We’ve got a several neighbors who have recently splashed out for new golf carts. Why? So they can ride around the neighborhood and just see what’s going on. Note that these purchases were made solely for neighborhood joyriding. We don’t live in a golf community. These people don’t play golf. These people are not mobility-challenged in any way. We don’t live in an area where you can commute to the store in a golf cart. And our neighborhood isn’t that big. (I know from my marathon training days that it’s a two mile loop, or basically one mile across.) It’s a classic case of one person bought a golf cart (the “cool” person in the neighborhood saw people using them at a campground and thought it would be fun to do at home) and the lemmings had to follow.
One day I was working in my flower bed by the road when one of these golf cart lemmings came by. They stopped to chat and show off the new toy. I just nodded when he said, “Yeah, it was expensive and it’ll take a while to pay off, but we really needed a way to get around the neighborhood with the kids and see what people were up to over the summer. And it’s great for taking the kids visiting!” I plastered a big, fake smile on my face and told him I hoped he had fun.
Inside I was thinking, “You can’t walk around the neighborhood? You can’t ride bikes? The kids can’t use their scooters? You had to pay probably north of $5,000 that you obviously can’t afford if you’re talking payments just to get around the neighborhood and have some fun? Dude, there are cheaper ways to have fun and get around.” And this is where people go wrong. They see one person doing something and decide that they have to do it, too.
I don’t know the person who started this neighborhood craze very well, so I don’t know if he could “afford” his cart or not. But I do know three of the lemmings well and I know that they had to put the carts on payments. Now, I don’t begrudge people having fun. By all means, have all the fun you want. But if something is obviously a “want” like a golf cart and you’re already squeaking by (or worse) financially, you need to find another way to have fun.
The good news is that there are plenty of other ways to have fun, many of them free or low cost. In this case, the family could walk around the neighborhood, or ride bikes or scooters. They’ll still be getting around the neighborhood, but doing it for free. Doing these things will help the families save even more money, because they’ll be getting exercise and avoiding many of the lifestyle diseases that ruin their health and cost money to treat.
They could also play tag, Frisbee, or hide and seek in the yard and let the neighborhood come to them. They could visit with other people who are out walking or on their carts. They could invite the neighbors over for a potluck barbecue once a month. They could organize a neighborhood fun day where everyone just comes out and talks and plays various games. There are plenty of ways to have fun and keep tabs on the neighbors without a golf cart.
Fun has to involve some common sense. You can’t just do whatever everyone else in the neighborhood is doing. You can’t get caught up in fads and crazes. You have to have the fun you can afford. Many times, the things we want and see others doing are not things we can afford. We have to learn to say no to ourselves and find other kinds of fun. Fortunately, there’s plenty of free fun to go around.
(Photo courtesy of Nathan Bittinger)