If you’ve read my book, Shiny Objects, you know I can’t resist a good story on how much Americans spend on their pets – talk about scary. Halloween is just around the corner and it looks like spending on All Hollows Eve is heading for another record. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts Americans will shell out $6.86 billion (one billion = 1,000 million) on Halloween in 2012. The average person will spend $79.82 on spooky decorations, frightening costumes, and candy. That’s an increase over the $72.31 we spent last year.
We will spend an average of $28.65 on costumes for us two-legged beings – a total of $2.5 billion. But we won’t stop there. We will cough up an additional $310 million on costumes for our pets, yes, that’s $310 million. If you haven’t had enough already, I was able to secure the Top 10 pet costumes for 2012:
3. Hot dog – perennial favorite of mine
7. Bowties, fancy collars, etc.
8. Pirate – see my last year’s Halloween blog
Although it didn’t make the top 10 list, and I hope you’re sitting down, 3.3% of those buying costumes for their pets will dress their dog up as a cat – will the fun never end?
Laurie Taylor, A VP at Petsmart (which sells a lot of pet costumes) exclaimed, “Dogs like to wear them, dogs know when they look good” (WSJ, 10-24-12, D3). Halloween spending – truly a spooky tail (pun intended).
Last weekend my wife and I went to the movies – a rare occasion for us. We were both coming of age in 1979 when the Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy and held their U.S. hostages for 444 days. The movie was great and I highly recommend it. But, what grabbed my attention was the then Shah of Iran’s lifestyle. In the first few minutes of the film it was mentioned that the Shah had his lunches flown in from Paris on the Concorde. And, the Shah could also throw a party. His formal coronation in 1967 and the 1971 fete for the 2,500 anniversary of the Peacock throne were over-the-top affairs. The Shah and his wife were heavily into bling long before the word became part of our lexicon. He drove fancy cars, a Lamborghini that some how ended up in the hands of actor Nicolas Cage, and kept a seal in the palace fountain.
No doubt this type of behavior raised more than a few eyebrows in this Muslim nation. Businessmen, the clergy, and members of the middle class were offended by the Shah and the moneyed elite who adopted western style attire, drank intoxicating beverages, and consorted (openly!) with members of the opposite sex. One Iranian intellectual labeled this love of all things western as “West Struckedness”. Another writer described all those who emulated western lifestyles as “diseased”.
There may be at least a kernel of truth in such accusations. Apparently our love of Shiny Objects knows no cultural or religious boundaries. Read my book, Shiny Objects, for other examples of “creeping materialism”.
Source: The Contemporary History: Iranian revolution, http://historysome.blogspot.com/2012/08/iranian-revolution.html, accessed on 10-23-2012.
Are you waging a battle with Shiny Objects? If so, help has arrived. Fudget’s Budget, a 1954 animated short film by United Productions of America (UPA), starring George and Irene Fudget, amusingly illustrates the perils of falling off the budget bandwagon.
In a nod to simpler times, the short film is “Dedicated to all those courageous people who manage to live within a family budget”. The animation is cutting edge and the story is timeless.
Take 6 minutes and 40 seconds out of your busy schedule to enjoy this fun and important message. Be sure to forward this post to at least ten friends and family members. I would like to spread this message world-wide as we approach the holiday season. I also welcome your opinion of the film and our love of Shiny Objects.
Here’s the link to Fudget’s Budget: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eNGtgizmbc
The incredibly popular, over 220 million You Tube views, Gangnam style video from Korean hip-hop artist Psy is actually a pointed social commentary on spreading materialism in Korea. Gangnam is the Beverly Hills 90210 of Seoul Korea. Many of the denizens (residents) of Gangnam are wealthy. The fact that the residents of Gangnam have not earned their fortunes the “old fashioned” way, through hard work and sacrifice, but by simply being in the right place (Gangnam) while the real estate values skyrocketed runs counter to traditional Korean views about wealth. Welcome to 21st century America. It appears that the citizens of Gangnam, and the rest of Korea, like citizens all over the world, may benefit from a quick read of my book, that explains our love of Shiny Objects.
Did you know that Americans throw out approximately 140 million, yes, that’s millions, of cell phones every year? To see if you might be a slave to your cell-phone, answer the following eleven questions and use the benchmarks below to see if you’ve got a cell-phone Jones (70s talk for addiction).
Cell Phone Use Scale* :
Please answer “Yes” or “No” to each of the statements below regarding your cell phone.
1. I get agitated when my cell phone is not in sight. ___ Yes ___ No
2. I get nervous when my phone’s battery is almost exhausted. ___ Yes ___ No
3. I have tried to cut back on my cell phone. ___ Yes ___ No
4. I do not want to turn off my cell phone when I am in a meeting .___ Yes ___ No
5. I want my cell phone to stand out in design and ornaments. ___ Yes ___ No
6. I make phone calls even when there is no real need to do so. ___ Yes ___ No
7. I frequently check my cell phone to see if I have missed any calls or
messages. ___ Yes ___ No
8. I tend to use my cell phone even when there is a fixed-line available. ___ Yes ___ No
9. I always return phone messages as soon as possible. ___ Yes ___ No
10. I spend more time than I should on my cell phone. ___ Yes ___ No
11. I find that I am spending more and more time on my cell phone.___ Yes ___ No
* Scale adapted from Yoon Su-jeong of St. Mary’s Hospital
If you asnwered “Yes” to four or more of the above statements you may not want to tell your spouse or significant other about your relationship with your cell-phone but they probably already know. A simple remedy to beat your cell-phone habit: read Shiny Objects to find out how.
At last. Thanks to Fiat and the Starbucks of Italy – Lavazza, you can now make a fine cup of espresso while you drive. Fiat’s 500L, to be relaesed in the US in 2013, will combine two things Americans love, cars and coffee. The safety concerns of drinking (and preparing) 200 degree liquid while speeding along the espresso way (pardon the pun) at 75 mph are real. But the real issue, addressed in my book, Shiny Objects, is how our obsession with possessions and our own personal desires has clouded our better judgment. Read my book. Change the world. Beginning with you.
If need be, who would you go to for financial advice? This was a question posed to 2,262 US adults age 18 plus by Harris Interactive. Harris conducted the poll during February of 2012 for the American Bible Society (ABS). The poll was conducted to help launch ABS’ Financial Stewardship Bible (FSB). The ABS has highlighted every verse in the bible that mentions money and/or possessions. More than 2,000 scriptural verses are highlighted in the FSB.
But, alas, despite being the best selling book of all times, many of us look elsewhere for financial advice. It appears that many of us would seek the advice of the King of Combovers himself, yes, that’s right, Donald trump. Fifty percent of US adults stated they would be willing to take financial advice from The Donald despite his somewhat spotty record (at least four bankruptcies).
On the other hand, only 32 percent of US adults would look to the Bible for financial advice. 86 percent of American adults, according to the ABS survey, do not heed the financial pearls of wisdom offered in the Bible – too old school.
And, it gets worse. Ten percent of Americans age 18-34 would look to Kim Kardashian for financial advice. Given the above, it’s not surprising why members of the Baby Boomer generation are woefully unprepared as they enter their “Golden Years”. And, with Kim Kardashian as the financial Shaman for the younger set, things don’t bode well for Generations X and Y as well.
Honest and open communications are the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. So, it should come as no surprise that withholding details of your financial shenanigans from your spouse is a financial recipe for disaster.
You are a financial infidel if you hide purchases you make from your spouse, have secret credit cards or even bank accounts, lie about your salary, have a stash of cash hidden away, or intercept bills at the mailbox to avoid detection.
If you stop to think about it, it’s highly likely that many of us have dabbled in the black art of financial infidelity during our married lives. Who hasn’t hid something they bought in their closet, in the basement, or in the trunk of the car (fairly risky)? Or, how many of us have made a large purchase without letting our spouses know beforehand (I plead the fifth)?
In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article by Veronica Dagher (April 30, 2012, R1) reports that 31 % of adults say they have been deceptive about their money with a spouse or significant other. And, of these, 58% have hidden cash, 53% said they spent less than they did on the item in question, 15% have hidden an entire bank account, 34% confessed to lying about their finances, and 11% have been less than forthcoming about their salary. Some people have even had entire businesses and brokerage accounts that their spouse knew nothing about.
As Michael Keaton’s son exclaims, when Mr. Mom (Michael Keaton, star of the 1983 movie of the same name) suggests letting his other son hold the money over a bet on whether the recently laid-off Keaton or his wife Teri Garr will get a job first, “Don’t give him money, it makes him Crazy”. Apparently, such an indictment holds true for many of us as well.