No matter where you live, the culture that surrounds you affects the way you think about money. Some societies preach the gospel of rampant, wasteful consumerism. Others stress the importance of extreme frugality and a sense of do-it-yourself survivalism. And of course, in between those extremes lies a whole range of attitudes and beliefs about money.
The culture around you affects what you consider to be comfortable living. If everyone you know has not one, but two 60-inch HDTVs, while you hobble on with a 27-inch TV from the dinosaur age, you're bound to notice the disparity.
But does your sense of comfort require that you own massive (and massively expensive) technological marvels? Do your life's core values mean that more toys equal more happiness? If that's the case, you'll have to make sure you have the earning power to buy those toys without sacrificing critical aspects of your finances, such as savings and important investments, like education or a house.
Many people must simply pick and choose what's most important to them in terms of comfort. Whether it's a livable home in a safe neighborhood, good food, a house full of puppies, or a bevy of tech gadgets makes no difference. You just have to decide what really matters to you.
With consumer confidence in the United States at its lowest in three decades, there's talk that maybe people will slowly learn to become savers instead of consumers and spenders [source: Reuters]. But that kind of shift will take years to complete. As it is, Americans spend a tremendous amount of money in areas that could be trimmed. You can compare your spending against the average by checking out this illustration at Visual Economics.
In the meantime, economic realities mean people must learn the art of balancing the cost of comfort items with necessary expenses in a sustainable way. Keep reading and you'll see just how to do that.