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Upon reviewing the Capital One Canada study on Canadians’ financial guilty pleasures, it struck me that no one quoted mentioned a personal goal.

When people lack a personal goal that represents what they want to be doing and who they want to become, it’s very easy to be led astray. As I will illustrate, cultural-market forces can influence people to make choices they wouldn’t make if they were guided by their own compass.

Let’s begin with some stats. Canada's restaurants, bars, and caterers rang up $68.1-billion in sales in 2017, a nearly ">120% increase from $31-billion in 1998.

The Capital One Canada study found that:

  • 72% of Canadians admitted that dining out was their most popular indulgence
  • 71 % admitted they ordered takeout more than a few times in a typical month, spending upwards of $200 each month
  • 50% said they bought coffee daily

Non-food and beverage splurging:

  • 44% frequently treated themselves to online shopping
  • 33% said clothes shopping, and
  • 23% regularly bought beauty services

Canada's population, in comparison, rose only 20% since 1998 while consumer debt rose to $604 billion as of April 2018 from 96k in 1990. These are dramatic increases.

What has happened since 1998?

  1. The Internet grew to become a massive marketing engine
  2. Smartphones’ advancing technology made on-the-go ordering easier and eatery reviews more numerous
  3. Canadians increasingly sought out memorable dining experiences and its multicultural make-up encouraged them to try out different types of cuisine
  4. Historically low interest rates since 2009 allowed Canadians to take out more loans, spend more, and accumulate a record amount of debt
  5. A housing boom caught fire around 2011 & prices increased year-over-year, encouraging people to take out home equity loans to free up $ billions for renovations, vacations, and dining out
  6. Canadian culture has shifted to a point where debt has become much more acceptable

According to a 2016 CBC report, “restaurants are often the last thing people consider cutting back on when they need to trim expenses. People often don't think twice about going out for dinner; in fact, they justify it because food is a necessity and is a right or an entitlement.”

However, these facts only partially explain why people felt, and still feel, entitled to eat out as often as they do. And to clarify, ‘entitled’ means “to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something.”

Advertising proves Persuasive
Over the past 40 years, corporations and the advertising agencies they’ve hired, have worked tirelessly to persuade people:

  • To treat themselves for merely existing and/or convince them that whatever they desire is absolutely fine because “I’m worth it.” L’Oreal (women’s hair product maker)
  • That they “deserve” to have whatever has been suggested to them to make them feel good, such as that outside-the-home meal. McDonalds planted this idea in the public's minds with its 1970s slogan, “You deserve a break today….”
  • To express appreciation for friends and family by taking them out to a restaurant for an expensive (you’re worth it!) meal. The Keg’s slogan, “Celebrate, Bring Together: The word “Together” is an inviting one and many people are taking them up on it.

The Great Motivator: Urgency
The ongoing advance of consumer technology is exciting and modern advertising urges us to: get on board; keep up; enjoy what others are enjoying; and, of course, share a common experience that tech promises. Mobile and Internet communications company, Fido sums up this approach perfectly with its catchy slogan: “Get it now.”

The Big Why?
The combination of self-reward and fear of missing out has short-circuited the Needs vs. Wants decision-making process that used to guide people. That was 30-40 years ago when personal debt brought shame, and dining out was reserved for special occasions, or to treat the family. Today it’s a common occurrence.

Millions of Canadians have become swept up in a ‘dining and experiencing’ frenzy while their critical thinking skills have checked out.

Importance of a Personal Goal
As stated at the beginning of this post, when people lack a personal goal that represents all that they are and who they want to become, it’s very easy to be led astray. Every great goal requires a plan, including a financial one that has boundaries, permissions, and limitations. If a person is seeking a new and more satisfying life but is in debt, they have to pay it back first.

While there are ways to gain immediate debt relief, your credit history-report is negatively affected and financial flexibility limited.

Debt limits freewill and the ability to plan for the future you truly desire. Planning also involves identifying that great goal you’d like to accomplish. Maybe it’s something you’ve wanted to do for a long time, maybe since childhood.

For those who aren’t crazy about their jobs and the 85% of people who hate their jobs, it’s likely they’re “rewarding” themselves by dining out. Coping this way very quickly turns into an expensive habit.

Having a goal you’re working towards provides powerful motivation, patience, and determination to make the habit and mindset changes necessary.

In paying down your debt at the same time as working towards achieving your goal, you earn your way towards an updated future. When your debt is paid off, you’ll be ready to seize the opportunity: the opportunity of a lifetime.