, followed by a $2,000 engagement party. To top it off, a $27,000 wedding. And these are averages, people.
It boggles the mind. Assuming the couple splits everything 50/50, that’s over $11K per person per year in completely discretionary (after tax) income. On a $50,000 gross income, we’re talking about a quarter of the individual’s take-home pay spent on things that are almost entirely consumables with no lasting tangible benefits (like $160 dinners and $1,300 wedding flowers). That’s just the beginning. You’ve got a house, new cars, babies, and a whole world of pain still to come. No wonder Canadians’ average non-mortgage debt is $27,485. An average Canadian’s life, from the day they step into university, is just one big hamster wheel of debt.
How does one get off this proverbial wheel? Never getting on it in the first place is ideal, but that ship has sailed for my generation (that would be the youngest end of Gen X, by the way). The next best thing is to take stock of what matters to you personally. We are constantly bombarded with “oughts” that somehow become “wants” and finally transform into “needs”. I’d posit that at least half of the average person’s “needs” would be hard to rationalize based on impartial analysis. Here’s a random example; if you’ve spent more than a couple of hours watching HGTV, you will know that one of the top “must-haves” in a property (for house-horny virgins and seasoned homeowners alike) is the extra “guest” bedroom. I would wager that, 9 times out of 10, none of those people have actual guests stay at their house for more than a few weekends in any given a year. Is the inconvenience of having the couch in your living room (or family room, or den, or bonus room, or basement) occupied a few days at a time worth the extra $20,000? The re-sale value is better, they say – because everyone just “knows” that a guest bedroom is simply a “must”. Wow, another hamster wheel.
Have you ever walked into a fancy store, only to have the salesperson look you up and down and turn away? Has that ever made you feel like you just need to show that so-and-so that, by God, you do have enough money to blow $75 on a novelty egg timer, thankyouverymuch? For some people, life is an endless cycle in which they re-hash their social inferiority complex. Advertisers love these hamsters, because there isn’t an “ought to” out there that they could refuse. Nothing is spared – from their bodies (your teeth ought to be three shades more blinding than anything seen in nature), to their houses (the appliances ought to match), to their relationships (you ought to spend three months’ salary on her ring). The capitalist system is wonderful, but the breadth and variety of goods and services it produces mean that the “oughts” never end. As a result of such poor decisions, the debt never really goes away, either.
“Ah,” you might say, “life would be so much easier without the oughts.” Wishful thinking; the oughts will always be there. The only variables you can change are (1) how much control you exert over your decisions and, inversely, (2) how much power you accord the oughts. Let the snooty salesperson think that you’re a bum. So what? She’s just a salesperson, not St. Peter sitting before the pearly gates. It’s all a carefully-engineered act — a marketing rouse — to part you and your money. Even if it wasn’t, her beliefs about your net worth don’t actually influence your bank account. Making her think that you’re richer than you are will likely only make you poorer than you were. And the same goes for your mother-in-law, and your neighbour, and the annoying guy at your twenty year high school reunion.
As for love, the only thing you ought to do is find someone who is in agreement with this statement: blowing $40,000 on a two-year, self-aggrandizing celebration of a particular set of neurochemical reactions is just plain dumb.