This is part of a 3 part series on why the past is better- in some ways. To be fair, it will be followed up by a 3 part series on why the present is better- just to keep it equally confusing for all. That's democracy.
Work For It
I love looking at old black and white photographs of grandparents back when they were young, standing proudly in front of their first home, their first car or cradling their first born child. There's something safe and simple about those photos, and they will always tell you that they didn't have much, but what they did have, they appreciated. Most of them moved into their first home with barely a stick of furniture, wrapping up towels and drinking root beer on overturned crates. They worked a lifetime to fill the house with furniture, photos, decorations and love. And they were proud of it.
Nobody expected to come into their adult life equipped with a fully furnished house, a new car, a barbecue and pool for friends. They would have laughed at the notion. Limited access to credit meant that everything had to be earned, slowly, over a period of time and if there simply wasn't enough for two things, then you had to choose one. Nobody was ashamed to have their friends over because their couch was old or their dining room set was only for 4 people instead of 6. And nobody was expected to live on the cover of a magazine in the perfect house with a gourmet kitchen.
This is not to say that the previous generation wanted less than the current one; it's just that they expected less. And they didn't expect to have it all overnight. They worked for everything and did it over time, often doing overtime to get what they wanted.
Now people are killing themselves to get the things that they believe they have to have, taking out loans, putting things on credit, living way beyond their means. Guess what middle class- nobody has ever died by not having a dining room set in the dining room. Your neighbours aren't judging you for the state of your couch- they're probably too busy thinking about their own couch. It's really not all that bad.
A lot of people still work hard, it's their expectations that should be kept in check. They should expect to work years to have a home full of wonderful things like their parents had, they should expect to have to make choices with their money and maybe forego a few vacations instead of running into debt. And they should set a good example for the kids as well.
It was not that long ago that kids would dream of Christmas all year round so that they could finally get that one toy they desperately wanted, being extra good in December, brushing their teeth without being told and not fighting with their brother. But now, you can barely see the bottom of the Christmas tree which is literally buried in piles of presents which are forgotten as quickly as they're opened in favour of yet more presents.
The old saying 'a penny saved is a penny earned'is meant to show the value of self-restraint when it comes to finances. But the more important lesson is that the things we work for are the things that we truly appreciate.