Friday, November 14, 2008

When Thriftiness Becomes a Way of Life or... Why I'm Afraid of Money

I have wanted to write this post for a year now (and I began it last February) because in Nov/Dec of 2007 two of my favorite blogging friends posted about this issue, namely Aliki and Dawn. So... I am "only" one year late :-) and this will be a bit of a scattered post because I am trying to end what I begin to write and not exactly suceeding.

Interestingly enough, however, since last year things have changed so drastically in this country that the whole point of the original post I wanted to write (complain a bit about how my whole life centered around being thrifty and how tired I was of that) can get a completely different spin in these economically troubled times. Most probably people will begin valuing thriftiness more, no?

Anyway, here is some of what I began to write then, which I've finished today:

Aliki's post "On Thriftiness" elicited great discussions in the comment section.

The central issue of her post was the question of whether this statement is true or not:
The notion of thriftiness is one that's been out of vogue for a long time--and not because people are better off than they were when I was growing up, but because of how rampant the consumer culture has become.
And wondering why people today seem to think that it's wrong to talk to one's children about money. And she ends with this statement, with which I wholeheartedly agree:
It's the smaller things I'm concerned about now, the daily message we send our kids, that being thrifty is shameful, and low, and downright taboo in today's culture when, in fact, it should be something to be proud of, something we hand down to our kids, especially if we have the choice--the luxury--to be gentle and kind about it.
I wrote in her comments:
This is a great post! Quite frankly, I'm tired of thriftiness, but at this point I think it has seeped into my very bones and even if we do get to a comfortable position someday, I'll keep on "thrifting." I grew up with extremely thrifty parents, not to mention that we *really* didn't have much money. Ever. I do talk about money with the boys and I'm never ashamed of doing it. I just tell them flat out that it's very expensive and we cannot afford it, period. I hope they're learning that we cannot have everything we want. I also talk to them about wastefulness, recycling, etc.

I'm afraid that I, personally, have a negative relationship with money and that's not very good. But I do hope that they [my sons] don't get to be spenders and wasters. I enjoyed to read what the other commenters had to say about this as well.
Then, only a few days after Aliki posted, Dawn wrote a post titled "I'm afraid of money" in which she discussed that she has a hard time dealing with money and, particularly that "Frugality is grand and all — I will never be a spendthrift — but the anxiety that drives it for me is not so healthy." I totally identified with her post, not that I feel the same anxiety when I buy stuff -- we have made several expensive purchases in the past year, particularly furniture (not to mention how much we spent on the home renovations), but I still feel very anxious about money.

There's a lot that I could talk about regarding this subject... about my childhood and how few toys we had and how I never asked for anything that I might have wanted. How this awareness that we couldn't afford so many things is still strong in me... It makes me say to my boys "Look, this is expensive," so often that today at the store Linton wanted to put his MiraLax back because, he said "Look mama, it's expensive!" (he really doesn't know what he's saying, obviously, it was only around 5 bucks, but Kelvin does know when something is expensive, like 100+ dollars) and I explained to him that it might be, but we needed to buy it anyway, that it was a necessity so he could use the bathroom without difficulty. I do want to instill in my boys the thought that we don't need to buy all we want, that rampant consumerism is not good and that we must value what we have and try not to spend too much.

I won't have time to go into a detailed description of my relationship with money, suffice it to say that money makes me nervous, but, contradictorily, the thought of having an actual budget and knowing exactly how much we can/ cannot spend is something I have resisted for the longest time. I try not to spend, but once in a while I do buy something and feel a bit guilty about it...

Oh, I remember one of the things I wanted to write. I would have a whole list of complaints if I only had the time to think of them: I've been tired of only buying clothes for me and the boys it the season clearances at the end of the winter and summer, but I just can't bring myself to pay "full price" (whatever that means because prices at big clothing stores such as Kohls are merely "fictional" -- which drives me nuts!) for any clothes. Even 50% discount (of the fictional sky high price) is too much for me. It has to be at 60-80% and then I still have to use my card's 15-30% discount... yeah. That's how we shop for clothes here. (and, Dawn, I don't really buy clothes at thrifty shops much because I can get brand new ones SOOOO cheap, sometimes less than 2 dollars apiece that I just don't feel like getting used ones)

All right, I'm all over the place, but I wanted to end with the fact that interstingly enough, this week Time magazine featured one of my favorite discount grocery stores in an article -- the German store Aldi. I first discovered Aldi when my brother- and sister-in-law were studying in Michigan and living in an incredibly tight budget (it's unbelievable really how my BIL made it through his MA!). It was their store of choice, and I didn't like it much at the time. When we moved to the Philadelphia area there was one a couple of miles from our house and I shopped there very often (and also at our other favorite discount store, which is much harder to find -- Price Rite). In fact, I haven't shopped in regular grocery stores for many years now (I blogged about this back in Nov. 2006 and Lauren liked that post :-) and this summer I was ELATED that I was barely going shopping at all because of the CSA share and the farm stand. It felt great!

So... I guess that at this point I should embrace our triftiness instead of complaining about it, right? It has most certainly served us well and will probably come in handy now!
(and I guess that the whole original point of this post is just moot... ;-)


Rene said...

I can't say that I have quite the same issues or fear related to money, but I do agree that thriftiness is a good habit that one should not be ashamed of.

Hopefully this financial crisis, as you suggest, will encourage more people to pick up the habit instead of living beyond their means and indulging in wasteful spending.

Dawn said...

If I have to buy new, I go to Kohl's. Sometimes when I'm listening to people who are suddenly worried about money because of the economy I kinda want to roll my eyes at them. Because they still think that packing your own lunch is as thrifty as you can get -- ha!