Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Sense of Entitlement

On Monday, Rhonda at Down-To Earth posted about the attitude you need to live well on less. She comments:
One of the things that is needed now is to overcome this sense of entitlement that many people feel. They see others with fine houses and possessions to fill them, they think that is "normal" and they should have it too... If you live your life for and through your possessions you will not be living to your potential. You will be constrained by your focus being on paying for your life.
I'd like to suggest that it's the focus of the feeling of entitlement that is the problem. People who feel entitled to expensive houses just don't feel entitled to nice eggs.

I became tired of shop-bought eggs where the pallid yolks broke and the whites ran over the pan like water. I still can't understand why supermarket eggs are never fresh; you'd think they'd have to get new ones in from time to time! Knowing the conditions under which commercial layers are kept made me even less happy about eating shop eggs (I buy free range, but there is no Australian standard to ensure free-range poultry are kept the way I'd prefer).

I am entitled to have fresh eggs that have been produced by happy hens. And now I do. We own the hens.

But do that, I had to think, "I am not satisfied with this situation. How could I change it?" and feel that I was entitled to both ask the question and make the change.

Sometimes, people are so caught up in doing-what-they-do that they don't consider whether there are alternatives. A prime example is the depressing family life described in this article. Now I live in Sydney, and I cannot understand why this family are choosing to live this way. They could remove a good deal of stress from their lives with one simple step: moving closer to the wife's workplace. Petersham and Epping house prices are not dissimilar (I've just checked a real estate guide), but Epping gives the wife a commuting time of 15 mins or less. That's a lot of stress removed and a lot of time added with the child. The poor kid might get a healthy meal occasionally, too.

I realised something for myself recently: as I work three days a week, I cannot have my home clean for the weekend if I am out on the other two weekdays. For my own sanity, I must commit to one weekday at home a week. As simple as that, but it has taken me nearly two years to work it out.

What's making you dissatisfied with your life? What can you do to change it? Are you focussing in the wrong place?


Darren (Green Change) said...

While you're right about the benefits of living closer to your workplace, it's a bit more complicated than "just move closer, the house prices are the same". If you move sideways like that, you're going to lose $50K or more just in agents fees, legals and stamp duty.

Still, I agree with you that people have chosen to live like this. They complain about it, but seem to have no idea at all that it's a consequence of their own choices.

Liz said...

You are so right. When we made the decision for me to resign from working full time (for health and family reasons) and go to casual PT we were worried we couldn't manage financially. I took a $40K pay cut *gulp* but we could do that because our only debt is a very modest mortgage. Incredibly, for the last two years we have managed to have a much better family lifestyle. We live modestly but still manage to afford all we need (with occasional luxuries and weekends away). We were wasting so much money just because we didn't have the energy or time to cook, clean, etc. Time poor families make poor decisions.

Amanda said...

I couldn't agree more Chookie.
I get so fed up with articles about how to save money which end up being about doing exactly the things that you (and I) would normally do (like grow our own veges, eggs etc and not to feel the need to own new everything all the time, save power by turning things off when we aren't using them).
We are on a *very* modest income and I lost my casual job at the end of last year and took up full time study ... and still we manage just fine. Yes I look at the nice new cars and beautiful things that my friends have, but I know they are in debt in order to have them. One of my friends thinks I'm insane for insisting that I really really *don't* need an eternity ring ... she has a lovely one, but it cost the equivalent of 2 months salary.
...and I wonder what message all this entitlement is sending to the kids of tomorrow???

Chookie said...

Darren, I thought moving to Epping would be the idea that this family was most likely to accept. Saving the $50K by moving somewhere cheaper is another idea. Looking for jobs with a better work/life/health balance, as Liz has done, is another one. (Honestly, how good can working for a road company be?)
Love your aphorism, Liz: Time-poor families make poor decisions. I will try to remember it when I am feeling time-poor.
I can't work some people out either, Amanda. 'Need' an eternity ring, eh? Bizarre. You wonder whether they've forgotten the last recession. One of the reasons we own a house in an unfashionable part of Sydney is because we deliberately chose a debt we could still pay off if someone was out of work for a while. But debt for a depreciating asset...!

Anonymous said...

Being so new to the workforce, I still haven't worked out my ideal work/life balance. I think 3 days a week would be ideal, but I am glad I only work school hours.

About the idea of moving to Epping (which is where I lived just before I left Sydney), I expect that the whole idea of organising a move would be too overwhelming for that lady, with all her other commitments.