Here’s my Top 10 list of the ways that we waste money, and in many cases at the same time waste the earth’s resources:
1. Houses: Why do so many of us aspire to have the biggest house we can (or possibly can’t) afford? The book Affluenza suggests that 100 square metres per person is the maximum that we need. Most people in the world get by with a tiny fraction of this.
2. Cars: Do you, and every person with a driving licence in your family, really need your own car?
3. Credit cards: For many, the temptation to spend ‘not real’ money and the resulting excessive interest and penalties is like a middle-class ‘poverty trap’.
4. Food: 20% of the world’s population is underfed. Can we justify eating excessively and, even worse, throwing food away?
5. Drugs: We spend vast amounts on drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, and the medicines to counteract their effects, and the effects of excessive, bad food.
6. Water: Do you run the tap while brushing your teeth? And there are countless ways that we use clean water to do dirty jobs.
7. Clothes: How many sets of clothes and shoes does one person need?
8. Phones and other technology: Do phones, laptops etc. really become obsolete (in terms of what we actually use them for) every couple of years?
9. Travel: We have the technology to communicate remotely far more then we do, so why do we still travel so much?
10. Finally, interest used to buy anything that doesn’t grow in value or give you a positive (cash) return on investment, including the above.
(11. Tax: This is not on my personal list, but it would feature highly for many people because of the government wasting money on our behalf.)
How much of your spending is on the things on this list? I’d like to think I have become very frugal in recent years, after recognising that the financial distress caused by overspending massively outweighs the marginal and short-term benefits of having these things. I’d like to think that for me it is less than 10%.
What’s your percentage, and do you agree with my list?