CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)

AUTHOR: BETH

HED:What's the low down on living the high life?

By Beth Bunch

Daily Journal

Money. Most people love it and would probably like to have more of it. There never seems to be enough of it to do the things we want to do when we want to do them. But it appears some folks like it too much - way too much.

On trips here and there to visit family and friends we sometimes load up, ride around and look at the houses being built, sold, bought, redone, etc. Or when out for lunch, friends and I will cut through a new neighborhood on our way to our desired destination. And let me say, I'm a bit overwhelmed. No, I'm a lot overwhelmed.

There are young adults - my age and many younger, and I just don't understand how they live the lifestyle they do.

I'm not the only one who doesn't quite understand this style of living. I've talked with friends and co-workers to ask their opinions and feelings to see if they know the inside scoop, so we can all live the good life. They're clueless as well.

Maybe I'm wrong, but some of these people have got to be up to their eyeballs in debt. I don't see how they sleep at night. Maybe they don't.

These folks have what seems to be the "perfect" life - you know, a really nice large, new house that's decorated and furnished to the hilt, complete with the immaculately landscaped yard, and pool; the 2.7 kids who participate in soccer, baseball, ballet, piano, tap, gymnastics and the like; a dog; two new cars - a sport utility vehicle and a nice foreign family sedan; perhaps a boat; the entire family dresses in the latest fashions complete with accessories; they take vacations to exotic, out-of-the ordinary places; go out to eat, to a movie or concert two or three times a month; and trek off to Jackson, Memphis or Birmingham without a second thought. In many of these households only one spouse is employed.

All I have to base my thinking on is my own life and those of friends and relatives. I know how much I make and how much I spend on the necessities. I know how much I blow, and I have to assume these folks are blowing as much, if not more than I do.

Just how do they do it? Maybe they've invested well. Or maybe their families dole out funds to them. Or maybe their credit cards are maxed out or their savings accounts, if there ever was such a thing, are empty, or maybe they know something the rest of us don't know.

You've got to think that one of these days their lifestyle is going to come crumbling down around them. And when it does will they all be wearing matching designer hard hats?

I'm not much of a social butterfly when it comes to going out and spending lots of money on nonessential things or entertainment. I recently went to bargain night at the show and saw "Jerry Maguire" and afterward went for a meal for which I had a $3-off coupon - a relatively inexpensive evening. It was the first time I'd been to the show since "Apollo 13" came out, and before that it was probably a year or two since I'd been to the theater.

I don't rent movies that often, and attend only an occasional concert. I've got a house in a nice neighborhood with a payment that's less than some people pay for apartment rent. I've got a car that's 6 years old, no kids and a goofy dog. I have friends.

There are small, simple things that I'd like to have, or things I'd like to do, but it's not something that's possible on a whim or at the drop of a hat. It takes hard work to save to achieve the things you really want. And I think that makes you appreciate them more.

I'm not one who likes to live dangerously or take unnecessary risks. I'm not miserable and don't feel like I'm living the poor life. I'm happy and comfortable and saving for my next undertaking.

But the best part? I can sleep at night, soundly. Think about it.

Beth Bunch is Lifestyle editor of the Daily Journal.

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