As outlined in my previous post, I recently had the opportunity to attend (and give a presentation at) the Money Talks? Conference held in Budapest. Not only is the name of the conference a pun, but it’s posed as a question. Does money talk?
From ‘time is money‘ to ‘tightening our belts‘, we’ve examined quite a few money related expressions and metaphors on Enrichmentality. But does such language have any real power over how we think – and act?
When it comes to spending, it’s easy to get excited. You don’t have to try hard – advertisers do all the work for you, making the acquisition of shiny new things look and sound fun and appealing.
Spending, however, requires a little more creativity on our part. But even if you manage to get hyped about saving yourself, your family might think you’re a grump if you’re constantly reminding them to switch off the lights and close the doors and buy the cheaper detergent.
So how can you get your family on board with saving? How can you use the same sorts of tricks advertisers do to make spending seem so appealing to convince your family – and perhaps yourself! – that saving is the best course of action?
Piles of unopened bills. A wallet full of receipts and ATM statements. More accounts than you can remember the balances of. Cards you can’t remember the PINs to. Waking up in the middle of the night, heart pounding, thinking of your pension plan, tax return, or credit card statement. Sound familiar?
Certain words – like ‘bank’ and ‘statement’ – can grip us with anxiety. So much so, that Cambridge University researchers have declared ‘financial phobia‘ a bona fide psychological condition, affecting as many as 9 million people in Britain – mostly women and young people.
One of the things I most looked forward to, in buying a home of our own, was having more freedom.
Owning, to me, was more than just about no longer having to pay rent, lining someone else’s pockets, but about having the ability to make the ‘house’ I lived in a ‘home’ – something a bit more personal – getting to paint the walls a different colour or put up pictures if I so chose.
And I think this is a common dream. Take the cliché ‘A man’s home is his castle‘. It encapsulates the notion that ‘One can do whatever one wants to in one’s own home’.
But is that always true? And are there other ‘castles’ you can build that give you even more freedom?
I’m coming up to my fifth month of being on the road, partly inspired by the fantastic book Cashing in on the American Dream: How to retire at 35 by Paul Terhorst. It’s a book that sat on my wishlist for a couple of years, for one simple reason – the word ‘American’ in the title. Although I (and probably most people in the world) am familiar with the concept of the the ‘American Dream’, I wasn’t sure whether the book would be too heavily focused on the American context to be of any use to me. As it turned out, it was extremely relevant, despite its distance from my location in both time (being published over 30 years ago) and space (given my Australian background).
A few days ago, I started to write a post about this book, about how we can all ‘cash in on the American dream’ in some way or another, and the relevance of Terhort’s ideas decades later, in contexts outside America (which I’ll still do in my next post). But this led me to research the very phrase ‘American Dream’, and that turned out to be a whole other (and in some ways, even more interesting!) story.
When a politician is criticised for being ‘out of touch’, it is often said that they don’t know the cost of a loaf of bread or a carton of milk. The BBC describes this as ‘a classical political ambush that has been popular on both sides of the Atlantic for decades’, with cynical voters suspicious that political leaders live in a world divorced from the ordinary lives of the majority. But why are these two items such important yardsticks? And how would they stack up in a global comparison? What about something a little more fun… like the Big Mac?
It’s 30 years since The Economist invented the Big Mac Index, a ‘lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level. It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries’.
‘I love your shoes!’ How should you respond to such a compliment? With gracious acceptance? With modesty?
It’s probably the influence of my time spent in Japan, but my usual tendency is to downplay any compliment.
‘Oh, these? They’re only cheap! They were reduced to $20’
For me, responding to compliments with a simple ‘Thank you’, as is common in many European cultures (including Hungary, where I am now located) goes against the grain.
Complimenting ‘is a complex sociolingustic skill’, says Holmes (cited by Grossi), and in Japanese society, a desire for modesty generally outweighs a desire for agreement (Leech, cited by Pohl). Using Japanese norms in Australian society has sometimes surprised – or even annoyed – those I’m speaking to. ‘Don’t say that!’ they respond with utter horror, ‘I don’t need to know how much they cost!’ highlighting the taboo of talking about money.
There’s a stigma attached to the word ‘cheap‘, especially when applied to a person. Something that is cheap is meaningless, to feel cheap is to be embarrassed. No one wants to be a cheapskate – someone who is labelled as ‘stingy’ and ‘miserly’. But just like the word ‘budget’, should ‘cheap’ be viewed so negatively? Surely saving money – or at least, not wasting it – is a good thing?