I got out of college 6 months ago and now have one of those jobs were they really abuse the new hires/associates. The Big 4 accounting firms abuse you like no other companies, except for investment banks and law firms. I'm currently looking to quit and get a less stressful job soon. I don't know if my sanity can take busy season, working 12 hour days and on weekends. that shit.
I agree, its BS. I don't think its a new practice for companies to take advantage of new grads, but it seems like with this current economy/ job market they go out of their way to treat employees like shit. I've been working at this shitty tech job for 5 years right out of college, working 11PM to 7AM plus weekends. Finally I get enough tenure to get day shift, and then they go ahead and make the shifts 12 hours long. . Without overtime. DOUBLE .
Needless to say I don't like my job, and am working towards a Masters degree for the slim hope I can escape. :/
OP... you are right, once you have been working for a while, you outgrow that need to spend your way to a 'good life'. Once you get that first pay check, you know exactly what you can afford and what you can't. Some people just graduate to bigger debts like cars and houses. In my experience, the people who are most bitter are the ones who got caught up in those mortgages and have no choice but to bust their ass to pay the bills.
Anyways, I have to disagree with what most people say, which is do what you love. You need to look at what you're good at and find a career in that. No job is perfect all the time, but at least if you are competent at what you're doing you can find some satisfaction (and $) in that. Regardless of what you choose, don't ever get comfortable - keep learning and improving yourself.