Why nobody has any spare mon ey these days

Dear editor,
Recent letters comparing minimum wage amounts in 1969 miss one of the main reasons some families feel broke these days.

Dear editor,The recent letters comparing the minimum wage amounts in 1969 and now, and their relative purchasing power, miss one of the main reasons I believe some families feel broke these days.It’s not wages or inflation, it’s the amount of crap we now feel compelled to buy in order to live the ‘average’ Canadian lifestyle. If we look at what people spend their money on now, compared to what it was spent on back then, we can see quickly why nobody has any spare cash. When I was a kid, most families had one car. In my neighbourhood now, it’s more like every person. So even if the second (or third) car is paid for, between insurance, gas and maintenance, add $3,000 or more per car to the yearly family budget.As kids, we had cheap functional bikes and rode them everywhere, mainly because we got tired of walking. Most parents, with only one car, refused to be chauffeur.In the dark ages, 40 years ago, families had one phone. They had one TV, and no cable. A radio or two, but no computerized anything. Somehow we survived, and went to the moon with the technology of the day. Compare that to today, where media companies have us on monthly payments for Internet, cells, TV packages and data plans, plus extra hydro to run all the devices — an average modern family with 2.5 kids, three cell phones, games and HDTV probably spends over $400 a month, easily $5,000 per year on media and communications when you add in a computer, widescreen, Blu-Ray player, game console, and new cell every few years.Families in the late ’60s ate their meals at home, brewed their own coffee, made lunches and didn’t eat fast food three times a week. People didn’t change their furniture every few years, and only the super rich had granite countertops or commercial grade stainless steel stoves and refrigerators.The average house didn’t have every electrical gizmo appliance known to man, woman or the head buyer at Malwart.Back then, it seemed things lasted a lot longer, the concept of engineered obsolescence or short service life designed into products to ensure ongoing sales were only rumours. A product was expected to last a decade or more, not be replaced on a yearly basis, and people repaired things if they broke.Machines were simpler, parts were made better (mostly in North America), and people weren’t forced to replace whole subassemblies to fix one small piece that failed.Credit cards were not prolific and were hard to get. Debit cards didn’t exist, and if you wanted to buy something, you had to make a conscious decision to go to the bank, withdraw the cash, and buy the product.I don’t think we can ever go backwards to ’the good old days,’ because they don’t exist.But as we go forward, for those wondering why the money just doesn’t seem to go as far as it used to, try resisting the siren song of the advertising industry urging us to consume what we don’t need while spending money we don’t have.  Andy MacDougall,Royston

Comox Valley Record