This chapter reflects on two qualitative research projects, How Was It For You? and Balancing Your Life, that was carried out between 1999 and 2001, with people experiencing both the ways of life. It discusses the connections between individual choices and the ways that economic values affect society, and asserts that the public and private spheres cannot be considered in isolation from each other. Democracy in growth economies, which include Ireland, has been undermined by the extreme wealth owned by global corporations. Limits discourses create the conditions for critical thinking about the bigger picture and the longer term. Many people consequently live in a work-earn-spend cycle, spending much of what they earn on possessions and services now considered essential for everyday life. The 'reality' discourses have the effect of making people feel trapped in a cycle of earning, working, spending, consuming and meeting financial commitments, including the servicing of debts.