I enjoy checking out the end-caps of shelves at the stores where I shop. The end-caps are where retailers place advertised specials, merchandise they want to sell in bulk, and discontinued items. I’ve found handy gadgets on the discontinued items end-caps at Menard’s big box hardware store. I scored a nice set of deluxe bedsheets for half-price at Target two months ago. While shopping at HyVee supermarket Friday I found pint-size containers of ultra premium ice cream. The Fairlife pints were marked down to $1.19 each. I bought two.
Ice cream is a major extravagance because I very rarely eat dessert. Diabetes is a pain, so avoiding sugar whenever possible is the best policy. The Fairlife ice cream pushes the envelope due to the sheer amounts of sugars it contains. I limit myself to half of a serving because my metabolism rebels if more than that is consumed. But holy cow! That ice cream is so delicious and decadent.
Both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s. As survivors of the “Dust Bowl”, they learned the hard lessons of making do with what little their families could provide. My mother spent some of her childhood living in a sod house in southeast South Dakota. She often regaled me with stories about the lack of certain necessities. Mom said she had to collect dry cow manure that would be burned in the kitchen stove for cooking and baking.
Both of my parents stressed the importance of living within one’s means. Work hard–money doesn’t grow on trees. Set aside a portion for the future. Don’t be greedy–be sure to share a meaningful amount of what you have. If you acquire a tidy sum, never forget that the amount of money you have doesn’t make you better or more important than other people.
That said, our family was solidly middle class. We never had to sacrifice for necessities. Dad was a good provider who was able to buy a modest bungalow and a nice, late-model car. We children had nice toys. Mom never had to worry about scavenging pastures for dung, because she used a new electric range. We traveled on vacation trips nearly every year, too. These things seemed like extravagances to my parents.
Extravagance is a subjective state. While mom’s electric range may have seemed like a luxury to her, such appliances are taken for granted these days. Nearly every modern household has some type of electric or gas cooking appliance in their kitchens.
I am reminded of the macro-economic cycles our civilization encounters. The 1920s was a time of excess, luxury, and extravagance for many westerners. Then there was the the big stock market crash which ushered in the Great Depression. The Second World War provoked an economic uptick even though the populace was forced into rationing and thrift. The postwar boom brought nearly everyone into the modern age of convenience; with luxury being taken for granted. Since then, we’ve had recessions and recoveries, but as a whole, the population has not had to suffer Depression Era type poverty en masse since the 1940s.
The ups and downs continued up to and including the present day. The U.S. is living through an era of radical income disparity. Millions of individuals and families can barely scrape by. Many people are forced to choose between paying the rent or going to the doctor. Homelessness, similar to that of the “Dirty Thirties”, continues unabated.
At the same time, there are multi-billionaires whose biggest problem seems to be how to spend vast sums of money. They buy new yachts the way middle class people buy SUVs. One private jet aircraft is not enough to keep up with the Jones these days–why not have two or three?
All things considered, I’m thankful for the extravagances I can enjoy. Although I don’t have a yacht nor even a small canoe, I do have a few extravagances like nice bedsheets and some tempting, premium ice cream to enjoy. Life has been good to me.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes businessman and Mormon Church leader, Joseph B. Wirthlin. “Some have been ensnared in the net of excessive debt. The net of interest holds them fast, requiring them to sell their time and energies to meet the demands of creditors. They surrender their freedom, becoming slaves to their own extravagance.”