If you spend your life trying to impress and keep up with everyone else, you are not living your own life – you are living theirs. ~ Unknown
Like most couples Mr. Wonderful and I certainly had our “salad days.” We lived on love and not much else. Back then, our financial discussions would go something like this: He would ask: “I really need ___? Do we have any money?” “Nope!” I would answer brightly, and we’d both be fine.
Granted, we were blessed with a warm home and gainful employment. We were hardly dustbowl Okies struggling to survive. Our particular hardship was definitely of the still-blessed-to-be-an-American kind. Our struggles were more about store-brand groceries, hand-me-down baby clothes, and strolling the mall with my baby for exercise alone.
As young couples are prone to do, we set our sights on finer things – maybe name-brand groceries, garage sale baby clothes, and buying our toddler a hot-pretzel the next time we were at the mall. We really dreamt big back then!
In time we moved from our salad days to our slightly more comfortable “salad with croutons” days. Later we were thrilled to climb the ladder to actual “entrée days.” and were closing in on having our eye on a proverbial financial appetizer or two. We thought about a boat, or maybe a camper? But then we’d check out the prices and realize that you can fish off the shore and that our tent was already paid for.
Tight. In short, we’re so tight with money that we squeak. If we can’t pay cash for it – we probably won’t buy it. As a result, we’ve renovated this crumbling old property approximately seventy-six cents at a time. Currently, we need a new roof so badly that you can judge wind-direction by which way our shingles are flipped. And yet, to actually go into the bank and take out an equity loan – on the house where my children LIVE – is so frightening to me that I’d likely never be able to sleep under that brand new bought-on-credit roof. I’d just lie there, tossing and turning and wondering if the new owner (who would purchase it when I died from debt-related-stress) would appreciate the architectural shingles too?
I drive a paid-for car. Throw away credit card offers, and steadfastly refuse to believe that I need a 52” Plasma television in order to watch the morning news. Seriously, does anyone really NEED to see Al Roker in High-Def? I think not.
I still consider my ten-year-old living room set to be fairly “new” and when my washing machine gave up the ghost, I took the advice of the repairman and went and bought a used one for about $150 because “they just don’t make them like that anymore.” Well, that, and the fact that I can’t imagine what feat a washing machine could possibly perform short of personal massage that would make a new one worth over $1,000.
In short, we are cheap. We are frugal. We prefer to pay cash. I say this not to brag but instead, to apologize.
I think we broke the economy.
You see, while some banks were loaning to everyone but my dog and encouraging everyone to see their homes as piggy-banks that would – and should – double in value every two years, we, like many of our neighbors, were plugging along and patching things together as best we could. Buying only that which we thought we could afford.
I’m not smug about it. This is a very scary economy we live in. Any one of us could fail. Job loss. Lay-offs. Foreclosure. There but for the Grace of God go we.
And yet, despite the push to give everyone even more credit, I think we should give ourselves enough credit to know better. We may have broken the economy, but I think if a few more of us lived below our means, we might be able to fix it, too. Make stuff – don’t just buy stuff. Consider your home a haven – not an investment to be “flipped” in the near future. Pay a little more for your goods and services to put your neighbor back to work – and maybe he or she will do the same for you.
Strong. Look, I hope that we all hold on to our homes and our stuff because, don’t get me wrong, I may be cheap, but I love my home and my “stuff” too. Nonetheless, if the worst comes to pass, what really matters – the people that really matter to you, and to me – won’t care where you live, what you have, or what kind of car you drive.
I believe we will come out of this economic stress stronger and yes, even better for it. Just as generations before us have done, we will pay our debts and pay our dues.
In the meantime what it pays to remember is this: you should always define yourself not by what you have in your life – but who.
Best of the interwebs:
All original content © 2002 - 2013 Imperfect Parent®. Imperfect Parent and Mominatrix are registered trademarks.
The views, opinions and information expressed in articles and blog posts published on imperfectparent.com and all subdomains are those of the authors alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Imperfect Parent or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or affiliated with, Imperfect Parent. The Imperfect Parent is designed for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical, health, legal, or financial advice from a professional.
Reproduction of material from any of Imperfect Parent's pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.