Kremmling/Larry Banman " Putting on airs can put you in a financial bind
March 24, 2008
A recent article by MP Dunleavey entitled “Are you afraid to look poor?” got my mind to wandering and then wondering if that were true for me. The article was part of the daily offerings recently on MSN.com. As my eyes scanned the page, the headline jumped out and grabbed my attention.
I don’t view myself as being contrary, but often I do find myself often at odds with whatever happens to be the popular line of thought, fashion, and most anything else.
I like to think of myself as possessing the ability to follow original lines of thought.
Many who are close to me describe me as weird. When I am old and venerable, I suppose there will be those who kindly refer to me as eccentric.
One of the teasers for the story made references to indicators that might point toward a personal aversion to “looking poor.” I have somewhat of a reputation for “thriftiness” so, naturally, I was attracted by this article. I had to know more. Did I fit the profile?
The first question was, “Does wearing cheap clothes make you queasy?” I’m way out of touch with this indicator. Fit and comfort are far more important to me than brand names or the cost of the clothing on my back. Goodwill is not a bad word in our household. I understand that better quality clothing costs more and lasts longer, but cost is a more important consideration.
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Many of my best clothes were items that my wife found at a thrift store. That can make for some interesting conversations related to my clothing. For example, my favorite sweatshirt identifies me as a member of a convict firefighting team. I like the fact that this one-of-a-kind shirt sets me apart from the Ralph Lauren crowd. I did experience a connection with brand name wear when I purchased a sweatshirt in Vero Beach, Fla., that sported a Billabong logo.
Often that sweatshirt would spark conversation with a younger audience. It made me feel connected, but not to the point where I went looking for more Billabong gear.
Besides, I think some of the comments were more condescending than complimentary.
The second barometer of “feeling poor” is whether a person feels embarrassed to use coupons. If coupons are supposed to cause me embarrassment, then my face needs to be red, perpetually. I do try to be organized with coupons, because I know what it is like to stand behind somebody who painstakingly searches every pocket of their clothing for a five-cents off coupon. I am one of the few people my age who is looking forward to AARP discounts. No denial of senior-citizen status in my book, if it means I qualify for the “Sundowner” special at the local diner.
The article then asks if I buy things to impress my family and friends. I drive a 1967 Chevy pickup and a 1994 Buick LeSabre. Enough said. I don’t even have a PDA (personal digital assistant). I suppose the acid test would be for me to ask myself if I purchase things in order to impress somebody. That notion doesn’t even register a blip on my thought-pattern scale.
After some more introspective consideration, I must admit to a few acts that fall under the “I-must-impress” category. For example, more than once at a restaurant, I have picked up a check that I couldn’t afford. I wish I could say those acts are motivated by genuine generosity. Truthfully, I must admit, they are more to gain attention. I think I like to hear myself say, “I’ve got this one.”
I am also guilty of buying gifts that I couldn’t afford. Once I thought of the situation in that light, I felt a connection with the point that Ms. Dunleavey was trying to make. The problem is when you make those grandiose gestures with a credit card, those acts can come back at you with compound interest.
The irony of the fact of spending beyond your means to avoid looking poor is that you can quickly find yourself in the very predicament of being strapped for cash. It is no secret that our society has a lot of people who overspend their means. I wonder how much of our collective personal debt has been accrued by acts that are motivated by the desire to not look poor.
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