Biggest Money Saving Tip: Move Far Away from the Joneses
I have to admit that while many people in the U.S. talk about “Keeping up with the Joneses”, I spent the first 20 years of my life never knowing what that meant. My rural lifestyle kept me somewhat content with the things I had. I quickly learned, however, that being “well-off” has a lot to do with “location, location, location.”
My first abrupt introduction into material desire came when I moved to the city. Living there the first 2 years, I never really felt I needed more. My friends and I all had clean apartments, enough food to eat, and extra cash for the occasional concert or party. I bought CD’s when I wanted to, kept a pager, and wouldn’t hesitate to buy a sweater on clearance at the outlet mall. I felt like I was really living the life, and my friends in the restaurant business felt the same.
After landing a very nice job at an insurance-related company, I was slowly seeing the world in a new way. Sweaters became suits, my pager was traded-up for a cellphone, and $2 taco dinners at the dive down the street gave way to $9 wings at the upscale brewery. Even my car (which I adored) was feeling the pressure of this faster, more expensive social circle. (I remember telling my new co-workers about my Dodge Charger. They ran outside to see it, envisioning some souped-up Dukes of Hazzard look-alike to be waiting there. Their disappointed faces told me that 1982 was NOT the year for that particular model. We took my friend’s pre-owned, 2-year-old Lexus to lunch after that.)
My new coworkers were not shallow. They just had grown up differently than I had. I grew up wearing the same pair of jeans for as many years as it took to wear out the knees. When they became too worn or outdated to wear in public, I threw them on to work in the garden or do farm chores (which consumed much of our time.) Nothing was done away with simply because there was a newer, slicker alternative on the market. My new coworkers, on the other hand, had always lived or worked in the city, came from homes with double incomes, and spent more time traveling than at home. While neither way was better, I was reeling from the new pressures.
I managed to appear on the outside that I was keeping up. I parked my car far away from the office building, made friends with the mailroom employees (who were younger and more easy-going), and planned my road back to a simpler lifestyle. 7 years after I moved away from my tiny rural town, I’m moved back again.
Right away, I noticed that nothing much had changed. I recognized my neighbors right away, because they were still driving the car they drove when I was in Junior High. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Since it was largely still a farming community, no one gave me a second look when I popped into town with muddy tennis shoes and a tore-up baseball cap. I wondered what my old friends from work would have said.
And while I still keep in touch with my dearest pals from the city, the gap gets wider every year. They talk Mommy-and-Me classes and shoes, while I talk 0-point turning mowers and how much my kids enjoy pulling weeds. Do I see farmers in my community go overboard, being consumed by materialism and competing with their neighbors for a faster boat, bigger truck, and greener yard? Sure. But it is far easier to avoid the rat race when there’s 8 acres between me and the next rat.
For some, it may be easy to keep your focus on just what you need, and moving away from temptation and pressure could seem like a cop-out. For me, it just made sense. There’s a freedom in finding your geographical place in the world. Whether you’re a city mouse, a country mouse, or an everywhere mouse (like some of our own bloggers), finding a place to settle in and be content for the moment is still the very best way to save money.