Monday, July 28, 2008

money and convenience, a dangerous combination

A great post from our wise friend the Ven. Shi Wuling. You can read her blog here.

Convenience is a Dangerous Thing

In the US when I wanted to buy something online, I conveniently charged it. (Don't worry; I'm a compulsive payer who pays even before the statement comes out.) Living in Australia now, I just ordered a solar oven from an online store, but there was no charge option. Instead, the company's bank account was given so I could transfer the amount due from my bank account to theirs. Not quite as convenient.

But infinitely better. Because with this system, if you don't have the money, you can't spend it.

Unlike in the US, where if you don't have the money, you just borrow it from your friendly bank that's happy to send you a little piece of plastic. Dangerous plastic. When the statement comes in, you realize that you can't pay it off because, as you suddenly remember, you don't have the money. So you make a partial payment. And are charged an excessive rate of interest on the remaining balance.

As the interest and balance start to go up, you begin making minimum payments. And use your charge card more often. Then all the time. Then you start missing payments.

And you know the rest.

In a culture that scoffs at the idea of "living within one's means" as something one’s grandparents did, where an advertising industry spends millions of dollars a year to learn the subtleties of how to addict people to shopping, buying for cash has become an a rarity.

Why is this on a Buddhist blog?

Because the Buddha lived a balanced life, a simple life. A life of contentment. A life without worry or fear. A life focused on selflessness and giving, not self-indulgence and instant gratification.

From what I’ve seen, overall, life in Australia isn’t as convenient as life in the US. And that’s probably a very good thing.

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