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Is it Socially Acceptable to Save Money?
Frugality,  Simplicity

Is it Socially Acceptable to Save Money?

As I look back upon this year, I realize that the majority of the criticism that I’ve received concerns how I choose to spend (or not spend) my money.

Among the things I’ve been told:

  • I should rent or buy a bigger home.
  • While I’m here, I should spend money painting and decorating my current home, despite the fact that I neither own this place nor intend to live here forever.
  • I should purchase more clothes, despite the fact that I have more than enough.
  • I should definitely go to college, but I should go to a more expensive school in order to acquire a “better” education–to earn more money.
  • I really “need” a car, despite the fact that I don’t go anywhere.
  • I “need” a high-paying job.
  • I need to invest in a modern, high-end computer since I love them so much.
  • I need to buy (insert item here).

These criticisms are usually framed in a back-handed way in an attempt to mask the criticism:

“I admire how you want to live a simple life, but you really do need to get a bigger place. It’s ridiculous that you sleep in the living room.”

“I understand that you want to save money, but would a bucket of paint kill you?”

According to the people I interact with, I “need” to acquire a larger home so that I can have my own bedroom. I “need” a traditional cook stove and a standard-sized refrigerator. I “need” to toss my perfectly serviceable kitchen table and replace it with new. I “need” dentures, new clothes, matching dishes and many other items.

When I ask why I “need” these things, I’m informed that I’m depriving myself or given long-winded speeches that are hard to decipher.

Why is this? Because I’m definitely not depriving myself. I’m content exactly where I am.

Is it because my life is so different from others that I receive this criticism?

Is it because they believe that I am secretly judging them?

I don’t have any answers to these questions but when combined, it makes me wonder if it is socially unacceptable to avoid spending money to keep up a certain appearance in our society. It makes me wonder if we’re programmed to own certain things, to spend our money in a certain manner not because we care about the items in question, but just to fit in.

I asked a friend about it once over this past year. She informed me that we need to own a certain amount of stuff, of a certain quality because it tells the world that we are doing “okay.”

Why do we care what the world thinks?

More importantly, who gets to decide what we buy or don’t buy?

Could this be why so many people are struggling in our society? Could it be that we are programmed by social pressure to own things that are meaningless in the grand scheme of things to the point where we jeopardize our financial security just to acquire them?

As we conclude this decade, I would like for you to ponder this situation. Have you ever felt pressured to acquire something or live a certain way, to spend money that you wouldn’t ordinarily spend?

If you removed the social pressure, how would you live? What would you spend your money on? What would you stop spending money on?

In short, why do you buy the things that you do? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

15 Comments

  • Linda Sand

    People want you to conform to their way of life so they won’t feel so guilty for spending all they do. Ignore them. I think it was Dr Seuss who said, “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” You go on being you. After all that’s what us readers come here for–YOU!

    • Valerie Grice

      Annie I often do ponder exactly what you wrote about. I believe that we are programmed and brainwashed to believe that buying all these things show success. Meanwhile, so many people are so deeply mired in debt from accepting this mindset. But you are free from this programming, and maybe it makes some people a little bit envious? Your life is lived exactly as you choose it to be- you are not a debt slave. You are the successful one!

      • Annie

        Hello, Valerie!

        I don’t believe that I am entirely free from the consumerist programming. I think I am becoming more aware of it, but I’ve wrestled with consumerism for decades. I will discuss that more in future posts.

  • John Grebe

    Who cares if it is socially acceptable or not, what matters most is that it is in your best interest to invest in yourself and your future security. Not to mention just because it is socially acceptable to be stupid with your money and then beg for help when you get in trouble – hence the rise of Go Fund Me appeals on social media for everyday personal expenses or small unexpected emergencies of people that lack the safety net of savings. So in some ways it is a double standard, not acceptable to save money but if you just so happen to be one of those people you are expected to be there to bail out others. Maybe next time a good response to those people would be, opps sorry I can’t afford to replace my old but fully functioning kitchen table with a new and equally functioning one because I spent all my money on my investments and savings account.

    • Annie

      Hello, John.

      I’ve noticed the proliferation of GoFundMe pages for assorted expenses. I’ve also been verbally attacked because a refused to give money to ones who have gotten into financial binds due to reckless spending. As a result I do believe that you are correct about a double standard.

  • Rhonda Stevens

    Perhaps the ones criticizing you need to grow up and wonder why their self esteem depends physical what the own. I think you have found the secret to happiness. Keep doing what you are doing and please keep writing about it.

    • Annie

      Thank you, Rhonda. I am not writing these to be critical of those who have given me criticism, however. My only purpose here is to understand and to encourage understanding.

  • Essie

    I think it is socially expected that we both save and spend money. It is all bundled into the expectations of living in a capitalistic society.

    We are deluged by advertisers and the government to pursue the ‘bigger and better’ American dream because it drives the economy and makes the US more prosperous and stronger.

    I am not saying capitalism is bad but, sadly, the greed of man has corrupted true capitalism. It is a more, more, more society in which we live.

    Earning enough just to ‘get by’, not consuming more than we need is all antithetical to what has become the norm in today’s society. Yes, we are programmed to own certain things, spend our money in a certain manner and even save our money in ways that benefit the elite more than ourselves.

    Keeping up with the expectations of society, i.e., keeping up with the Joneses, has led to an entire new market that caters to the depression and anxiety created by these societal expectations.

    Why do I buy the things I do? I pay rent because I can’t live on the street or in my car. I pay the utility bill to access heat for the apartment, lighting because my work hours consume the daylight and I am at home during the darkness- I need to see in the dark, water to bathe myself, drink, keep clothes and dishes clean to adhere to the societal norms and stay healthy. I have a car to get to/from my job and family because I live in an area that is not conducive to walking.

    It is all in the cost of living in a capitalistic society in a first-world country. If I could, I would live out in nature, off the land and without money. And when it comes to my time to die, I would not pursue any medical help.

    • Annie

      Excellent points, Essie!

      For me personally…I could live in a vehicle. I have lived in my van in the past, and I’ve actually thought about acquiring another van or small RV and doing it again. I don’t want to at the moment. To be honest, I am uncertain if it would be cheaper or if I would be happier or freer.

      I do have another question: if capitalism isn’t working, and communism and socialism don’t work–what is the answer?

      • Essie

        Annie, the Nordic socioeconomic model seems to work. There is also the social market economy. Yea, I am not sure if living in your car would be cheaper than what you do now. The freedom is attractive but then there is the upkeep of a vehicle. Right now, as you have blogged, you rent and don’t need to ‘upkeep’ that.

  • sam

    Being “socially acceptable” is what gets most people in financial trouble. That being said, we all “judge” and “are judged”.

    • Annie

      Very true, Sam. That is something that I am trying to work on personally. I would like to get to the point where I understand more and judge less. That is one of the reasons why I am asking so many questions these days.

  • sam

    I like the saying, “Pay a living wage”. What the hell does that mean? Everyone’s “living wage” is different. You live a comfortable life, what else really matters.

    • Annie

      I agree that the number is different for each of us, Sam. For me, the tragic part is that we have to have money just to live–regardless of the amount.