Nothing satisfies our urges quite like spending money. It feeds our fantasies, stimulates our creative energies and fills our emotional longings. Shopping is our sacred national pastime. And, it’s all fun and games, of course… until someone gets hurt.

That can happen when our spending ramps up enough to knock us off balance. Like, when we find ourselves hiring a petting zoo for our 2-year-old’s birthday party… though we still can’t seem to find a minute or a dime to open up her college fund. Maybe, then, it’s time to ask ourselves who the petting zoo is really for.

Certainly, money-wise, the gift of a college fund is the one that keeps on giving to our child. But, what about “other”-wise? Would depriving her of a petting zoo really be such a terrible ordeal? If she gets a zoo at 2, what do we have to come up with at 16? Out-of-balance ramping up gives our children a set of false financial expectations, and we get a monetary house of cards that’s bound to come crashing down.

Consider, too, that our own ramped-up spending supports a virtual epidemic. When we hire a petting zoo, the mommy down the street just can’t compete with pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Going against the norm, though, means taking the heat — from our kids, our friends and even our spouses. It’s almost become a revolutionary act. But, each time we do, we re-adjust ourselves and our families to the idea that plain ol’ life is still worth being grateful for, and cake and ice cream is still a pretty nice treat.

So, in the spirit of David Letterman — but with abbreviated space — here are some revolutionary ideas to get us started on the road to a more integrated life.

Top FIVE Acts of Revolutionary Spending
Number 5. For the husband who will use a gas-powered chain saw only for that once-in-a-lifetime emergency, Borrow one from the neighbors instead of buying. Put the chainsaw money in your IRA.

Number 4. For the kid who thinks life comes with a “goodie bag,” try an At-Home Old-Fashioned Birthday Party. No ponies, no trains, no bouncy houses, no farm animals. Make the cake, and, yes, clean up afterward. But, have the kids help.

Number 3. For the family who can’t seem to sit down and eat a coherent meal together, forego yet another outing and go Grocery Shopping instead. No time to cook? Try roasted chicken and microwaved vegetables.

Number 2. For the newborn who doesn’t care if she has 20 cutesy pink baby outfits or two, try a College Fund Baby Shower. It’s also a great motivator for parents and others to start contributing early, when it really counts.

And, finally, the Number 1 Act of Revolutionary Spending…. For anybody with a car payment, try Driving Your Car into the Dirt. True revolutionaries drive a car for at least 10 years and don’t buy another one until they can pay cash for it.
Ramp down. Slack off. Ease up. Conserving our time, our energy and our money frees it up for more important matters… like making sure our kids don’t have to continue living with us beyond high school. If we have the courage to lead, others might even follow. We can’t change the world, but maybe we can shake it up a little.

What’s Up Next? Challenging Holiday Spending.  

Berry is not a Certified Financial Planner. She is a cum laude graduate of Texas Tech Law School and the self-taught manager of her own family’s finances. Before making financial decisions, consider pertinent information carefully and consider consulting a financial professional.