Avoiding a lump
of debt in your stocking
’Tis the season to make cash registers ring. While the silver bells of Christmas sales may not give angels their wings, they’re still godsends in an economy as tattered as ripped-up wrapping paper on Christmas morning.
It’s the thought that counts, of course. That’s why I personally balk at stuffing checks and crisp currency into envelopes of over-priced cards or picking items off gift registries as if Christmas were a casual acquaintance’s wedding to which you obligatorily were invited.
Even those who already possess every sugar plum known to dance through the heads of hard-core consumer culturalists still can be surprised by a meaningful gift that doesn’t begin with a dollar sign.
With a little imagination, many of those gifts can be purchased right here in Marion County. A gift with home at its heart always seems welcome on the hearth.
If nothing else — please forgive the shameless plug — a subscription to this paper would provide a weekly reminder of home, especially for a friend, neighbor, or family member who, with polite and proper prodding, might become a bit more informed of and involved in the community.
That’s a gift the community desperately needs. Even if uncaring residents aren’t transformed into engaged citizens, a newspaper provides a weekly refreshed toilet buddy that not only kills time but also fills in for temporarily out-of-stock paper of a different nature.
Still, if the glitz of gizmos, the mobs of Black Friday, and the bright lights of the big city draw you like a moth away from local businesses that keep our community running, you still can preserve some manner of gift to the community.
Shopping at the dot-com version of most big box stores instead of in their brick-and-mortar versions not only saves time, gasoline, and frustration. It means that sales tax from your purchase stays at home rather than lines the pockets of distant governments. And that, in turn, means better streets and roads, improved public safety, and more community amenities.
The big thing in any spending season is to live within our means. Splurge not with cash but with thought and effort, like by finding the perfect gift locally instead of by mortgaging the future.
Avoiding the temptation to max out credit cards is a great maxim this time of year. Do not what your government does to you but what you should insist your government do on your behalf. Reject the idea that maxing out one card means you simply should go out and sign up for another.
Young grasshoppers of today fiddle in the summers of their lives without envisioning the starvation they may face in winter. They disdain the advice of more experienced ants, labeling it old-fashioned thinking. But all that’s old-fashioned — in both cocktails and life — isn’t bad.
There’s sense to the economic advice that you can be successful in the market as a bull or as a bear but not as a pig. The corollary is that you never should borrow to purchase anything other than an appreciating asset —something that will make or save you money down the line, not just something you will enjoy today.
Average Joes and Janes who follow this rule nearly always seem to come out on top, even if they start near the bottom. The tragedy is that governments seem to be composed entirely of grasshoppers, fiddling and spending while in office then leaving the rest of us to starve — or, more accurately, drown in debt — after they leave.
Marion’s city council is by no means the only public body to fall victim to the siren song of summertime fiddling. It just needs to recognize that an offer of $400,000 left over out of a power pool bond issue is no different than a second credit card company coming to you with an offer of an additional card after you’ve maxed out your first one.
If Marion needs the money to complete a project that will end up earning or saving it money, fine — as council member Zach Collett wisely pointed out Monday in asking for council control of what projects might be proposed for the $400,000.
If not, perhaps it’s time for Marion to make a first attempt to wipe the word “sucker” off its forehead and begin governing not from a sense of how much can be spent but rather from one of how much is urgently needed.
— ERIC MEYER