It struck me today that in addition to the usual, more practical advice I write on this blog about saving money, there’s one other thing I think is crucial when it comes to living for less – and that’s having some guts.
I’ve been thinking about how so much money is spent and wasted because of a fear of what other people think – or from a desire to impress them, which is basically the same thing. Whether it’s buying the latest fashions, trading in car every couple of years or coveting our friends’ new kitchens, Keeping Up With The Joneses wastes a hell of a lot of our money, energy and headspace.
Years ago I worked in quite a swish PR company where, for some reason, it was frowned upon to bring your own lunch to work. The thinking – though it was never put quite as baldly as this – was that if you were bringing your own lunch you were struggling in some way. It meant that you couldn’t afford to go out and buy sandwiches, that you weren’t doing as well as you should be, and in that competitive culture where everyone wanted to look as if they were climbing the ladder, it wasn’t the done thing to be seen struggling. And so everyone went out and bought their lunch from expensive delis every day, even if they’d secretly have preferred to heat up the previous night’s leftovers in the office microwave.
In this workplace too, as in many streets all over the country, a LOT of money was spent on cars. They were a public display of wealth to colleagues and clients and I know that several people there were paying significantly more for their car every month than for their mortgage/rent, because they wanted to be seen as successful even if they were actually on a starter’s salary. It would have taken a lot of guts for someone to buck that trend and drive up in an old banger.
One good thing that might have come out of this recession is that it’s more okay than it used to be to admit to being skint, to buy secondhand and to embrace thrift. And it’s somehow less embarrassing to be made redundant or be out of work or to admit that times are tight. The proliferation of blogs and books embracing thrift, frugality and money-savviness is also a great thing in my view – signs that we’re becoming a bit less hung up on status, or at least allowing some other ideas in. But still it takes guts to ask for a discount in a posh shop, to pull up next to swanky cars in your old jalopy, to refuse to buy your lunch in the posh deli every day and instead bring your own sandwiches and coffee to work.
Saying no to the Joneses gets easier with practice though, till one day they’re just a couple of comical little flies buzzing round your head, trying to boast about how green their grass is, and you don’t care any more cos you’re out at a party with your real pals, drinking cheap, delicious cocktails and laughing about the bargains you just bagged.
If you’ve got any tips on how to avoid the fear of keeping up with the Joneses I’d love to hear them. Have a good weekend, x