The disease of consumerism is taking over the United States. Americans are sick and if something is not done soon, the illness will collapse the country. Consumerism is a serious illness and it must be treated as such. One of the main problems of consumerism is that it will lead those overcomed by consumerism into incurring debt to feed their illness.

Consumerism is a habit, it is formed over time. The person starts with a little bit today and the person will find the justifications necessary to validate the purchase. Once the justification is repeated sufficient times this person is able to continue with life and justify the next purchase.  When the current income does not support further purchases, this person will do the next “logical thing”, borrow.

You have seen this happening in a home near you; Mother is on her way to the mall for the fourth time this week. She’s going back to get the shoes she saw earlier while shopping with her daughter. She knows that she will have to use a credit card to buy the shoes, a credit card she has pushed to its limit, but there is this voice telling her that she must have the shoes. When she arrives home and tells her husband with a laugh, “I can’t help myself, it’s like a sickness with me.”

The scenario above is no laughing matter.

Consumerism is a disease. However, today’s product-oriented society screams at us for attention and demands that we buy. The average Americans fall victims to the emotional media hype, becoming so accustomed to spending and borrowing in order to answer Consumerism’s alluring voice which they never question and fall into a trance following her enticing voice to purchase and purchase.

After they wake up from the trance, fear enters their mind and they pray that there will be enough money to make the minimum monthly payment on their maxed out credit card. Even if there aren’t enough funds, many Americans won’t stop consuming, instead they are controlled by a taskmaster, an idol they have created – an idol born of guilt, greed, pride, materialism, and expectation. A ruthless taskmaster, which will drive those under its grip to pain, despair and ruin.

“You shall not place a stumbling block in front of a blind person; and you shall have fear of your God — I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:14)

You maybe wondering what this verse has to do with the topic of consumerism and if you continue reading, I will show you how relevant it is. If you have never read this verse before I encourage to read it. If you have read it before, after reading this article, you may have another perspective on how the Bible applies to our finances.

The verse has been applied to those literal situations referring to the placing of any sort of obstacle that could cause harm to a person to figurative stumbling block like providing incorrect information which may cause someone to transgress the laws of the Bible or providing misleading advice that may cause financial or physical harm. However, there are other concepts of the stumbling block which most likely you have not heard:

  1. making an object or situation available that can lead a person to succumb to moral, physical, or financial damage,
  2. creating or placing a person in a situation where he or she will be unable to exercise self-control and will sin impulsively because of an emotional vulnerability.
  3. Creating a situation or an emotional state which will lead a person to harm him/herself and others and/or lose control of his/her cognitive decision making abilities.

As mentioned above, our product-oriented society is built with an inherent stumbling block, which has led people to abuse the environment and build a mountain of debt. However, this was not always the case. At the beginning of the 20th century, people valued thrift, modesty and moderation. However, the industrial revolution needed consumers and the strategy of consumerism is born. The creation of a public mindset that encourages over-consumption beyond people’s actual needs.

If our ancestors would look at us today, they would be appalled by our consumption habits. To achieve this, the United States had to change the public’s perception and buying habits. Consumerism has corrupted the mind of people to define their happiness, identity, and self-worth with purchasing and consuming material possessions. In the meantime, those who stood to profit from this (businesses and governments), did nothing to stop this and instead continue encouraging consumption to “blinded” people into believing that happiness could be achieved through endless consumption.

Thanks to aggressive advertising, people’s perception of needs and wants have been merged to the point that luxuries became necessities. Look around, the fashion industry has created anxiety and restlessness what is “in” this season and pushing people into having to change their wardrobe of good quality clothes because they are not “new” or “up-to-date”. The same can be said of technology, constantly changing and telling us that we must purchase this new product when the one you just purchased is working perfectly.

To continue the funding of the never ending process of consumerism, the advent of the credit card in the 1950s enabled people to buy things that they would not normally consider purchasing. Originally meant to stimulate economic growth, credit shopping actually leads to increased consumer debt.

“Outstanding consumer revolving debt — mostly credit card debt — hit an all-time peak of $1.021 trillion in June [2017], according to the Federal Reserve. This should be a scary statistic. The last time the debt level was nearly this high was in 2008, when the U.S. economy was mired in a recession.” Michelle Singletary, Washington Post, Consumer debt is at a record high. Haven’t we learned?, August 12, 2017

This disease stems from a lack of valuation of money and its proper place in our lives. The people who lived through the Depression learned a profound lesson of personal finance; to live within your means. It taught them the importance of self-denial and the danger of over-indulgence. Unfortunately, as America came out of that great economic trial into the most prosperous time in all of history, it did not teach subsequent generations. Instead, it taught its children to hold their hands out in expectation; creating an entitlement society. Because of that, we now live in a time of great self-indulgence and very little financial self-control.

Today’s generation, instead of fearing that it will not have anything, fears it will not have everything. Many people today spend money as a way to feel powerful and capable of meeting any and all desires. The Disease of Consumerism is apparent in our nation’s personal saving rate. Household Saving Rate in the United States decreased to 3.50 percent in July 2017 from 3.80 percent in June of 2017. Personal Savings in the United States averaged 8.31 percent from 1959 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 17 percent in May of 1975 and a record low of 1.90 percent in July of 2005.

If we want to get out of this vicious cycle, we must do something we have not done before. We must reduce, reuse and recycle as a response to the excessive over-production. We must stop the associating our self-worth to the purchase and accumulation of stuff. Finally, we must produce, sell, and consume fewer unnecessary products, which soon ends up either clogging our garages/closet and/or landfills. The change is up to us, we cannot wait for those who caused this mess to fix it, this is our challenge to reverse this trend.