Owning Your Money Choices - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

Owning Your Money Choices

Photo courtesy of Daaaveee

The other night, we had some friends over for dinner. They had recently come back from a family reunion, so they were regaling us with stories of favorite family members, both those still living and those who had passed away. One aunt in particular had made some financial choices that her nephew was completely unaware of until after her death.

This Aunt Doris had been a teacher and her husband had been a butcher. Obviously, their finances were somewhat modest, which our friend was well aware of. The furniture in the family home had been threadbare and the house went for several years without a necessary coat of paint.

But Doris and her husband and children apparently loved to travel. And so any extra money they were able to find in their budget went towards their travel expenses. Which meant they were able to visit Egypt together as a family, among other impressive travel destinations.

I've been thinking about my friend's Aunt Doris for a couple of days now. I must say I appreciate her (and her family's) choice to let little things go at home in order to have the life experiences that they felt were more important.

All too often, you will see people refusing to truly own these financial choices. They will replace the threadbare furniture or paint the house for fear of what other people will think. And then they'll feel resentful of the fact that they can't do all the things they want to do.

But as Doris's example shows me, it really doesn't matter what other people think. What matters is truly getting the full worth out of your money. If you're replacing your furniture because you're embarrassed about how it looks, and still dreaming about your Egyptian travels (perhaps not so much in this particular Egyptian political climate, but you understand what I mean), then you're not really spending your money to its fullest. You're buying your way out of a little embarrassment--which is likely more in your head than based on a real judgment--and missing out on experiences or purchases that could really work to make you happy.

I'm admittedly a little defensive about these sorts of money choices. My previous car, the 1998 Mazda 626, was much derided by various individuals who shall remain nameless. Because it looked like your average hoopty, I often fielded comments about its unreliability and how it was an unsafe ride for myself and LO.

The thing is, that car was a tank. For all intents and purposes, it never gave me a lick of trouble in the six years I owned it.

It just looked like a piece of [redacted].

While I certainly didn't care about the valets in front of swank hotels who reluctantly accepted the keys to my Mazda and then sat in the driver's seat as if both keys and seat were covered in Anthrax (and in fact, I found that kind of funny), it can be tough to hear people with whom you will have more than one conversation in your life question your frugal financial choices. Mostly because they don't understand that your frugality allows you to make some extravagant financial choices.

After all, it's just a threadbare couch and an old car.

I hope I own my financial choices, because I certainly will not be changing them. I'm not avoiding the embarrassment the frugal choices I make can lead to--but I also hope I'm not giving too much creedence to that embarrassment either.

I just need to remember my friend's Aunt Doris. She probably took quite a bit of kidding about the state of her home, too. But, of course, she got to stand in the shadow of the Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza with her husband and children.

That sounds like getting the last laugh to me.



frugal_fun said:


That story leaves me pretty well torn. :)

I totally can appreciate directing money to ways you find important. Hey, if you want thrift store furniture (or old cars, etc) and take the surplus to go to Egypt and see the world's First Tourist Attraction, I'm all for it. I've made similar choices in the past.

On the other hand, a house that needs paint is one that is literally rotting away. That's not "what will the neighbors think" moment. It's a "I'm letting (probably) my most valuable asset decay for want of the money to upkeep it". They maybe shouldn't have owned a house if they weren't prepared to spend some time and money on it.  :(

I'll grant that condos are somewhat of a newish concept and it might not have been a real option in the day. But still, the example in particular of a house needing repair doesn't strike me as the right frugal balance.

August 6, 2013 6:33 PM

haverwench said:

If the paint is peeling and exposing the wood siding, then yes, that's a (potential) structural problem. But if it's cementboard or aluminum underneath, or if the paint is merely faded and not too pretty, then it's merely an aesthetic problem.

August 9, 2013 7:42 AM

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