Sorry, I can’t afford it (- a chapter about running away?)



Foto: Erik Johansson,

One of the most common ways to avoid discovering our freedom of choice is through the use of money. This chapter deals with one of our biggest taboos. Money. And since money is a touchy subject, here’s a small clarification:

There are poor people. There are people born into impossible circumstances. This chapter is not about the extremely poor nor rich. It’s about the people in between. About us folks in the grey area.

In the grey area.

Money seems to bind an incredible amount of energy in our society. Whether a person has too little or too much money they seem to spend an awful amount of energy caring about money. So that money rules. One way we let it rule is by using them to prevent us from discovering that we have options.

– Well yeah but you know I can’t really take a parental leave, because I make more money than my wife Monica and we have the mortgage on the house and we couldn’t afford me taking a parental leave.

So what! Is it important for you to be with your child or not? Are you going to blame money for not daring to be intimate and for thinking it’s a little disgusting to change diapers and a little boring to sit in the playground staring while your little one squelch around in the mud when you’d rather sit and feel important in a pretty insignificant meeting because you “have the idea” that your career is important because you need the money you make so you can afford driving a four-wheel-drive Volvo with an impressive bumper.

Or – No I can’t go on the ski trip because I’ve already spent all of my vacation. And I can’t take a leave of absence because I couldn’t afford it and my boss wouldn’t let me anyway.

Oh yeah? Ok. Well ok then. I guess that’s how it is then.


It’s interesting that most people seem to buy an apartment that is so expensive they can just about ”afford it”. But very few people buy an apartment or a house that costs less than what they can ”afford”.

It could’ve been the case that when a person can ”afford” something, she’s in possession of the money required to buy something. But the way society works today, ”to be able to afford” is to afford taking a loan. Which seems to lead most people, in the end, not affording anything but… affording.

And that’s a little ironic.

Almost as ironic as working in order to have opportunities to really enjoy your time off. Opportunities like owning summer houses and boats and buying gym memberships and having a big garden and a house by the water. But all of it costs so much we have to work so much we don’t have any time off to be on the boat or in the garden.

I’m not saying it’s the only reason, but it’s a quite obvious consequence. And I’m convinced it’s one of the main reasons. Thus: many of us put ourselves in financially difficult situations because, subconsciously, we can’t deal with the fact that we have a choice.

I can’t seem to find any other good answer when I ask myself why most people seem to take loans very close to what they can possibly afford. I have very few friends who have bought cheaper homes and cheaper cars than they ”can afford”. The few I know of have bought their cheaper homes because they want to be able to make other choices. Choices like going on vacation or eating good food.

Why do so very few of us buy time? Why is it that when people start making 10,000 per month or more they still work just as much, or more.

I think that class issues in society will look different in the future. And perhaps it already does: the upper class will consist of people who have learned how to make their own choices, the lower class hasn’t. And you can be upper class and make 2,000 a month and lower class and make 100,000 a month. Because really. What’s the point of making a hundred grand a month if you still don’t feel any freer than a student who lives on a thousand a month? If you still don’t feel like you can influence the circumstances of your life. And it’s obvious to me that the ability to make individual choices has very little to do with the size of your income. And once again I want to stress the fact that there are a few people who really are ”poor”, but most of us (and certainly the readers of this book) aren’t.

Many of us want to feel poor because it increases our sense of despair, injustice and lack of freedom. Which may feel familiar and actually brings us comfort and security. But in many of these cases I believe that the size of the income has little to do with our sense of being able to influence our circumstances. And these people would probably experience the same kind of despair and injustice even if they made twice as much. They would just push the boundary a bit further.

My main thesis here is that many of us give the mandate to make choices in our everyday lives to our checking account. And subconsciously we make sure our account gets emptied on a regular basis by our fixed costs. So that the room for making new choices becomes rather limited. And what we gain from this sickly behavior is security. Security and demands at the same time. Demands that make us get out of bed in the morning without thinking about what our needs really are. And security because we don’t have to question our everyday lives and we don’t need to go through all the trouble of exploring our dreams or who we are.

That’s why our artificial needs grow in relation to our income. So that our true needs don’t get too much space. This may perhaps be a cynical view. But unfortunately it’s my view, cynical or not.

Because there must be very few of us who really ”need” a bigger TV and a longer car and a wider lawn. I’m completely flabbergasted when I see how many low- and middle income people drive around in cars worth 30,000 or more. I’m completely flabbergasted by the amount of electronic appliances sold. By how much stuff is sold.

So the ”needs” that people convince themselves that they have. They don’t really exist. The real need may be the need to distract yourself from feelings inside that are lingering and fermenting.

How come some people seem to have all the money in the world while others seem to almost starve when they actually have the same salary and a similar family situation?


from The Art of MAKING OUT! A book about the meaning of life, personal growth, and everything in between by Klas Hallberg

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