How you've learned to cope with less

This isn’t a “favorite lentil soup” post as such.

Will Shetterly yesterday linked to two article about class, one of which was “Rich People Things, with Chris Lehmann: A Steady Diet of Nothing

From that article comes this vital point:

While there’s little data this early in our present calamity to track the formation of durable attitudes toward saving, spending and government intervention in the economy, the general rule of thumb is that “even one really tough year experienced in early adulthood is enough to fundamentally change people’s core values and behaviors,” according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. And as Foroohar goes on to explain, “there’s an entire body of research to show that recession babies not only invest more conservatively, they tend to make less money, choose safer jobs, and believe in wealth redistribution and more government intervention.”

That’s certainly my experience. The 90s, when others were making tons of money (it seemed), were very hard for me financially. Graduating in 1991 in a bad economy, I made the mistake of going to grad school to bide my time, knowing that seminary would follow. I lived humbly and borrowed much less than others, but my first settlement barely paid at all and extra work wasn’t enough to land me in deep personal debt. It took half of the 00s with careful stewardship to drop the debt and start saving. Today, I’m comfortably middle aged and middle class; Hubby — I met him at the perfect time; too early and I would been in survival mode — and I have made a happy home with a happy mortgage.

But the old habits are there. I still don’t spend much, and there are times that I feel stingy, even if that’s not the case. I want to make use of items that others might throw away. While I don’t hoard food any more, I do like to keep supplies on hand. I save quite a bit, and even my indulgences — web domains, fountain pens and loose tea — are rather domestic, and not high-end. (And I don’t still understand the appeal of brand snobbery.)

So I suspect that however much money I may have (or not have) my habits will fundamentally be the same from here on. Practical, true, but with its own washed-out character. A character that I’ve adopted, and somewhat counterbalance (I hope) with a slightly more expressive and wry character than I once had. I feel more a part of my generation now than ever before.

That’s how I’ve learned to cope with less. And there’s a lot more less going on these day.

How do you manage?

One Reply to “How you've learned to cope with less”

  1. There are 3 key events from my life that inform my relationship to money and a certain amount of austerity.

    (1) The quasi-poverty that my family sank into for a few years, following my parents divorce when I was in 2nd grade.

    (2) Attending an expensive private college where I was required to work as a term of financial aid, and I had to turn over most of my pay to the school. I rarely had cash in my pocket, while many of my friends did. I could rarely afford to eat out, buy booze, etc.. I would hoard fruit from the dining hall to eat on the one night per week that it was closed.

    (3) After graduation I was largely on my own, in terms of finances. I had a tiny apartment, very little furniture, and cookware scavenged from my grandma’s kitchen. Half of my pay went to rent and utilities.

    All of this instilled some habits that are with me today.

    * I rarely buy things on credit. I tend to save money for major purchases (vacations, a computer, etc.) and then spend it.

    * When I take out car loans, I tend to hoard money before hand so that I can make a very large down payment.

    * Most importantly, I track every dollar that I earn, and every dollar that I spend. What I am earning in January is saved, and then spent down to pay things in February. This always puts me one month ahead, and means that I almost never spend more than I have earned. If my tally sheet shows me running down too fast, I take austerity measures to put the breaks on.

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