How much are you willing to fork out for brands you trust?
Economists have often attributed the growth of the Philippine economy to consumer-led spending, not necessarily to job generation. Thanks in part to our OFWs' hard-earned---or should I say, slaved for---dollars.
The US, for example, seems to be facing its worst economic implosion yet, but analysts say the nation continues to thrive because of consumer spending.
Naturally, since all of us have to go about our business of living---economy bright and sunny, or not---we must spend, spend, spend while we earn, earn,earn.
Life must go on!
Babies need their milk, which naturally requires tons of diapers---today fashioned as convenient throw-aways to make life easier for working moms.
Unless Juan desperately wants to be zapped from this world, Juan must still go about eating and drinking, thus shopping for daily provisions, no matter if prices have shot through the stratosphere.
But we get smart and never stop looking for shops offering the best value.
"Best value" however is relative.
To one, "best value" may mean bagging the meanest-working detergent or nutrient-packed noodle soup from the sari-sari (small neighborhood variety) store or the promo section of her favorite supermarket. Or a marked down Nike t-shirt from the outlet store. Or a pair of designer jeans costing peanuts from the ukay (used goods) retailer.
But to others, it may be that long awaited capacity to finally sling a designer bag like Coach or Louis Vuitton. Yet check out its price even at a discount. It's still something my teacher's salary can't hack; uh, maybe yes, if I purchased its handle alone.
Most of us have a relief valve---the credit card, today's spendaholic tool. Seemingly harmless little plastic which magically turns our lives a bit rosier, making us cold-blooded consumers.
Hala, charge dito, charge doon!
Imagine the heaps of fineries and goodies and lifestyle makeovers to wallow in when you flash the plastic---with just your valued signature to seal ownership. Only for you to realize much later that you've piled up debts so huge even your very bed could be pulled out from under you---as the last straw to pay your debts.
That's one of the reasons the US economy took a downward spiral. People caught in mortgages and card debts they could not pay.
"I owe, I owe, so off to work I go," may as well be the end-all and be-all of most people's daily strivings today.
In supposedly more civilized parts of the world, people are so used to a life of excess, they don't even realize it.
Survey a typical American home: Four or more light bulbs illuminating the toilet---as if you'd look better under all that glare. Kitchen coffee nook plus casual dining place and formal dining area. Living room plus family room. Bedrooms more than the number of occupants. Appliances galore and gadgets all around. Vehicles exceeding the number of licensed drivers in the household.
Don't get me wrong. Because people work hard, they need all the help they can get their hands on to make life bearable and more comfortable. That's why products offering convenience and ease and comfort, even luxury, are a big hit.
Why work hard if you can't reward yourself with all these, right?
Companies offering products on credit know which buttons to push. They offer the best deals, from zero interest to delayed payments to freebies. And we bite the bullet!
But at the end of the day or the end of our days, we ask ourselves: Did I really need all these stuff? Are they worth going into debt for, so much so that future earnings have already flown out the window even before I've touched them? Who benefits from all these when I'm gone, anyway?
I can't certainly bring these to the grave with me!
The consumer in us will always insist on acquiring, purchasing, shopping, needing, wanting, and borrowing to do all these again. It really never ends because once filled, the consumer needs to be satisfied again and again.
The need, then the want, then the demand, then the obsession, gets grander by the day.
No wonder the apostle Paul reminds us to be content: "... for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need" (Philippians 4:11).
Instead of the consumer in us leading, why not be led by the Spirit instead? Because God in us gives us wisdom in big or small decisions---to buy or not to buy, whatever product is placed under our nose.
A peace that passes all understanding. Joy which comes from within. Contentment in every situation. These should make our everyday, not the products that we surround ourselves with.
Only Jesus can give us that.