Friday, May 15, 2009

Learn To Live Among People With Different Mindsets

Tip #139 - Learn To Live Among People With Different Mindsets. People who grow up by the coasts know of no other way of life. The water is their backyard and if thrown out into the heartland would probably be surprised to meet people who have never seen the ocean. People who grow up in the city are used to having thousands of people around and if put out in the country would probably be amazed that some people live miles from another soul. People who live in the far North probably would not know how to survive in the Deep South and vice versa. And the list goes on. We sometimes get so entrenched in where we live that we do not realize that other people live completely different lives than our own. And that’s what I love about travel. It’s exciting to see how people’s lives are so different than my own.

But this post is not about travel. It’s about living among people with different mindsets. I’ve been reading frugal blogs for about a year now and I’ve become so entrenched in cooking from scratch, making do with what we have, shopping thrift stores, and getting the best deals on things that I forget that there are people out there who don’t live this way. I’ve been writing this personal finance blog for almost eight months now that I sometimes think I live in a world that is filled with like-minded folks who are trying to save for college, afford what they buy, and prepare for retirement. It seems like everyone is doing this. Aren’t they? Seriously, once you find a topic that interests you, doesn’t it seem like everyone out there has those same interests? The Internet makes it seem that way anyway.

But then I go into the real world outside my door and see that there are large segments of the population who don’t live a frugal life because they don’t want to or need to. And there are others who have no interest in personal finance because they have no interest in personal finance. Look around you at the supermarket and you see people who don’t use coupons when they purchase things. There are people out there who are not buying in bulk or going to three supermarkets to get the best deal at each one. There are others out there who have never shopped at a yardsale.

And oh, it is sometimes tempting to become one of those people to not have to think whether we are purchasing this box of cereal at the best price or to not have to worry about where our money for our next car is coming from. Or to not hold ourselves back from ordering out because it’s not in our budget. But then it’s important to realize that you are making sacrifices because you believe in being financially secure and getting the most value for your money. Seeing how others live, however, can strengthen your own convictions. So while you may live among others who have different mindsets, it’s important to go back to where you came from and stick with your financial goals.

In Real Life – I had an eye-opening experience last week. I think it came from being cooped up in my house during the cold winter and rainy spring reading too many frugal-living and personal finance blogs. I’ve become wrapped up in this frugal living thing that I forgot that others don’t live this way. I mean I know there are people who don’t use coupons for everything or aren’t trying to cook from scratch all of the time. But I somehow forgot that other people live extravagant lives. But then it came back to me when I went to an event this past weekend. I have a distant cousin who lives near me. I didn’t know him until we both found out that we live in the same city. So over the years we’ve kept in touch even though we are years apart and live different lives. We are still family living nearby, and that says a lot in this day and age of people moving far and wide across the globe. Anyway, this said cousin appears to be well-off. In fact, I’m pretty confident that he’s not hurting for money in any way, shape, or form. I don’t know if it’s Harvard-educated career that gave it away or the tennis courts that he has in the backyard of his humble mansion. Somehow I know.

Anyway, he was kind enough to invite me and my husband and my parents to his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah (a coming of age ritual for young Jewish adults) this past weekend. And during that one evening it was hard to remember that this economy is in a recession or that there are people out there who are just trying to get by. There were no expenses spared for this occasion. And I’m pretty certain my cousin did not go into debt to pay for it. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders, as well as a lot of money in his pocket. His children go to two of the most expensive private schools in this city. I’m sure their classmates include senator’s children and the like. I doubt my cousin uses coupons for food shopping or check outs blogs for frugal living ideas.

Our dinner companions for the evening were all Ivy League-educated, making this master’s degree holder feel a wee bit undereducated. And when I mentioned that my husband went to school in North Carolina, the seatmate to my left asked me bluntly, “Oh Duke or UNC?” as if there were no other schools in the state. It probably didn’t occur to him that there are. “Neither,” I answered bleakly, secretly hoping he wouldn’t ask me which school I went to, knowing that my no-name school couldn’t measure up to Ivy League. (He didn’t.) In truth, everyone was very polite and friendly, and just as it didn’t occur to my dinner companion that not everyone goes to an Ivy-League or big name school, I seemed to have forgotten that not everyone lives the frugal life that I live. I guess it’s good to get out once in awhile and see that. It may help me loosen up a bit more, which is sometimes a problem for me. But it wouldn't change the way I live. In fact, it made me appreciate my life. I wouldn't want to spend all of my time trying to be the best, worrying whether my children are being educated in the top schools or if we have the nicest house on the street. Seriously, I was just as happy to get home late in the evening and read about the newest coupon deals on my favorite frugal blogs. Yes, there is another world out there, but this frugal-living, money saving one is all mine. For other ideas on frugal living, check out Life As Mom.


Herbalife Las Vegas said...

I love to travel, I wish I could travel a lot more. The part time business I do will help me do that. I agree with you completely.

Melissa said...

I agree completely! I've had a couple of these reminders lately. One was simply seeing someone at the grocery store buying a jar of spaghetti sauce that sells for $7.99. I'd always wondered who bought that!

But, like you, I wouldn't change my life. My family is blessed with everything that's important, and we don't need more "stuff."

Brooke said...

i find it hard not to "preach" to the people in my life that don't live like me.

unlike your cousin, my friends can't afford their lifestyle, they just can't say no to themselves

Michele said...

@Brooke- you have a very good point! I have another relative who lives beyong her means. But all the amount of preaching doesn't work. So I can be an example and that's about it. There are still others that I know who live well but I really have no idea if they can afford it or not. Maybe they have great jobs that pay well or maybe they're in debt, I'm not sure. At least the recession seems to be knocking some sense into people who have been living beyond their means for too long if any good has come of it.

@Melissa, yeah I've seen that jar of $7.99 spaghetti sauce, too. I cannot imagine buying it. :-)

Mom2fur said...

I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better (so said some famous person whom I've forgotten), but me--I'll take someplace in between. It's taken a few years, but I don't feel at all deprived in living a frugal life. In fact, I think it's fun. Fancy people might get their highs from waterskiing and going on safari...but I get a high from seeing a 40% savings at the bottom of my grocery bill! Looking for bargains and ways to save (or better, not spend) money is like the thrill of the hunt.
I don't begrudge rich people their indulgences. It's their money and their business. And I'm not so stupid that I wouldn't like to be rich...but even if I was, I'd still be frugal!
Do you have Carvel ice cream near you? My bil had a Carvel store and once met the owner/founder. Tom Carvel was sorting through coupons, looking for one to use on mayo. Can you imagine? A man as wealthy as that using a fifty cent coupon to save money. Maybe that's what frugal is all about--not just getting a bargain, but knowing the best ways to keep what you already have.