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Frugal Doings + Perceptions

June 9th, 2011 at 02:01 pm

Frugal Doings:

Found the Silicon Valley Target family concert dates. Bummer, since they are Sunday nights. BUT, is before school starts so maybe we can make it work. Will probably pick one night to go. Either "Disney" or "Movie Blockbuster" themed - I am sure there will be some overlap between the two concerts. Not only are these concerts free, but have free ice cream, and are at our University alma mater. So, I am excited about the experience as a whole.

We've seen the Sacramento Symphony Target concerts but had to pay a bit to get in, and wasn't quite as directed to the younger kids. But, if those fit our schedule, we may do one too. I believe the kids were free at least.

Dh has quite a few Scholastic volunteer shifts this upcoming week. I believe he settled on 4 hours per teacher and 8 hours for the school. (Plus 8 hours towards buying whatever his heart delights). Truth is we need to purge some books - I am not as thrilled about that part, though books are the primary gift for the kids any holiday. More than just books - often video games, activity books, etc., etc. That said, dh did purge some books from the bookshelf recently. Maybe for the first time ever (outside baby books we bought before our Scholastic days). I'd say we could purge more.

I've got so much time off and free food (BBQs, etc.) coming this month that the $0 spending has been easy. Not that I am having a no-spend month (I don't like extremes). I just figured it would be easy to spend $0 on food this month. Vacation plans being up in the air is bad for our plans though. That was 3.5 days of free food. Was planning on saving a lot of groceries, too. The budget would be best if camp is not cancelled!

Anyway, I kicked myself for probably not having enough food at work today (forgot to bring anything), so just went to BK for a $1 menu item. Woman there handed me a pile of coupons. It's been a while since someone has handed me a pile of coupons. I could clearly tell why - who comes through to just spend a dollar, right? & puts it on a credit card? Big Grin Funny thing is strict budget or no, I'd probably order the same thing regardless. Not wanting their french fries and over-priced soda has little to do with anything but my taste and appetite. Well, and their over-priced sodas...

Well, it was a reminder that I can still splurge on a lunch.

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So, Joan asked an interesting question a while back when I mentioned a mix up between us and another family struggling financially. She legimitimately asked if we *looked poor* or could be *mistaken as poor* by the impression we give off. In this case, was just an e-mail mix up.

But, I think this is an interesting question. Why, if someone is frugal, are they perceived to be so cheap that they must stick out and have a miserable life? Not that Joan was saying all that. BUT, I do find that people treat me VERY different on the internet at times, than they do on real life.

The truth is, we fit in QUITE well. Very well. To the point where most people think we are just rich tightwads. Because clearly it is ridiculous that we would watch our pennies so much. (To most people, they don't seem to understand the cause and effect. I'd sum it up as saving money on stuff we don't care about so we have more to spend on the stuff we do care about).

These are the things people will never notice:

**How much stuff we buy used, hand-me-down clothes, hand-me-down furniture. We are big fans of *barely used* goods. I can assure you that no one would ever know if we didn't tell.

**That we eat most our meals at home.

**I delight in finding birthday presents that look REALLY expensive but only cost $5-$10 (on deep discount, of course).

**That when we vacation we make frugal choices - like drive and stay at Motel 6. No one sees that - all they know if that you went to some exciting destination they couldn't afford (i.e. they couldn't afford flying too and staying at a luxury hotel - usually what that seems to mean).

**That I don't spend a fortune on beauty products. Online this is met with *horror.* In person I am often told, "Well - you are lucky you don't *need* it." As if everyone needs hundreds of dollars of beauty products and spa treatments to pass in society. Wink

I do admit everyone thinks we just buy used cars because we are ridiculously cheap (and crazy). They couldn't possibly fathom how much we save (since we are usually told that *old cars cost more*). At the end of the day, my car doesn't come up much anyway. Few people do seem to notice the car situation. Likewise, the few friends I drive around in my van know we paid cash for it and they can't wrap their brain around that anyway.

I admit we are in a unique position since we moved to a low cost area. So, this translates into maybe owning in a prestigious neighborhood, while having the lowest mortgage of anyone we know. Most assumptions are we are about to foreclose like 95% of our neighbors, that we are rich, or that we made a fortune on Bay Area real estate. The truth is that a $300k house feels extremely reasonable to us compared to what we are used to, and that we put 25% down, never borrowed against the home, and have a low fixed mortgage rate. The home was a lateral move from a $290k-ish condo we made no money on. No one else seems to comprehend how we could not be upside down. To be fair, buying price is ALWAYS assumed to be much higher than we paid. We bought the house because it was an awesome deal. Since it was new construction, we locked the price in much lower to what it was even worth when we eventually moved in. For a while (years), when the models were still open, everyone would comment, "I could never afford this neighborhood" after stopping to tour the models. But they seemed completely deaf when we would laugh and reply, "neither could we at THOSE prices."

Then there is the whole *hubby stays home* thing. No one will accuse us of being poor as long as that is a fact. You have to be lucky and rich to manage that, of course. Do you think all of our Joneses type friends can even fathom living on one income? If I opened up my tax returns I think most my friends would faint dead away.

I think for the most part we can figure out how to have whatever we want, cheaper. Whether it be a good eduction (primary or college), a reliable car, a nice home, or whatever it may be. One interesting thing with the kids is dh's love of video games and the prevalence of them around the house. Yes, I'd think it would probably be ridiculous to give my 5-year-old a brand new Nintendo DS, but both kids have a DS and a PSP at their disposal. Cost? Free. As such, they fit in quite well with all the kids and their new game systems.

I remember one day when LM was younger and we were waiting at one of BM's extra-curricular classes. I pulled out a zip lock just bursting at the seams full of games for his Leap Frog. I looked at it, probably for the first time, and thought, "Where the hell did all these games come from?" I had probably paid for just a few games over the years. I was keenly aware that other people must be thinking I was carrying around thousands of dollars of games around, when really it was probably no more than $100 to us.

Anyway, it isn't really hard to fit in. I've got a college degree, a nice home, reliable cars, furniture, appliances, clothing, etc. IT all looks the same as what everyone else has got, for the most part. I can assure we paid very little compared to average for most of the things we own.

So, I had to giggle a bit to myself when Joan asked, though I Wasn't surprised at the question. I think if our passions were different, and we didn't have the whole benefit of the low cost of living thing, my experience may be very different. I think also we are very moderate. I can think of a few people who are stingy to an extreme. Some have come across very poor when they weren't poor at all. I can't imagine ever being so extreme - in either direction.

I am curious about other's experiences in these type perceptions.

4 Responses to “Frugal Doings + Perceptions”

  1. rob62521 Says:

    We have a friend, as you describe, is "stingy to the extreme." He's a nice guy, but so very cheap. But, that being said, he'd do something like invest a ton in penny stocks and lose his shirt. He had a nice little house and instead of paying a few bucks to fix it up, he bought the larger house next door because he thought it was better. Funny thing, the folks who bought his old house spent a few thousand and it looks so cute. He has done nothing and although real estate is down, his house is worth even less because everything is old and worn out.
    We have friends who do not live below their means and they sort of make fun of us because I cook a lot, take my lunch, and shop with coupons, etc. Yet, when we wanted to take a vacation, we didn't have to get a loan on our house to have the money to take it like they did. So, I guess the perception folks have of us is we are poorer than we really are. And that's fine with me. I don't play keeping up with the Joneses and would rather enjoy what I have.

  2. MonkeyMama Says:

    "We have friends who do not live below their means and they sort of make fun of us "

    I can TOTALLY relate to this, but for some reason it is always assumed we are just *cheap.* There is no serious consideration of being *poor.*

    I am not sure why, but I think there is an element of "Why don't you just borrow for all this stuff like the rest of us? Of course you could afford it if you just used your credit card."

  3. baselle Says:

    I think what baffles me is not the "why don't you borrow?" part, more the I-don't-want-to-know or the I-can't-do-that. Judge not then.

    Working for a non-profit has its perks - it doesn't naturally attract the conspicious consumer. So I tend to fit in there. I have an opposite problem because I invest and everybody wonders how and why.

    And for the "sort of make fun of us", something to cheer one up....
    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Gandhi

  4. Looking Forward Says:

    I learned when I was much younger (early teens maybe?) to never judge a person's bank account by what they wore, drove or lived in. Probably from lots of good people I met who had plenty, but didn't feel it was important to buy the newest and flashy things.

    I also have to say a friend who would laugh at you and not understand the way you do things is not really a friend at all.

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