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A recent show on PBS called "Escape from Affluenza" sometimes spelled Afluenza investigated lifestyles that were quite different from the earn, buy, go-into-debt way of living that most Americans lead. Many found that a simpler life cost less and gave them more time for the things they really valued.

Here are some highlights:

Will more money make you happier? Most people think that if they had twice as much money, they would enjoy life more. Yet today, according to a survey, people are no happier than they were 40 years ago when they were making half as much money as they are now. The odd part is that no matter how much money people made they wanted more and thought that money would solve their problems.

What most people value and what brings most people satisfaction is contact with nature, creative work, and relationships with people. None of these has to cost much money.

Yet somehow the majority of Americans have adopted a very negative lifestyle. They have very little time for themselves or the people they care about. They find themselves going deeper into debt no matter how much money they make. They are working long stressful hours at their jobs. They have little time for recreation or creative endeavors. Is this the only way that people today must live?

The PBS program showed a number of alternative lifestyles. Many of the people had dropped out of high paying prestigious jobs because they were tired of the rat race. For example an executive at Microsoft and a corporate lawyer were two of the people who left "Afluenza."

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The show pointed out more troubling statistics:

80% of Americans do not understand basic financial principles. (Does this explain the staggering credit card debt?)

Since 1970 there are 25 times as many commercial storage facilities (for all that stuff that gets us into debt and that we never use).

Landfills are crammed with many items that could be easily reused or recycled such as sofas, tables, chairs, rugs, lawn mowers, and even the kitchen sink. (Tip: sensible people can find a good selection of these for free if they are patient.)

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