Think About It: Spending & Necessities - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News, Weather and Sports

August 14, 2014

Think About It: Spending & Necessities

This one probably won't shock you, but people living in Hawaii don't spend a lot of money compared to mainland states, on so-called non-necessities. That fact was pointed out in data released by the Commerce Department last week. According to the Commerce Department via the MarketWatch website, "Hawaii residents spent the least outside of necessities, defined as food and beverages for off-premises consumption, gasoline, housing and utilities, and health care." That group of items totals just  34% of our spending here, compared with 54% nationally, and that stems in part from the fact that we spend much more of our earnings on housing (33%) and food (12%) than do people anywhere else in the country.

The news story went on to suggest that even with less discretionary money to spread around, we still get to live in "beautiful Hawaii", which is nice, but might be of small consolation to those who live here and consider material things to be that important, or strongly abide by that nonsensical saying "he who dies with the most toys, wins". Yes conspicuous consumerism has certainly become more commonplace or surely more visible in this country over the past 30-years, as every facet of celebrity life is chronicled 24/7 for those interested or for those who simply want more stuff.

In Hawaii, where humility and subtlety are honored traits, we don't see as much blatant bling as elsewhere. And the Commerce Department stats remind us that part of the reason is simply that people cannot afford too much excess with home and food bills higher here, by far, than the national average. Yet, do we really feel poorer due to our plight here? Do we really expect to die ruminating or regretting not having that fancier car, that nicer couch, that bigger TV? The price we pay for necessities in paradise may be out of line with the rest of the country, but it's a price people here apparently choose to pay, albeit begrudgingly, because of so many intangible benefits we get. By the way, the state with the greatest per-capita spending growth on non-necessities last year- North Dakota. Hmmm. Think about it…

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