As a children, my brother and I would always fight over the “big piece of chicken” it was not so much an argument for the actually food, as we were always fed. The conflict was more about who could get the most. The funny thing about this is that, even though we were growing boys, neither one of us ever finished the meal when we actually got the big piece of chicken. But whoever didn’t get the heavier meal, ate all their food.
Now as an adult I notice that same tendency in my life, I have a competitive spirit and perpetual desire to get more or the most. Consistently, whenever I am in a place where I have a lot of money to spend I spend it all. When I am strapped for cash, I somehow manage to make it work every time and am always surprised by my ability to budget and plan when I need to. They say necessity is the mother of invention, I would say my mother’s chicken helps me understand economics.
The need for food has really been replaced by the need for money in this day in age. Cash has become the common denominator so in our society the big piece of chicken might look like a hearty bank account balance but the principle is the same. We want more because we know there is more out there, and once we get it we may not be the most efficient with our use of it because after all, hunger only takes our desire so far, and after that we’re easily led by greed.
I realized that for a period in my life I was always broke not matter how many raises I got. My bills hadn’t necessarily increased but I was still spending more each month and had nothing to show for it so I always wanted more. One day I took the time to realize how much money I actually needed to get by and looked at where everything else was going and I was shocked. I finally had gotten the big piece of chicken and I had become very wasteful. After looking at my spending I realized I could have been pretty happy with my income two raises ago and been able to make some big changes to my lifestyle.
This behavior is not unique to me. As a nation America has a spending problem, not only as individual citizens but the actual government. Regardless of your politics or who is in office, we are always looking to finance our social programs, or a war, and all of these things may not be managed effectively. We have it so we spend it.
This is the basic idea behind a budget in the first place, taking a look at what your real needs are and matching that with your income. Everything above that should be viewed, not as “extra” but managed as efficiently as the portion that goes towards our needs.If I had learned this earlier lesson as a kid, not only would I have never wasted any food, argued less with my little brother.
Much of the disagreement in the political climate of the United States seems to be based around economics. We don’t have all the jobs we need, our GDP isn’t as robust as it could be, we certainly have problems. The culture of our nation is one of ambition competition, but also expression and abundance. Many of us are operating from a place that doesn’t easily remind us that it can all slip away. In fact that possibility is often a point of contention.
When we turn on the water faucet, water comes out. EVERDAY. Without fail. And if by some accident a pipe bursts or a bill payment is missed the answer is always logical and a solution is close at hand. Even in Los Angeles where there is an incredible draught, daily life is not effected. In some countries like Tanzania, water is not available. There are initiatives to build wells and have water donated. It is something we don’t usually think about.
We should realize that while we are busy fighting over the big piece of chicken, there are some people that do not have access to protein and not just in other countries. Here in America 1 and 6 go hungry according to the national non-profit Feeding America. To get better at budgeting we might simply need to realize that what we do have is not promised. When we think of things as everlasting or so reliable, we fail to see that there is something special about having anything at all.
Our perspective on our own wealth, as individuals and as a nation frames our thoughts and behaviors almost directly. The message we seem to need is one that father would always give us when my brother an I were arguing. “Don’t worry about getting the big piece of chicken, be happy that you are getting anything at all!”
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