I use Pandora pretty extensively when I’m working. It plays me all the latest music for free, and all I have to do is suffer through the advertisements. Normally I hate the ads, but the other day one came on that made me laugh, and even inspired me to write an entire blog post.
It was an advertisement for the 2013 Nissan Sentra. The ad basically shows a young hot shot at a company giving an executive a ride in his Sentra, and then getting a promotion because of it. “It makes a powerful first impression” declares the narrator.
I embedded the video so you can check it out yourself.
So basically this ad says that if you drive this fancy brand new car, you will get promoted.
Yeah, I laughed too.
Now obviously that isn’t what they are directly claiming, but it is still is what you are meant to insinuate from the commercial. And that same theme is reverberated not only in countless other advertisements, but through our entire culture. The theme that expensive consumer items show that you are successful and wealthy, and that buying them will somehow get you there if you aren’t already.
There are two huge flaws with that theory. Well there are actually many more than just two, but the two I’m talking about are the biggest and kind of incorporate the others.
Stuff Doesn’t Make You Successful, Hard Work Does
Well isn’t that a shocker. Believe it or not, wearing $2,000 suits and eating all organic food and driving a luxury car won’t immediately vault you to the top of your company and let you conquer the world. The only way to be successful is to work hard. Sound cliche? Sure. Absolutely true? You betcha. There will always be those few people out there who make it big by being lucky, convincing others that you can win big without working hard. But for the vast majority of us, working hard is the best road to success.
This theory can be applied to virtually anything. Of course the obvious example is in your professional career, but there are many others. Will a fancy computer help you type faster and thereby get better grades in school? Of course not. What if you buy a solid gold watch? Will that increase your chances of making lots of friends in high places? Not likely.
Some of the requirements I set for myself during the fitness challenge I started last week are that I can’t go to gyms or personal trainers and I can’t use any expensive equipment. Why would I do that? Don’t P90X and Bowflex and all those other expensive items make you ripped? They can, but I’m setting out to prove that you can get ripped just as easily without them.
Buying Stuff Makes You Wealthy
This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there. If you were to ask random people on the street if they thought that all rich people have lots of consumer and high class items, most would say yes. For some reason, wealth is associated with expensive consumer goods.
Turns out that is very wrong.
If you’ve read “The Millionaire Next Door”, which I highly recommend, you know that the average millionaire doesn’t spend lots of money. They don’t drive luxury cars or wear expensive clothing or live on a small island. Some do, but not most.
The only way to build wealth is to invest part of your income. Therefore, spending money on lots of consumer goods, whether it is a Nissan Sentra, a gold watch, or a private island, actually hurts your ability to build wealth. Unless you absolutely need something, or purchasing an item actually saves you money in the long run, every time you spend money you are impeding your own quest to one day become rich.
It’s Time to Shift the Paradigm
American culture is convinced that stuff is superior to all else. That having a high income means you should spend it all away, that it’s okay to take on debt to buy things like brand new cars, and that stuff determines social class. This paradigm in the American culture needs to be changed. It isn’t good for anyone but the companies making cheap products.
And while it is hard to change a culture overnight, you can easily change your own way of living. If you want to get out of the consumer rat race and live more meaningfully, all that is required are some simple lifestyle changes. Here are the most important:
- Focus on Value and Quality, Not Quantity: When you buy things, focus on buying quality and value. Instead of having lots of stuff that you never even look at, aim to have a much smaller collection of things that provide a maximum amount of utility and pleasure to your life for a bargain price.
- Focus on People and Accomplishments, Not Things: Instead of working and striving towards obtaining possessions, strive to build connections with people and accomplish things in work and life. A meaningful connection with a friend or family member is far more valuable than any car. And when you look back on your life, you will remember what you accomplished and who you knew, not what you owned at the time.
Making those above shifts will no doubt help you live a more fulfilling life, and you will find that you will be much more financially stable as well.
So, in conclusion, a car won’t get you promoted, and no other consumer purchase is likely to do you very much good either.