Is it Wrong to Spend Money When Others Don’t Have Any?

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It was a day of irony on the news. First, I watched a news clip about a family selling all they owned, except their house, on eBay, to make it financially. With three children, two of whom have medical needs, the Peters’ are a family overwhelmed with medical bills and have hit bottom. They have listed everything from the washing machine to the car at an opening bid of $20,000, which is the total cost of their medical bills. My heart went out to them as I watched the clip.

Immediately after that clip another one came up on the line up. This one was about the Otto’s, who had recently spent a grand total of $155,000 to have their beloved pet, Sir Lancelot, cloned. Sir Lancelot was a Labrador Retriever that was adored by his human parents Edgar and Nina, and when he died of cancer they decided it was worth the investment to have him cloned.

The subject of cloning animals is for another day. This particular article is calling into question whether or not it’s wrong for people to spend money on things that aren’t necessities in light of the people that can’t even put food on the table right now.

Some things just take common sense and really don’t need to be debated about being wrong or not. When the “Big Three Auto” CEOs flew to Washington in private jets to request a financial bailout it was glaring error in judgment that was obvious to the entire nation. Lawmakers were less than impressed.

“There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses,” Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, told the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

“It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious.”

He added, “couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it.”

At the very tale-end of January, as the people on Wall Street were asking for financial help, our new President labeled them as shameful for doing so in light of shelling out over $20 billion in bonuses to financial executives.  This made people who aren’t even struggling financially angry. What were they thinking? Why would they spend that type of money and then turn around and ask for help? Those who are struggling financially would say that Wall Street doesn’t even know what struggling is!

These are all high level situations. How does it relate to us, who aren’t a part of Wall Street and Big Auto companies? It has to do with those of us that have money to spend. Some of us have money to spend on little things like occasional new clothes and periodic meals out. Others are more fortunate and have the money to spend on big item purchases like state of the art digital equipment and high-end vehicles. Still others have the money to do things like, well, clone their pets.

Is it wrong to have money and spend it when families like the Peters’ are selling all they own to make it? Not necessarily. Those who aren’t struggling don’t have to indulge in self-punishment and a restricted lifestyle because other people are. That’s like a person without cancer feeling as though they need to put themselves through something traumatic to make up for the fact that they are cancer free when others aren’t. It’s just not realistic. There are, however, thoughts we can keep in the forefront of our minds when we do spend money.

Be grateful and realize what you have

Too often we take our blessings for granted. Sometimes we even stay away from things like newspapers and the evening news because we don’t want to be reminded that there are hard times in the world. While we don’t need to fall into a mire of despair because of the difficulties that exist right now, at the same time it is good to be aware that we are blessed in light of others’ lives.

We need to really take the time and stop and think about the blessings we have in our lives and have hearts full of gratitude for what we have. Not only do we need gratitude, we also need to learn how to be content, realizing that we are far better off than many other people living out daily life right now.

The other day my daughter was looking at a bag of snacks on the counter and was so focused on the bag, she didn’t realize that I had put a handful of the very same snack on her high chair tray. I looked at her and said, “You’re so focused on what you think you want, you don’t even realize what you have!” I caught myself as I said it and wondered how many times in life I do that same exact thing.

Learn to live simply

We feel invincible when times are good, but the reality is that hard times can hit fast and catch us off guard. We don’t need to walk around always waiting for the other shoe to drop and live in worry and fear, but we do need to learn to live in such a way so as not be caught off guard if bad times do hit us. What does this type of living look like?

Don’t rack up debt that you will be unable to pay should a job loss occur in the family. Buy only what you can pay for. Pay bills on time and don’t take on more bills than you can comfortably keep up with.

Learn to live without. As I stated before, we don’t need to get rid of all worldly possessions, but there is something to be said for learning to live simply and with fewer items than we’re used to. Families that learn how to budget, bargain shop, and buy items, only when they have thought it over and saved for them, are less likely to be devastated when financial crisis hits.

When I heard of a billionaire that committed suicide because he lost so much money he became a millionaire instead, I was astounded. What I couldn’t do with a million dollars! I wondered what drove him to such desperate measures when he still had more money than most of us can comprehend. My husband summed it up neatly, “It was the standard of living he built for himself. When he lost the ability to keep living it, he lost a reason to live.”

A good question to ask is, “Am I living for my possessions and money or would I still find a reason to live, even if I lost it all?” Depending on your answer, you may find a need to make adjustments when it comes to how (or why) you’re living.

Realize what really matters

In addition to learning how to live simply, we need to realize what really matters. The diamond jewelry, fancy cars, and cruises aren’t what matter. Neither is the image that comes from being well off. Family matters. Love matters. Laughter, true friendship, joy and peace — those things are what are really important in life. Let’s not lose sight of that. We may lose our jobs, our home, our luxury items like TVs and Wiis, but we’ll still have our character, our children, and a joy that goes beyond circumstances — if we are focusing on those things in the blessed times.

Practice giving as much as you spend

I write this next statement as an individual still working on practicing it on a regular basis. I’m trying to get into the mindset that for every non-necessity item we purchase or event we go to, such as a meal out, I will give just as much to a charity, organization, or family that needs the money.

Part of me wants to say I’ll practice this after I become rich, not now when I’m struggling to pay my bills every month! However, if I can’t learn how to give $25 now for every $25 I spend on fun, how do I think I’m going to give $250,000 away for every $250,000 I spend on fun? If you want to clone your dog and spend $155,000 doing it, go ahead. Just plan on giving that much to a charity (which the Otto’s did, by the way). Practice this in the little purchases, as well as the big ones.

Spending money while others don’t have any isn’t wrong — being selfish and oblivious to the needs of others is. There is nothing wrong with having money. What is wrong is when we don’t ever give what we have to those who lack.

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