When Keeping Up Keeps You from Saving

Meet Lucy. Lucy and her husband, Don, have a great life. They’ve lived well, managing their money carefully and building up quite a nice little nest-egg. Their home is paid for, mostly because Lucy and Don have always driven older models cars, shopped carefully for their clothes, and made do with not quite the latest cell phone, television and appliances.

Lucy recently got a new job. Now she’s working with a group of people who come from money – old money, and lots of it. So Lucy is feeling some pressure to keep up. While she’s been content to brown-bag lunch for most of her working career, her new work peers eat out often. And they like expensive restaurants. Lucy is making good money, but if she tries to keep up, she’s going to have a lot less money available for saving.

Lucy tried eating out a couple of times a week, using her workload as her excuse for eating her lunch at her desk the rest of the time. But when her work mates come back from lunch having discussed a work issue, coming up with a plan into which she’s had no input, she feels at a decided disadvantage.

The dilemma isn’t very different for Caroline, although the circumstances are not at all the same. Caroline has been hanging out with the same bunch of girls ever since high school. Two of them married very well, and the third has been extremely successful in business. In fact, Caroline is working for her friend, Judith. Problem is, when the girls head off on vacation together, which they like to do a couple of times a year, Caroline has to put her portion on her credit card, which she can’t afford to pay off. The debt has been building for years and Caroline is at the point where she’s putting her family’s financial security at risk for the sake of keeping up with her posse.

Higher incomes often come with higher expectations – a nice house, a new car, myriad social events. And if you’re hanging with a crowd that’s significantly above your social status, you may always feel like the poor cousin. Or you may be “driven” to spend money you should be saving.  That’s one reason why people making solid incomes often default to using credit to keep up with what they think they should be able to afford.

You know the old saying, “It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep.” Income is only the issue when people make so little that they can’t keep body and soul together; then they must make more money. But for most it’s a matter of knowing what’s truly important and sticking to your guns. Income is, after all, only part of the equation. Inflated expenses can go through a big income faster than green grass through a goose.

If you build a life around keeping up, you’ll always struggle with how to save. If that’s the path you choose, just don’t whine about it. You can live your life for YOU and be healthy. Or you can struggle to keep up and flounder. It’s your choice.

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Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join MyMoneyMyChoices.com to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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38 Responses to “When Keeping Up Keeps You from Saving”

  1. You know, Gail, I feel like this is addressing a mistake I made recently. My current apartment has very boist neighbours, so I decided to move. Instead of moving somewhere affordable, I signed a year-long lease on a very expensive apartment which I can’t really afford, all because it was beautiful and looked pretty. Well, I’ve been looking more closely at it this week, since I got the keys and I’m planning my move, and it has just as many issues as my current place….. including a noisy, party-loving neighbour! I could cry. I’m now going to be stuck spending an extra $350 per month, which I could have been paying towards debt, for a place that’s pretty much the same as what I have now. I have to pay moving costs this year and likely again next year when I’m forced to move because of noisy neighbours which no one wants to deal with (that’s the problem in my current place).

    I’ve been watching your show for years and I thought I’d smartened up. Apparently not. I went for the pretty, fancy place, instead of a place that was just adequate and affordable. If ony I could turn back time and not be so silly. I’m dreading moving next week. A year-long reminder of my silliness.

  2. @sarah don’t beat yourself up too much. What’s done is done and maybe the new neighbors will be really nice people who will invite you to those parties! Enjoy the year in your new digs and try not to make yourself unhappy. It is not worth the effort. Maybe you will love the new place and the extra money will be worth it!

  3. @Sarah – I agree with Mpower – you shouldn’t beat yourself up about this. Everyone makes mistakes and gets caught up in the “keeping up” game sometimes no matter how smart we are, its called being human. The worst thing you could do now is not learn from the this mistake and keep making it over and over again. Trim your budget where you can in terms of entertainment, etc. if at all possible so you can put more towards debt or moving expenses in the coming year. Try and look at the positives – this is a mistake that is not permanent and you can remedy and will be a reminder in the future of a need vs. want.

  4. It is soo easy to do! My friends are all very fashion forward and have a new outfit every weekend, newest toys, they drink and go out all the time. I used to do it too, putting it on credit. About a year ago, when I got serious about my debt I stopped buying new clothes and shoes and things. I started to really think about my priorities. I might not be as hip and up to date as my friends, but I have more security and I am putting aside money for a home, something none of them have.

  5. This is part and parcel with the “I deserve it” mentality that is so prevalent today. People tell themselves that since they work hard they deserve the little luxuries that they may or may not be able to afford. Sadly hard work doesn’t always equal more money and of course there is the fact that what is hard work to one, is not necessarily hard work to someone else.

    Also, there is a question of what one is willing to sacrifice in order to have something else they might want more. We go without cable and eating out so that we can spend that money on buying expensive home theatre equipment and blu-ray movies. That form of entertainment is what makes US happy so we sacrifice other forms of entertainment to keep it in our budget. If one just looks at what the Jones’ have without also taking into consideration how the Jones’ have paid for it, one is left with only half the picture and one that is so skewed that keeping up becomes impossible.

  6. David Chilton wrote a bit about this in his new book and I found it really interesting. He talked about how people generally used to live around/ work around people from similar socioeconomic circles so ‘keeping up with the Jones’, while still not a good thing, at least meant keeping up with someone that makes a similar amount of money as you. Now though, we are surrounded by all sorts of different people who make vastly different amounts of money and now ‘keeping up with the jones’ is more detrimental than ever.
    I don’t know what I would do in the difficult situations talked about above but when I start to feel a bit envious of the new car that a co-worker buys or wonder how a friend can have so many toys when they don’t work often and think maybe we should get to treat ourselves too, I just start picturing dollar signs instead of shiny toys. I remind myself about all of the debt that those people are probably carrying and how happy I am not to have any (other than the mortgage- and even that is small because we bought less house than we could afford). When I start to think about our financial security and the money we have in the bank I start to feel better about my lack of new shiny things because I know they would only make me happy for a bit before I started jonesing for the next new thing whereas my net worth helps me sleep each and every night.

  7. avatar Tracey H Says:
    April 9, 2012 at 9:16 am

    It’s not just friends and jobs that create this. I’d bet, in fact, the neighbourhood you live in has more of an impact on keeping up with the Joneses. When we retire, we’re going to actively look for a town and neighbourhood where we’re happy with the house and surroundings (we’re hoping to be walking distance to most, if not all, of what we need), but also where our neighbours aren’t better off than we are. It’s so much easier to live when you don’t feel a) everyone has more than you do and b) you aren’t being judged for not keeping up your house the way everyone else in the neighbourhood does (new driveways, landscaping, etc.).

  8. You could have been talking about where I work, lol! It’s really hard. Because its also about how coworkers conversations revolve around shopping, fashion, restaurants, or TV shows…. I can’t participate in many lunchroom conversations. (Thankfully? very few can take the time to go out for lunch.) I was thinking I’m going to have to start watching TV just to try to “fit in”, but the thought of watching “Real Housewives of…” makes me cringe…
    I love my job, but staff has changed over the years, gotten younger, and they only want light talk at breaks, which I get, but… It’s hard when you don’t connect with your coworkers…

  9. @Tracy H – That’s a really interesting point you make about how your neighbourhood influences your habits. I hadn’t thought about it, but the neighbourhood my husband and I just moved to for our first (rented) home has really impacted how we spend and, more importantly, how much pressure we feel to spend. The pace of life is very low-key, there are parks and bike paths nearby, and our neighbours have fun by having barbecues and by playing football in the schoolyard. Some people have said to me that this is an expensive neighbourhood to live in, and I am sure we could be paying cheaper rent in another part of town, but once we are at home, we don’t want to spend more, and our neighbours are not spending more, because we have all we need in the neighbourhood, and “the Joneses” are doing things like growing tomatoes in their front yards and giving away the extras for free to passersby!

  10. avatar psychsarah Says:
    April 9, 2012 at 9:58 am

    It is such a slippery slope! Even though I pride myself on frugality and working to pay down our mortgage and live totally debt free, there is this one little gremlin that gets me. I am a well-paid professional, and I am involved in a couple of professional groups that get together at each other’s homes. I am amazed that my colleagues (even those just starting out) have these beautiful, big, new, fancily decorated homes while my home is older, smaller, and more modest in decor. Most of the time I’m proud that we’ve chosen a home that allows us to be mortgage free in our forties (about 10 years to go!) and allow us to still save and have some fun, but I get this sinking feeling in my gut when it’s my turn to host these groups-what will people think? will they think I’m bad with my money (which is obviously not true!)? will they think I’m not doing as well as them in my career (also not true)? I wish I could squelch these thoughts and stop caring what they think, but it seems to be my Achilles heel. So far, it has not prompted a change in behaviour (I’ve not gone house shopping for a huge mortgage I can’t afford), but it’s tempting! I try to remind myself that a) they might be in a lot more debt than me, b) some of them married people who make even more than DH and I put together so they can afford more and c) I shouldn’t care if these people judge me on my house (most important!!)

  11. These situations are rather sad in that both women are allowing themselves to be negatively influenced by others. For Lucy, not only does eating lunch out cost more than brown-bagging it but it is usually less healthy. She’s in a difficult position if co-workers are making work plans or decisions in her absence but this should be dealt with in the offfice. The good thing is that financially she is in a reasonably good position.
    Caroline’s financial situation is much worse but easier to solve than Lucy’s. No one should ever go on vacation if they have to put it on a credit card and can’t pay the bill in full when it arrives. No one is entitled to a vacation, no matter how much they think they deserve it, if they haven’t saved the money in advance or if they are carrying card credit debt. And finally, no one should ever put their family’s financial security at risk. Caroline just has to say no to future trips until she gets her finances in order and she needs to pick up a second job until the debt is cleared.

  12. Some people love to keep up with the Jones. The problem is the Jones are going broke or are already broke.

  13. Brown bagging your lunch will definitely be financially beneficial but also healthier in the long. Lucy will not be required to change her wardrobe as the others will definitely be slowly spending their money and getting larger requiring new attire. The health aspect though is more important, financial, mental and physical health and well being.

    psychara, be proud of your home. If you want to achieve a different look you can find many DIY and decorating blogs that will give you great ideas and direction. Make the changes you want for you and your husband to enjoy. The company is there for good food and good friends (even the business company) if they have any issues let it be there issue not yours. Be proud that you can be a great host/hostess.

  14. I absolutely know this scenario!! I have a very comfortable life, but my 2 dearest friends are significantly better off. They do not work and I still work full-time. We live in different cities and meet once/twice a year for girl’s trips. I work OT to ensure I have the $$ for these trips so nothing comes out of our family budget or on the credit card. I am happy to do this and do not find it to be a hardship.
    The difficulty I have is that both the women have lost touch with being a working woman and have forgotten when their own financial situations were less carefree. I am frequently told to “stop working, you shouldn’t have to…it’s too hard”, blah, blah, blah ginger… I get tired of feeling like I have to defend myself and defend my husband about why I still need to work. And on some level I am a bit resentful of this.
    Like many of the other women who have written in, I know the intellectual part of this situation but it is still hard to escape the emotional sequelae of being judged.

  15. In many careers, the “lets do lunch” thing is an important way to connect with your peers and superiors. It is also a way to quickly empty your finances as I know to my sorrow.

    After multiple financial crises (I’m a slow learner), we now have things on track and yes, I still go to these “power lunches”.

    What I’ve done different is:
    – Only do it once a week. The rest of the week I brag about the great lunch my loving wife has made me (and they are good too).
    – Eat earlier – that way you can skip out by saying “sorry – I’ve already eaten”.
    – Skip or limit the alcohol – that is often the most expensive part of the lunch.
    – Add it to your employment expenses jar – every week I pull $25 for these lunches and pay cash. When you look at the menu, stay within your budget.

    If it’s planned for, it can be done.

  16. avatar jackfree Says:
    April 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Andrew: Great advice, I will add to that list.

    Eat a snack mid morning on the days you join in then order off the kids menu or appetizer.

    Make sure separate bills.(so they don’t pull lets split it even or as happens people forget they ordered extra or don’t leave enough.)

    Suggest places where they let you pick and charge by the weight on only what you want or other cheaper options.(ie. tuckers kitchen)

    Buffet can work even if it is a high-end one you can order a la carte.

    Entertainment Book has some nicer places and up to 50% off or look for Groupon deals close to work sometimes more than 50% off.

  17. It’s very easy to live an inflated lifestyle. When you realize you can’t live that life anymore and decide to put your financial wellbeing ahead of your wants is the right time to start looking for help like what you find on this website.

  18. great post Gail, great message, very timely for me right now. we just purchased a ‘new’ to us house, bigger mortgage, more space, for our family to grow in. but i’m trying to push off the ‘keeping up’ mentality as we plan the move, furnishings (or lack there of) and telling myself that furnishing and decorating the whole thing right away isn’t necessary, no matter what people think!

    thanks for kicking my butt back into gear

  19. You know I think most people think a little too highly of themselves. outside of the career lunch issue, which can be a real thing (not because people will think less of you for brownbagging, but for the networking opportunity loss) but the neighbourhood, what will the neighbours think, etc scenarios.

    In other words, I really doubt Mr. Jones’s really cares about my 2002 mazda in my driveway when he’s out cruising in his 2012 Infiniti. Maybe he’s just out enjoying the drive. I can’t help but think a lot these posts reflect some internal lack of confidence; nor do I assume that the jones are all deep in debt. Some people really do have lots of money; they do exist. Some are in debt up to their necks. I care about as much about that (and can do nothing about it anyway) as they care about the squeaks my engine makes backing up.

    Caroline’s friends, if they really are her friends, will understand if she can’t make the holiday trip due to finances; she should just be honest and direct with them. It’s not the end of the world if they came to her house for a week.If they can’t understand then…

    Well as tom waits said: “champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.” (ook doesn’t totally fit, but I love that quote).

  20. So glad that we only get 40 minutes for lunch at my school. Makes it next to impossible to go out for lunch! We save our lunch dates for the end of the semester during exams when we have some time! I couldn’t imagine buying lunch out every day.

    Most of the time I don’t care about these kinds of things…Personally I don’t give a crap what car I drive, as long as it is reliable (*looks outside at my two 10 year old cars).

  21. avatar Crystal Says:
    April 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Worry about yourself and not others. At the end of the day can you sleep at night? Are you living a life that you can afford? In the end does it matter where you have travelled to or how nicely your home is decorated if you are in a heap load of debt. No. Some people I know make more then my husband does and are in a heap load of debt. To me it makes no sense. If I had another income coming in WOW I am sure my mortgage would be the first thing to go. How can you not survive on $140,000 a year? It boggles my mind. Oh wait, we need to go on this vacation because I worked so hard and the weather is so cold and rainy and I DESERVE it and put it on credit cause we don’t have the money to pay for it oh and we have to finish the basement and buy a boat that we can’t afford and put the payments on credit card. OY! Some of the stuff I listen to. And then I get the wow – I don’t know how you SURVIVE on one income. I just have to keep my mouth shut and roll my eyes.

  22. Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like. -Will Rogers

    Who are we trying to impress anyways? Less is more.I have spent very little and quite a lot, neither approach made me that happy. Having money in the bank is very satisfying though.

  23. I really have not given a thought to keeping up with the Jones. We are in a very nice neighborhood, but we live in an obvious rental so we are supposed to be poor, I guess.

  24. avatar Melaniesd Says:
    April 9, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    PsychSarah, please try not to feel that way. In our last home, we had a 50 year old 2 bedroom bungalow. I always felt like it wasn’t enough but I was surprised how many of my friends and family loved the house and found it warm, cozy and welcoming. A lot of that came from how I decorated – a collection of items over the years, and the fact that we welcomed them warmly and truly wanted them to feel at home. I did my best to provide a nice meal and a warm atmosphere.
    Now that I have a larger home, I must admit I miss the old house at times but it might be because my friends and family are still close to there and I am 100Km away.

  25. avatar Melaniesd Says:
    April 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Another thing… Now that I live in a more rural area, it’s a little easier to not feel the need to keep up with the Jones. I work in a small bank in a small town that has 1 restaurant, a tim hortons and a grocery store – not much else. There is no where to spend my money and I have no one to go to lunch with! (Mind you when I go to the city I probably make up for the spending when I visit my old haunts like Costco).

  26. Thanks for this post. I’ve been searching for input on this very subject. Thanks to Gail’s budget plan I managed to pay off all my credit card debt and am about a third of the way towards my six month savings goal. It is very hard to stay motivated when you are surrounded by the peer pressure of having the best and satisfying every want. When you are invited to socialize only to find out you were expected to pay a hefty tab, or you can only give a gift if its a preordained big ticket registered item or gift card. Its hard to stand up and say you have different priorities or decline invitations so you can pay your bills. My Grandma grew up during the Great Depression and said they used to have a term called “car poor” which meant you had the illusion of wealth, but were completely indebted. I know I should not judge others now that I have turned things around, but I have known many that are deep in student loan debt and have even filed for bankrupcy but still continue to keep up with the joneses. Its hard to be around people that have different values. Hard to stay motivated when you feel like you are alienating them with your choices to be frugal. There is a difference between being frugal and being cheap. Unfortunately it feels like if you say no to buying something that represents two months of groceries that makes you a bad person. Thank you all for sharing your experiences and inspiration!

  27. I think that people need a poster in their simple but affordable house that says:
    “A small mortgage can lead to better sleep at night”

    Work is different. Lunches and coffee time can be difficult situations. When moving up, sometime you have to put some of your new income aside for career-based expenses. You can order from the simpler section of the menu and ask for water. No shame in telling them that your wasteline appreciates it.

  28. I can totally relate to this post. As a univeristy student I lived a frugal yet totally fulfilling life surrounded by many like minded friends. I worked very hard during the summer months in order to carry almost no student debt when I completed my degree. When I started out in the working world I was able to maintain a lifestyle of not overspending; however, as I moved up in my career slowly and sneakily the ‘Jones’ syndrome began to effect me. Going to conferences or regional meetings with co-workers who always had new outfits, shoes, briefcases, hairstyles would leave me feeling inadequate and frumpy.. and the list goes on from there….my home furnishings have been made fun of (futon apparently not en vogue for my current stage in life?) when everyone year after year takes one or more hot vacations from the office…it does get hard not to start to desire the same. My accomplishment of getting through university with no debt has been eclipsed by rising credit card debt. When you see friends and co-workers get money from parents/inheritances and know this isn’t in the cards for you it is sometimes hard to not once in a while say screw it I want some good times too. I watch Gail, read finance books, have a science degree and know that debt is completely and utterly illogical. I was once happy using a cardboard box covered with a sheet as a coffee table and now I want the finest woods. I am trying my best to get back on track but it is so much harder now than when I was a student and frugality was an acceptable way of life. I wish everyone on the path to getting out of debt good luck…it was once easy for me to pass judgement on overspenders, but I myself, a saver for years have fallen victim. I wish I would have been stronger…as now I have to be three times as strong to get out of this debt!

  29. @Shauna — I completely know what you mean! I was stingy throughout university in order to graduate debt free, but somehow now that I’ve been out in the working world it seems to be *that* much harder to not spend money. For example, in undergrad I was able to skip going to Tim Horton’s for coffee just to keep the $1.30, but now, I wonder where has that willpower gone? Sometimes I also want to say screw it, I want some good times as well when everyone else has beautifully furnished homes with brand new stuff… I wonder if it was easier for me to visualize graduating debt free (an actual, specific goal) rather than saving and not spending for the sake of saving itself… I.e. it is easier to cut back to avoid debt (a ‘fixed’ amount) than it is to cut back to increase savings when savings means “as much as possible”?

  30. My colleagues are all better dressed than me. I found out that they spend all their free time scrounging for deep discounts at the finer department stores – I don’t have the time or energy for this kind of lifestyle. I have nice clothes from the Gap and I’m fine with them.

    My colleagues have at least 20 pairs of designer heels each. I decided I didn’t care enough about shoes to keep pace. I fight to not let jealousy get the better of me.

    I do buy my lunch, going against Gail’s advice. This is the one area where I feel I need to spend money because the lunches I bring are not satisfying. I like a hot lunch and the microwave in our office is not clean enough for me. I buy a $5 teriyaki meal from the food court and make my own coffee when I get back to the office. There is no way I could make a lunch this good on my own.

    But I am proud of having broken the Starbucks habit because that was getting out of hand. Everyone in the office goes out for coffee, everyone! It was hard to turn them down at first, now what I do is I go down with them, but I take my own coffee that I made in the office, and we can sit and talk in the food court without me having spent a cent.

  31. This is kind of eerie for me; I was just thinking this weekend that I need to have a talk with the new beau about all the dinners, movies, and events we’ve been spending on lately. Romance sure can be expensive, especially at the beginning when you’re trying to make a good impression.

  32. I was considering whatever happened to my college lifestyle recently too! I used to work three jobs and ride my bike everywhere and rent a room so I could pay my way through college and never have a student loan. The conclusion I came to was that back then I had a major goal to work towards. Before I had financial goals I was much more prone to spend willy nilly on junk. About a year before I started taking my financial goals seriously I got into feng shui and my whole attitude about money and material posessions started to change. I realized I had “enough” and started to read more about how we have a drop off point to what brings us happiness and pleasure. Once we start having fancy coffee every day it is no longer a special ritual and not nearly as satisfying or rewarding. Similarly that college lifestyle made you appreciate the very little things you could afford to splurge on. I didnt really have a budget then but I knew I couldnt afford to spend money on any whim because I had priorities. Its good to have priorities again because now I actively seek out ways to save. A free frappacino I find occasionally with a coupon is my new reward for good saving behavior!

  33. This is a great post!
    My colleagues spend the greater portion of the morning complaining about how underpaid we all are and how broke they are and once noon hits, it’s off to the restaurants they go! It’s so frustrating! I join them once a week, and that’s only because it is part of my budget and I do like the social aspect of it.

    It amazing to me that some people just don’t have a clue about their money and where it goes!

  34. How about when getting by keeps you from saving?

    I’ve been a single Mom for 15 years. My Ex moved out and declared bankruptcy. And although I’ve scratched my way out of that and many other holes that were left me; and although I’ve been gainfully employed for 12 years; and although my 3 girls are all but grown and on their own — saving is not something I’ve been able to do.

    I live in small town NS. I work for a small business and my wonderful boss pays me as much as he can; I do not have medical and or pension and my wages don’t pay the all the bills. So, I host international students; and that means that I can pay my mortgage, taxes, electric, etc etc. I shop mostly at thrift stores and enjoy the occasional lunch out with friends or good bottle of wine. But I just make do. My savings (or slush fund, as I call it) only ever grows big enough to replace the broken refrigerator or hot water heater or pay for upkeep on the car that I own. I KNOW where my money goes and how much I spend on things; I operate on a budget and almost always keep to it to the letter. I don’t buy extravagant gifts for my children or myself and the vacation I take every 4 years involves going home to NL to visit my aging parents and my siblings.

    I try hard; I’ve tried hard for 15 years. I could tighten my belt even further and not go out to the movies or spend $20 on a meal with friends or buy that $5 shirt from Frenchies. But when you spend your whole life working to make ends meet and nurturing children, you’ve got to have more to your ME TIME than watching Survivor or reading a paperback.

    I think I’ve done well from where I was in 1998. And I’d love to watch a nest egg grow. But with today’s economy and the cost of living, I’m realistic about the fact that I’ll never have a bundle in the bank. And I’m thankful to God that I have what I have.

  35. Sandy B, I think you have a great attitude in the face of a difficult financial situation. I agree that you shouldn’t give up all the fun stuff – it sounds like you’ve struck a balance that works for you and your budget.

    In my totally non-expert opinion, I think you should focus on not having any debt (you didn’t mention whether you had debt or not in your post) and paying off your house by the time you ‘retire’. I put that in quotes because you may not really be able to retire completely, and may have to supplement your income/ government 65+ payments (CPP and OAS) to get by comfortably after retirement.

    When I was growing up, a local woman (who was older than you seem to be now – already retired) supplemented her retirement income by baby-sitting and elder-sitting (my grandmother lived with us and had early dementia; couldn’t be left alone, so my mother hired this woman to spend several afternoons a week with her). You could continue to take in boarders. I know that she made (from all her ‘clients’ put together) at least $1000 a month – that goes a very long way when your car and mortgage are paid off).

    If your salary is very low now, your lifestyle probably won’t take too much of a hit once you have to rely on CPP and OAS. That said, you should still seek to increase your income. It sounds like you’re really strong and smart, so I assume you’ve tried to get better paying jobs/career to the extent possible, but by doing other things similar to taking in boarders, you could have a bigger ‘slush fund’ to guard against future emergencies/disaster, or visit family more often.

  36. I live in a high end area that is surrounded by some low income housing. Interestingly, both low income and high income kids go to the same school. I sometimes feel really sorry for those low income people being surrounded by the high income people. Must be depressing.

  37. Lucy m’dear, always remember what Henry David Thoreau wrote…

    “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes…”

    I’m sure you could substitute homes too!

  38. I just wanted to say that living frugal is new chic. Don’t worry about other people. At the end of the day, people surrounding you seem to be doing so well but you never know if they have so much debts and filed for a bankruptcy. Look around there are so many people are losing their houses as soon as economy is going down a bit. I would prefer to have my emergency savings and to keep my fixed costs to the minimum possible. That allows me to splurge every once in a while and I can.

    Hope that helps!

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