I was watching an old cartoon the other day and I thought about the character from Popeye, J. Wellington Wimpy. For me, Wimpy (first introduced in 1934) is a great example of Americans' willingness to go into debt for things they want. Wellington's trademark line: "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" illustrates the mindset of many people in the States. Americans want cool stuff and they want it NOW.
In the cartoon, Wimpy's line was to fool people into buying him food while avoiding paying for it at all. Often we, as Americans fool ourselves into buying ourselves things and think that by using credit we don't "really" have to pay for it. To paraphrase a business friend of mine: "People are buying Mercedes' when they should be buying Toyotas and buying big screen HDTVs when they can't afford regular ones."
The ongoing financial crisis is a perfect illustration of the financial woes Americans have been wading further and further into lately. People that couldn't afford to live in the houses they lived in were hoping no-one would notice they weren't paying their bills. Someone noticed, and there were consequences.
The moral of this story? If you can't buy the hamburger today, eat at home, save your money and go get it when you can afford it.