Americans are wasteful.
I didn’t realize how financially wasteful I was until I moved to England where everything (except for fresh herbs, ironically) is very expensive. The amount of clothing I own is considered an obscene amount by European standards and I own less clothing than my American peers! The amount of money Americans spend on stuff is completely insane and by stuff I mean toys, clothing, DVDs, shit no one needs, ever, etc.
As an example, this past week a coworker told me that he stores all of his Christmas decorations in storage because he doesn’t have enough room to store them in his house. (This, in itself is hilarious because we could fit our flat x2 into the ground level of his house.) He went on to tell me that it would cost him less per year to toss out the Christmas decorations and buy new ones than to store the decorations.
Setting aside the example above, this wastefulness problem is caused by two factors – large disposable incomes and a lot of space to store stuff. Living in a 58 sq m / 600 sq ft flat for nearly two years put into perspective how the amount of space one has impacts shopping habits. We had absolutely no space in that flat to store anything except for the necessities (and sometimes not even enough space for them) and, therefore, we never went shopping for clothes or other stuff.
Will our shopping habits change when we move back to the US? Maybe but I don’t think they will ever return to being as wasteful as they were prior to moving abroad.