I picked up a copy of Tightwad Gazette book yesterday at the local library book sale. (Shows I'm a tightwad to buy the book over 10 years after it was published and paying 25 cents.) The beginning of the book has a article talking about the idea that baby boom generation having fewer opportunities and struggling harder than previous generations is an idea held by most Americans, but it is false.
The author says that she thinks the majority of Americans have much higher expectations. She gives some examples like we have more cars, more Americans go to foreign countries, we spend more money on hobbies and recreation, we have more items to choose in the grocery store, and we eat out at restaurants more. Only 25% of parents of baby boomers went to college vs. 62% of high school graduates in 1992. Home ownership is 15% more affordable than in 1980. Even though the average family is smaller, a new house is twice as big as the average one built just after WWII. 75% of new houses have central AC vs 34% in 1970. 50% have more than 2 bathrooms up from 16%. 58% of new homes had a garage in 1970, now 82% have them. Health care costs are on the rise because we expect more-high tech testing and cures for everything. The one area that Americans are right about is taxes. Since 1948 the federal tax and social security for the median family of 4 has risen from 2% to 25% of their income.
Some of these statistics are outdated (1996) and I know we pay even more taxes now. That is without current politics and the current economy factored in. But the author's point is if you are willing to live like people in 1960, you can be a stay at home mom too. Second incomes are often consumed with child care, extra taxes, and luxuries that were done without then.
I've been thinking about this whole topic recently. Most of our church members are older and they raised larger families (5 0r 6 kids) in much smaller houses than we live in now. Some of them don't have central AC and my parents only got central AC a few years ago. We have 2 cars and it is rare to use both cars at the same time except for Sunday morning. Many homes in our area don't have garages even though we live in the "frozen tundra". Americans seem to think going to college is a right, not a privilege, unlike my sister and I that worked VERY HARD to pay for college with help from my parents.
My parents were very good about knowing the budget for groceries-taking that much cash to the grocery, keeping track of how much they spent as they shopped, and not spending one more cent. When we got to the check out, if they miscalculated, then they put some items back. Many times we didn't get everything on the list-once we had spent the money budgeted, we went to the check out lane. My mom was very good about writing a grocery list with different categories-items we desperately needed, items on sale or coupons, and then items that would be nice to have but if we ran out of money then those were the first ones we didn't get. My dad was excellent at doing the mental math to see what the best buy was.
It was rare for us to shop at K-Mart or Walmart type stores because my mom knew she would fall into the trap of going in for one item and then coming out with many more items (usually items that we really did need, not just wants). So that was solved with us just rarely shopping at stores like that and doing without.
Even though I'm very frugal, I have no idea how much money we spend on groceries and other items. Since we live so far away from Walmart and a big grocery store, I'm more concerned about GETTING TO the store before the coupons expire and our cupboard is bare. I ALWAYS have a list going because I never know when we will be going to a bigger town to shop (when Ram has to visit someone in the hospital). Our cupboard is always stocked very full because we live 7 miles away from a small grocery store. We pay for our groceries with a credit card and pay it off each month both to get the reward points for our credit card and to not worry about how much cash to take on our trips to the grocery 1 1/2 hours away. Plus when something is on sale, I can stock up and not worry about spending too much money.
This post has become way too long, and I don't know what the answer is to Americans having such high expectations. I'm planning a Mother's Day post tomorrow and then maybe I'll return to this topic next week.