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Some Thoughts on Lifestyle

March 12th, 2014 at 06:35 pm

I am so excited for my friend C - she has been looking for a really long time for a not-full-time job, and finally found one with a great non-profit here in town. I personally wish there would be more part-time jobs for people like me and C who want to drop our kids off at school and pick them up and hang out with them while they do their homework, etc. (This is one of the main reasons I opted to start my own firm rather than work for someone else; I work about 6 hours a day plus about an hour more at home and maybe a few weekend hours).

Anyway, C's husband makes alone what D and I do combined. But they really needed her income because they can't make it on his alone. She used to ask me how we made it on the amount we make, because from the outside our lifestyles are remarkably similar.

We both have one daughter, and they both go to the same private school. We both live in nice houses. We both have cars made in this century. We both eat good, fresh usually organic food that we make ourselves, and neither family eats out very often. We love potlucks and hanging out with friends. We belonged to the same pool last summer. Our daughters both do a few activities after school; both girls take piano. We all have masters degrees (all four parents); C has a PhD. We all like to exercise and hike (this is a beautiful place to hike). We'd all be making a lot more in a different city (ours is known for low pay) but we'd probably have to spend more, too.

There are two really big differences in our lifestyle that account for their need for more income:
- Their mortgage is about double what ours is. This was mostly lucky timing on our part (and some sweat equity! and of course I didn't have to pay for an architect to draw up plans!). Their house is smaller, but it's in a slightly more high-end neighborhood.
- Everything we own, they have the upgraded/fancier equivalent. This goes for food (we shop at Trader Joe's and they shop at Whole Foods), cars (us - Nissan and VW, them - Audi), barbecues (they have that egg thing), art (we have photos that D took and some 20x200's)... and of course their neighborhood. C's husband believes in having the best of everything.

I don't know how I feel about all of this. I do think it's nice to have nice things. Sometimes you just can't afford it. Sometimes you have to be content with what you can afford. Sometimes you can spend more on something you'll have forever. Sometimes it's hard not to be able to buy exactly what you want.

I think that is the essence of budgeting; there are sacrifices (some are easy and some are hard) and some things you won't compromise on.

5 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Lifestyle”

  1. snafu Says:

    I don't think it's accurate to compare with your friend C. Would C subscribe to DSDs? Is interest adding to their CC debt? If they visited Disneyland they would incur 4 * hotel costs and do you think C would find the least expensive wayto fix business kitchen set-up?

    If she's interested in improving her finances she might benefit reading SA's Forum threads

  2. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    So when she used to ask about it, did you have a solid conversation about it?

  3. ceejay74 Says:

    Very interesting! I think you hit the nail on the head. It's nothing big she's doing different, it's that she and her husband don't settle for cheaper on ANY of the lifestyle items you listed. If they decided which of those things they REALLY valued having the high-end version of, and cheaped out on others, it would take the pressure off financially. It sounds like you and your husband have hit a good stride in that area, but they've decided they need to add income to stick where they are.

    The problem with that, I'd say, is they might find they want (or think they "deserve") to up their lifestyle a bit more when they add income. At one time in my life, I was always struggling to live within my means, but instead of using income increases to ease my budget woes, I'd use it to stretch even more.

  4. Buendia Says:

    Our friends don’t have credit card debt, and they’re currently living within their means because C’s husband had a temporary raise for two years. They don’t save, though, and I think the plan is to inherit their retirement money. They were concerned because they are making it with the raise, but when he goes back to his original pay (this summer), they wouldn’t be able to make it without her income.

    We’ve talked a lot, C and I, about all sorts of things. She’s a great friend and a really great person. I think the spending is really her husband. She’d be more frugal on her own, I think.

    What I find interesting is that our lives are so similar from the outside, but so different financially. I think you do make choices in life, and how you spend your money is one of the main choices you make on a daily basis.

  5. PatientSaver Says:

    Shopping regularly at Whole Foods is enough to put anyone in debt.

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