Pride Without Prejudice

by Katy on September 26, 2009 · 14 comments

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I am just now finishing up reading my long awaited library copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. It has all the subdued strong emotion of Jane Austen’s original classic, but with “ultraviolent zombie mayhem.”

A perfect combination.

The book got me started thinking about pride, and the role it plays in my life. Pride is utterly important as well as being a complete barrier to my non-consumer lifestyle.

For example, I take a lot of pride in my home. I am very deliberate in how it is presented, both decoratively and as a place of welcome. This is not to say that I am a Katy tidy-mouse, but I do want the house to impress. The satisfaction in being able to pull together a somewhat sophisticated decor on a dime is prideful. I am aware that being willing to live in a home with a hodge-podge of free furnishings and belongings would be much more practical and inexpensive.

But I have too much pride for that.

On the other hand, I do a lot of things that others would consider beneath them. My mother owns a couple of guest cottages here in Portland, and I frequently assume the role of cleaning lady between tenants. Usually I do this for free, but she paid me this last time as she knows I am saving for my son’s upcoming class trip to Japan.

I have no problem lending a hand with housekeeping duties, and my favorite part is gleaning all the leftover food that people leave behind. And I’m not just talking about sealed goods either. This last cleaning gig provided me with:

  • Most of a half-gallon of fat free milk
  • An avocado
  • A peach
  • Most of a jar of organic blackberry jam
  • Most of a package of frozen vegetarian chicken nuggets
  • Most of a package of organic tater-tots

Keep in mind that these foodstuffs are from people my mother knows, and that despite being a nurse I am about the least germ-a-phobic person I know.

I also sorted through the somewhat moist recycling bin for returnable bottles and cans. I was able to pull out five dollar’s worth to trade in at my local Safeway.

I am willing to do what others might consider beneath them. I will reach under the Coinstar machine if I see a dime, and I will paw through recyclables to make $5. And if a tenant shows up early to find me scrubbing out a toilet, I keep it to myself that I’m a labor and delivery nurse, not a Merry Maid.

Not so prideful.

Much of what is necessary to live a frugal life is near to impossible if one is unwilling to let go of prideful notions. Buying used, accepting hand-me-downs and being willing to say no to expensive family traditions can be a difficult step for many people.

To live a life without pride would be a difficult life indeed, but a life with excessive pride can lead to living beyond your means and an inability to make changes when an economic downturn occurs.

So take note Mr. Darcy, just make sure to keep an eye out for zombies, a.k.a., the manky dreadfuls.

Is pride keeping you or someone you love from living within your means? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl September 27, 2009 at 4:44 am

I think humility is fairly important in a frugal life, because to live frugally, you sort of have to give up on the goal of impressing others.

I try to live with a servant mindset (which, I suppose, is similar to a humble mindset), though I don’t do this perfectly. When it comes to money, I try to think about what would serve or not serve my family, and most times, the frugal choice serves my family better (though sometimes, like on vacation, splurging a bit blesses my family).

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Jinger September 27, 2009 at 6:00 am

I feel proud to live a simple life that is full of riches…especially yesterday when I was floating around in our community pool looking up at a bright blue sky overhead, hawks soaring, and tall leafy green trees. My 20 year old and our little dog wandered by… she jumped right in fully clothed and then we both sat out on the pool chairs and just enjoyed our life.

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Roxanne September 27, 2009 at 6:11 am

I work for food. I have several friends that need and use my marketing knowledge on a regular basis. I would feel wrong charging them money because I do it for love of them and I enjoy what I do.

So they feed me and we have some very colorful names for these transactions that are not appropriate for a family blog. 🙂

Last night was mushroom and swiss cheese salad, followed by beef tenderloin in Madeira sauce with strawberries and some cream and chocolate stuff in an almond cookie shell for dessert.

This was while we were sitting 3 tables over from the richest guy in town that brings his own wines to whatever restaurant he is at because there isn’t a restaurant wine cellar in the country that beats his own personal one apparently.

They can tax barter but whoever fills out the forms?

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Angela September 27, 2009 at 10:38 am

Oh, I absolutely LOVED that book. Laugh-out-loud hysterical. I wish you were in my book club. We read it last month and only two other people were there- 2 guys who’d never read Jane Austen (gasp!) and thought it was “just okay” and that “the zombie stuff was tacked on.”

I think I managed to convince them of why it was so good and had fun reading off the hilarious lines for their (my) benefit.

Oh, about the pride/humility thing: in the world in which I travel, I definitely have to have humility about things like why I wouldn’t just dump a couple hundred dollars on a purse or blouse. I think my pride is just something inside myself.

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Stephanie September 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm

It is so funny you should mention the food! I was just thinking about a couple years ago when my husband was layed off and I started cleaning apartments again, one of them had been an onsite managers home who was given a VERY short notice to get out or else. She left behind TONS of food. Some very good stuff I might add, so in a box and home it went. 🙂 On the flip side, whoever cleaned our old apartment got a lot of good freezer stuff, mostly the meat I had stocked up on that was on-sale. I completely forgot to grab it, and had left the keys on the counter for the landlord…oh well.

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Meg September 27, 2009 at 8:03 pm

I don’t think pride itself is bad, just taking pride in the wrong things.

For example, I’m proud when I learn to be more self-sufficient, when I create good things, when I recognize a new plant I’ve learned about. That sort of pride feels good and motivates me to do more.

But then there’s that other sort of pride, the “I’m too good to…” pride when it stops us from doing things that we *should* do, and of course the “I’m better than them” pride when we think not so much that we’re better than someone at doing something but just inherently more valuable as a person (which people then use to justify buying things they “deserve” because so-and-so has it and so why shouldn’t they).

As I enjoy the the good type of pride more than the bad kind, I think pride actually helps stay within my means.

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Julia September 27, 2009 at 8:52 pm

When my son was going to his swanky private school (on scholarship, thank you), I thought about these issues a lot. There was quite a lot of money at that school, and therefore kids running around in Ralph Lauren clothes and idiocy like that. I hoped no one would notice my son wearing the same 4 pairs of pants every week (not designer pants, of course), not for my sake but because I didn’t want any of the other kids to tease him. And as stupid as it sounds, there are kids there who would have noticed. They were always comparing notes on their computer games systems, etc., and bragging about where they’d been on vacation. My son was completely oblivious to fashion and travel, luckily. But we did have kids come to play dates who commented on how our neighbors were “just right there!!” (we’re in a townhouse) instead of far away from the mansions they lived in. Sigh. I know our home was happier than theirs and I take pride in that instead of our square footage!

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Diana September 27, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Your cleaning rentals reminded me of when I cleaned offices at night a few years ago. I worked 5-15 hours a week (depending on how many locations I wanted). I wanted extra money because I had just bought a car; it became more important when I lost my job and went back to school, but I digress.

First, I was amazed at the people that looked down on this type of work. From the people we cleaned up after (can we say snob? I was cleaning up AFTER them, if they hadn’t been so messy then it would have saved their company money) to the people that were hired. Some of them didn’t make any more money during the day but felt they were socially supior to those that were emptying trash. It was really very sad. I worked with a diverse group of people that were only brought together by their pride not getting in the way of earning extra cash.

The second is the amazing amount of stuff thrown away!! Cans thrown in the garbage (a dollar or two a night sometimes, quite a few at .05 each!), perfectly good folders, binders, totes, office supplies, packaged candy, gifts. It was crazy! Every thing always looked brand new! I am a lite germaphobe, so if I was willing to drag the stuff home it had to be clean and in good condition. The worst offenders were real estate and mortgage companies. I once found two totes filled with all the filing supplies & binders marked to be thrown out. I still have those very servicable totes.

I can’t imagine the money wasted. Even if they didn’t want or could no longer use the items, they were just to lazy to donate the items to be reused.

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Leigh @ compactbydesign September 28, 2009 at 12:49 am

Pride and Prejudice is a great favorite of mine. On your review I will have to put this one on request.

I do think participating in the Compact has the advantage of making one aware of their pride issues. Like you I take great pride in my home. Luckily I also love vintage, antique and what might be called a hodge-podge style.

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WilliamB September 28, 2009 at 7:17 am

One of my tasks at one job was to close down one of our offices. There were a lot of salvagables! I hate waste so I was going through old filing cabinets for paper clips and folders. It’s amazing what people leave behind. Banker’s lamps. Fancy calculators. Plants. Money – can you believe people walked away from cash? And not just pennies either. Katy, you’ll be in hog heaven if you ever have to clean out departed employees’ offices.

The office supplies I took lasted me years; I got the banker’s lamp I’d always coveted but never needed enough to justify buying; the black mesh desk equipment, ditto. The remainders went to other employees and my neighbor’s grammar school – two SUV’s worth of small office supplies, enough to cover a semester’s use.

For me, pride combines with sloth. I do not consider sorting through yard sales to be good use of my time and I not like having to paw through random junk at thrift stores, many times over many trips, to find the thing that I need. I want the cushions on my porch swing to look nice and I want my lawn furniture to match, or at least have no obvious fixes.

In response to Diana: it was hard to find the time to sort through all the goods so they were not wasted. I had less than a month to close up shop, erase all the computer and copier hard drives, find a reputable buyer for the electronics and furniture, find another buyer when the first one looked to be flaking out, deal with the first buyer when he alleged he hadn’t broken the contract *yet*, negotiate our way out of our lease, properly save and secure the personnel & intellectual property files (paper and electronic), arrange for the move to the new spaces, track down and contact former employees to share our new contact information, notify vendors and customers of same, reassure them that we weren’t closing up and leaving them in the lurch, and so on. This in addition to my usual duties managing the company. Contracts needed to be signed, employees paid, 401(k)s managed, patents persued, sales calls made, product development furthered, etc.

The financial return – to the company, not to the nonprofit or to the world – of time spent sorting through supplies was almost nil. Compare that to the return on the time spent arranging the sale of equipment, which was in the tens of thousands, and to the potential cost of losing a sale because I was stripping paper clips – that cost $2 per thousand – off old files. The company wasn’t turning a profit, so we didn’t even benefit from the tax break.

In other words, saving these small items from the landfill is a classic case of an externality: the cost of not wasting is not borne by the one making the effort.

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Kris-ND September 28, 2009 at 8:41 am

Wow, sounds like a book I need to try and find at the library. 🙂

There is good pride and bad pride, and everybody posting here has a good sense of the “right” kind of pride.

I take pride in finding something from a thrift store and restoring it to its former glory.

I take pride that people feel comfortable plopping down in my home, even spilling a pop on the floor. It tells me that my focus is on the people and not the things. I think we have all been to a home where you felt like you didn’t want to touch anything, and you maybe even felt “small” and unable to measure up when pitted against the “stuff”.

I feel tremendous pride in my husband. There is no job, none beneath him in order to feed and shelter his family. One of my favorite Little House on the Prairie episodes is when the Ingalls are essentially destitute and pa does whatever jobs he can in order to bring home money for the family; digging a drainage trench, cleaning out a stable, etc.

I love going into a local little cafe, where all the old farmers and ranchers sit around discussing crop and cattle prices. Their hands are rough and gnarled and their skin is leathery from spending so much time outside, but they walk with their shoulders straight and their heads held high, because they know they have spent their life working hard in “careers” that are little noticed and not glory filled. They take pride in a job well done, whether anybody notices it or not 🙂

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