Want to know a big, juicy secret? We’re not rich. Oh, you already knew that? Crap.
I’ll let you in on another tidbit of personal info. We’re not poor, either. In fact in our minds, we’re pretty far from it. Whether that’s a statistical fact (compared to median household income) or a subjective state of mind is beside the point. We live comfortably and are lucky enough that we never worry about covering our monthly obligations (bills, church tithes, etc.).
Our current financial standing is what it is because we’ve chosen a life of frugality. So what does that mean for us? It means we run a tight budget. It means we share a car (for now). It means that we only travel when we can find killer deals. It means that we put almost all of our extra dough toward killing our Debt Monster in 18 months. Those are a few of the things it means.
There are other things that we do that probably don’t match most folks’ definition of frugality. We pay to have cable. We pay to have smartphones. One of us even pays three figures to get their hair did *coughJOANNAcough*. If I could see you through your monitor right now (which I can… wave hello), I’m sure you’d be giving us a look of “I’m just too disappointed in you guys to even say anything.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: personal finances are personal. Which is awesome. We probably do things different than you do. You might really like eating at restaurants but would never consider paying for cable. Heck, even Joanna and I have polar opposite opinions of a lot of issues, like freaking pillows.
Here’s why I bring all this stuff up. A week or so after Baby Girl was born, some friends and family were kind enough to bring us meals during our zombie “wait, how in the world are we supposed to take care of this thing?” state of parenthood. One person was kind enough to do a grocery run for all the stuff we needed.
“Thanks so so much. How much did it all cost?”
“It was like $30. But don’t worry about it.”
“No no no. Here you go. [$30 handed over]“
“Are you sure you won’t be short on money this month?“
Later that night, Joanna and I revisited that conversation wondering why that person would think $30 would put us out. It was partly funny, partly embarrassing. We realized that the person must have seen how Joanna and I scrutinized every purchase and avoided spending money wherever possible. What for us was normal frugal living was perceived as us not having enough money to make ends meet in the eyes of another.
Before that moment, we never realized how friends and family perceive our financial wellbeing. While our financial standing is better than it was just a couple years ago when we were still in debt, our lifestyle really hasn’t changed much. It just goes to show that “rich” to some is “poor” for others. And we’re just fine living the life we’re living.
Have you ever been misperceived for being rich or poor? Have you ever wrongly assumed someone’s wealth by the way they lived?