Frugal people tend to save their money for the things they find the most important. They usually don't give a monkeys whether everyone else has a swanky smartphone or a brand new car.
That's why I was so surprised to read an infuriating article on the frugal living site Wise Bread called "Passing for Middle Class". Writer Philip Brewer gives people tips on how to keep up with the Joneses on a budget, which sounds fine in principal but ends up listing ways to get things you don't need whilst avoiding paying top whack for the privilege.
One of the options Brewer suggests is to choose the cheapest “lifestyle cluster” (suburban house plus two cars vs. urban apartment closer to work) which will allow you to pass yourself off as middle class whilst avoiding the items you are not “required to have (to count as middle class)”.
The other alternative is to get all the things you are “required to have” at the cheapest possible price. The most ridiculous of these for me was a university degree. In the US, University education leaves a lot of people struggling with huge student debts that can really harm their financial future. If you need a degree for your chosen career then fine, but Brewer states that a Bachelors is a required “middle class marker” and seems to suggest that you should just get any old degree from your local state's school. To me, it sounds like if it's not allowing you to get a better job, you're just paying thousands of dollars for bragging rights and entry into the middle class status!
Why does this matter? Who actually cares??
People can feel criticised for the choices they make. Why do you live in such a small house? Why save for tomorrow when you could get hit by a bus today? Why do you drive an old banger when everyone else is paying off car loans for the next four years? Why do you not follow the crowd?
The thing is, frugal people decided long ago not to bother trying to keep up with pointless class status symbols. As financial guru Dave Ramsey says, the Joneses don't want you to know they're actually broke!
Possibly the most infuriating line in the whole article is the following: “Sometimes, even when your values aren't middle-class values, it's worth making some small adjustments to pass for middle class”. No no NO! Stand up for what you believe in! Live well within your means and spend your money on what's important to you!
Please don't try and “pass for middle class”. Be who you are!