I think about non-consumerism all the time. I think about keeping my family’s finances under control and sourcing free and almost free necessities and keeping my house decluttered and creating a lovely home without budgeting any money for the cause and how to scrounge extra money and frugal yet tasty meal planning and how little laundry detergent I can use before the clothes start to smell and finding great library materials and batching my errands to save gas and finding great free entertainment . . . and . . . and . . . and . . .
And then I talk about non-consmerism. Even though it’s taboo and considered tacky to talk about money in this country, I say it needs to happen. Because others always think they’re the only ones worrying about money, and how to pull everything together with limited resources. (I know there are some who have limitless resources, but there are few and far between in my social circle.)
When we don’t talk about money, people think that having limited financial resources is shameful and to be kept a secret.
I was once talking about frugality with a patient at work and she was shocked. She’d come to America from a third world country and thought that American born people had no financial worries whatsoever. I explained that very few Americans aren’t working to figure out how to make their money stretch. It was an eye opener for her.
Just yesterday I picked my son up from a sleepover at a friend’s home. I’d never been to this friend’s house before and I was impressed with their affluent neighborhood and gorgeous historic home. I then talked to my son about it as we drove home to get ready for soccer. We talked about how their house might seem fancy to us, but that others have that same reaction to our house. We may know that we bought a revolting fixer-upper and that all our all our stuff is either free or from thrift shops, but others don’t. But when my son’s lower income friends come over, they see us as having a fancy house. But that kid whose family owns a house in a lower income area? He’s impressive to someone who doesn’t own their home! And that friend who lives in an historic home in an affluent area? They likely have friends who live in an even better houses.
It never ends. (Unless you’re Bill Gates, in which case it does end.)
I then sat on the sidelines of my son’s soccer game and had this same conversation with a fellow soccer mom. I know that she sees our home as fancy, but I want there to be transparency about how much work it took to create our nice home. I want there to be an openness when it comes to talking about money.
My husband and I do not have the money to spend out without consequence. It would be a great story if I could say that because of the buy-nothing-new Compact and associated frugality we now have fully funded college funds and hugely plush savings accounts, but that would be a lie. Neither my husband nor I have high paying jobs, and our fixer-upper house sucked us dry in the early days.
I could keep my family’s money matters a secret, and then you could enjoy the false impression that you’re the only family that scrimps and saves. But that do you a disservice.
Having conversations about money has been greatly beneficial to me. Both because I’ve been able to share ideas and inspiration, but also because I then get a chance to learn new tricks and sources.
None of us live in our own hermetically sealed bubble. We live within communities and we are not alone. But when we abstain from talking about taboo subjects, we keep ourselves isolated from others.
Honesty in communication is not to be feared, and deepens relationships.
So let’s talk about money, let’s banish the shame of not being wealthy.
Let’s banish the money taboo.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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