Don’t live beyond your means

Published 10:39 pm Monday, December 22, 2008

Despite what I read on the Internet, it certainly didn’t look like the economy was struggling at MacArthur Center on Sunday.

People were out in full force, dodging into and out of stores carrying perfume, toys, clothing, music, games and all sorts of products. Shoppers lugged around scores of bags, and pretzel makers worked overtime to satisfy the cravings of thousands of shoppers. I was there, doing my part to stimulate the economy.

However, there still were a few indications that the crowd of shoppers was not nearly as large as it could have been.

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First of all, there was still parking. Anyone who is a last-minute shopper like me knows that there is never parking the last weekend before Christmas.

Second, it was entirely possible to walk through the mall and not come into contact with another human being. Had this been the weekend before Christmas in one of the spend-all, save-none years of the past decade, the hordes of people would barely be able to move without side-stepping, brushing, bumping or having full head-on collisions with other shoppers.

In some ways, it is good that people are being more reserved than in past years. Maybe this means people are finally getting it. Perhaps they realize, at last, that they cannot spend more than they make and get away with it for too long.

Of course, it could also mean that not everyone puts everything off to the last minute, like me.

On the flip side, it could spell danger for our economy. If retailers do not make at least a semblance of a comeback from the tumultuous year they’ve had, some of them could wind up going under permanently.

There’s a delicate balance to be stricken between the two extremes. While it’s important for people not to spend more than they have coming in, it’s also important to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and not sit around and wait for the government to fix things for us.

The mentality of “keep spending; the government will take care of you if you run out of money” must stop in America, or we will continue to deal with the same problems we have seen this year.