How many of us would actually buy a house for $250K that was twice as big as the one we grew up in if it weren't for social convention? Then subsequently fill that house with bedroom sets and china cabinets that we don't really care about? How many of us would by a $4K wedding ring and throw a wedding that cost $25K or $30K, going into debt to finance a celebration that people have been doing for thousands of years without anything approaching that kind of cost (except for nobility)? Really what is a diamond ring? It's a sparkly rock. I have no problem with it. But do I really care enough about it to spend $4K? Why are we doing this to ourselves?
It's no conspiracy. It just happens that there are varied interests that benefit from these decisions that often put consumers into debt. Those interests seem to converge into these kind of actions that in my view look a little strange when you try and step outside of our bubble. Admittedly that's not easy and maybe I'm deluding myself. But are these actions rational?
It's like what was said in the Tedx Talk in my prior link. Animals often build shelter in about a day. Sometimes it takes a bit longer. For humans it takes 30 years. Is this necessary?
I'm trying to extract myself from these conventions. I'm proud to say that I think the car I drive is the crappiest car in the whole parking lot where I work. I've bought too many things in my lifetime, but years back I had a realization about cars. A friend of mine spent big money on a big cool truck and he took me for a ride. As we approached it it looked very impressive. All shiny and new. But when I got inside it I looked around inside and realized it didn't do anything for me. Nothing more than the beater car I was driving at the time. Ever since that point I realized I didn't care about the fancy car.
But I'm now learning there's a lot more I own that I don't care about, primarily my house. It's nice. I like it OK. But do I like it enough to send the bank that big chunk of money in interest every month and all the property taxes? Wouldn't I rather be free of that burden and free to travel. Maybe make the cost of my children's college tuition a lot easier? Or other things.
I kind of wonder what our world would look like if people didn't adopt these social conventions, trying vainly to keep up with the Jones's. Maybe people would work 10 years, then stop working altogether. Stay close to home, ride a bike most of the time. Spend 15 minutes a day working on a garden. Tend a few chickens. Play with the kids. Instead we run from here to there fulfilling job requirements. All to pay for things we don't really need and don't care about.