May 24, 2005
Mrs. Jones and me
This keeping up with the Joneses thing is really starting to make my calves ache.

I'm not sure what happened when I stepped over the threshold of 30, but I do know that it resulted in me starting to look like never before at what those around me had. What they are driving, what they're living in and where, and what they carry their change in to work.

Just a few years ago I was a graduate student pulling in 150 dollars a paycheck. I was conscious of the amount of student loans others around me were accumulating. But we were all in the same dingey. BMWs did not exist in our world, we drank wine before going out because we couldn't afford to drink more than a glass while we actually ate our food in a restaurant, and no one owned a house without the co-signing assistance of someone over 60.

Things are different now. A friend at work's 26-year-old brother and his wife just bought a $750,000 home in the burbs. Even the newest college grads at work have laptops and Palms (and they weren't bought on Ebay). No one, except for my beau, has a car as old as mine. I don't have a piece of jewelry that I bought for myself anywhere other than the mall. And God forgive me, I even cut my own bangs last week.

I guess my struggle comes down to a basic question, just as it had in the days of junior high: is this - am I - ok? Is it acceptable to buy the vast majority of your clothes on sale or at Target? Will I ever order an entree priced at more than $20 - and the salad too? Will I ever live in an apartment that is larger than 400 square feet?

And why does it matter so much to me now?


Blogger oregano said...

You have so eloquently and perfectly expressed the quandry of life many of us face in our thirties.

It turns out that many of our generation are in the same position you have described. Our parents had already bought their first homes in their twenties. Our generation was more likely to still be living with their parents in their twenties.

Have you started questioning your chosen career? That came first for me.

Anonymous Vermont Neighbor said...

Every industry it seems- we're all doing more work for less $. There's more compromising, less rewards. Goodies are always handed out to the people in the company who could probably afford to purchase whatever freebie was just handed to 'em.

Hopefully, those who are carrying student loans *will* be rewarded because.... hey, that's what the degree was all about.

:) didn't Billy Joel write a song about Keeping the Faith?

Blogger Meg said...

I hear ya.

Of course, I was raised in a solidly middle class family, but my mother refused to spend more than she had to spend on things. Thus, I am also a Walmart shopper! I suppose we *could* spend a fortune on dinner occasionally. But WHY? Why spend $150 on dinner when the $40 dinner suits us just fine? Why shop for clothes anywhere but Walmart or Target? Or occasionally Kohls?

I dunno. That's just me.

Blogger lizzyjane said...

Here is my rationalization:

LAst Christmas, there was this adorable blazer at Gap. Brushed tweed. Beautifully lined. I LOVED it. But i was NOT paying eighty dollars for it. So i waited. I bought it for 17 dollars last month.
Why pay if you don't HAVE to?
Example 2: Ignorant teenage sister finally fits into size 8 pants. Ignorant teenage sister blows entire paycheck on 2 pairs of 50 dollar Gap jeans. Wise big sister (me) finds said pants for TEN DOLLARS this past weekend. Rubbed into ignorant teenage sister's face. Complete and total satisfaction.
I am a bargain hunter. Nothing is more exhilirating than an 80 dollar blazer for 17 bucks!

Anonymous Vermont Neighbor said...

That is a great score on the brushed tweed.

The only problem with finding the deals is it requires talent, thinking and time!*

(*applause to bargain hunters everywhere)

PS- Meg, I know what you mean about Walmart's. I try to shop at Costco only because the workers are union. I'm not a fan of unions, but Walmart's is not even a choice for me. That family, the Waltons... they ARE wearing the Rolexes and the furs and the Coach bags to their country club BBQ's.

Blogger Mel said...

Right on, VN! My Dad works in a union and your support for them really does pay off! Thanks!

Blogger oregano said...

Oh, so relevant...

Anonymous Vermont Neighbor said...

Higher education/ union loyalty/ sheer doggedness. Gotta have at least one. It would be great if someone in the House would write up a bill designed to lower student interest rates. Maybe grads could push their money forward instead of backwards.

PS- Mel, always a great feeling to buy American and union... it is difficult with the foreign competition and prices.
(Hypocrite alert: I just bought a ten-dollar shirt made in Mexico, and of course I feel crappy. But this is not something I usually do)

Oh well :-(
very rare

Anonymous Vermont Neighbor said...

Meg, your babies are darling. 3 and they all look alike. Very cute kids!

I hope Fenris is okay. I tried to post at your site but it wouldn't take comments. Anyway, maybe quick trip to the vet? That's a big fall (ouch).

Blogger portuguesa nova said...

So well said. I am continuely baffled by how in the hell my friends afford what they have.

Everyone has a brand new subdivision McMansion these days...when did this trend start?

I hate it.

Blogger gabsmash said...

It's so hard not to get caught up with everyone that surrounds you. When I feel like I can't keep up, thankfully not too much anymore, I go and volunteer when I can. I know it sounds trite..but leaving my circle more often makes me realize how the vast majority of the "real" world is living and dealing.

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