• Posts Tagged ‘joneses’

    Green-Eyed Monsters

    by  • December 10, 2012 • Tagged: ,  • Comments


    I'm Like That Little Girl in the Background, Throwing Bitter Glances

    Despite having what one might call a healthy sense of self-confidence, there are moments when I feel overwhelmed with envy for what other have. If I’ve been eyeing a dress online and deemed it irresponsible to purchase it, I’ll seethe just a little bit when I spy a co-worker wearing it the next week. This is particularly acute with some things more than others – when I see people planning weddings, for instance, without much stress or monetary consideration, I recall my own less-than-thrilling year of being engaged, and envy them for their stress-free experience. Why does SHE get the chiavari chairs without a single thought of expense or waste? Why couldn’t I?

    More often than not, these are stupid emotions that do little but allow me to wallow in self-pity and waste some time. Circumstances, I have to remind myself, are always different. Would I have picked the fancier wedding chairs, even if cost weren’t an issue? Probably not, because that’s not how I think about money. If I want that dress so badly, I could make room in my budget for it, surely. And beyond that, these financial moments of jealousy are often without a full picture of how the object of envy really lives. It’s very likely, based on my conversations with her, that the coworker with the dress can’t really afford it, and has put that new frock on credit. Just because others appear to have what we want doesn’t mean they’re any better off than we are.

    But this kind of envy has a way of feeding itself into anxiety, and it’s worrisome enough that I’m trying to keep an eye on it. My husband and I visited family over Thanksgiving, and as we were driving around, we noticed a number of houses that were for sale.

    “How much do you think these go for?”

    “Maybe $500,000.”

    “Well that’s nice for whoever can afford that but WE NEVER WILL.”

    Will we be able to afford that much house one day? I certainly don’t know. I know what our current savings goals are, and while it sometimes feels like we save and save and never get to those hugely far away numbers required for quaint houses in the suburbs, I have no idea what the future holds, so why the glum attitude? Why the jealousy of people in houses whom I’ve never met? People who may not even be able to afford what they’re living in, or if they can, have nothing to do with me?

    It’s a financial conundrum of a different sort, and I’m working through it. How have you handled financial jealousy?

    image: Ktoine

    Back Here in the Stone Age

    by  • March 5, 2012 • Tagged: ,  • Comments



    Image: Martin Abegglen

    In many ways, I have traditional, some might even say old-fashioned, tastes. While this has often served me well (my clothing stays largely in style, and should for some time), I’ve lately noticed that my reluctance to upgrade to more recent technology in a particular instance in my life has begun to show. Namely, my electronics. My name is Abby Dalton, and I don’t have a smart phone.

    For some time, carrying around a plain old cell phone on which I could only type out the most basic text messages seemed like a non-issue. Only early-adopters and people with important jobs carried iPhones and Blackberries. Even if they seemed fun, I had no need for one, and could commiserate with friends about how our plain little phones worked just fine. But overnight, I seem to have been left in the lurch. Suddenly, I’m excluded from work conversations about the best apps and iPhone cases (to be fair, I’m very partial to the selection J.Crew has available). Verizon is sending me mail on the daily, extolling the virtues of the smart phone, and why I need to enter the modern era. Friends who once joined my whining over the ridiculous expense of a data plan can’t hear my judgment over the sound of their fingers clickety-clacking on their Apple screens.

    I have my reasons for sticking with my simple little model. Unpopular opinion time! I have, and still do, find the expense of an iPhone unnecessary. I sit at a computer for nearly all of my working hours, and then am rarely far from a computer should I need to check email. I’m exceedingly organized, and can print out directions and phone numbers well in advance of needing them (my trips are organized weeks in advance, and restaurant outings so planned that a last minute reservation is unheard of in my house). I don’t need to spend money on a new phone, and a monthly data plan, when there’s so little need for it. This isn’t to say I won’t spend my money on ridiculous things (oh, the stupid things I spend my money on – another post for another time). Bottom line: I have literally no need for a smart phone, and know many people who don’t, either, despite their insistence that it’s the greatest thing ever. Are you frequently away from a computer, or unable to plan your life more than an hour in advance? Then by all means, the smart phone is for you.

    I’ll also pull out my curmudgeonly behavior for a moment – I hate how often the people I’m with redirect their attention to their smart phones. Chatting in a bar, grabbing a coffee at work – one moment we’re having a lovely conversation, and the next they’re responding to messages and checking scores. “It would be rude not to respond,” they say, and I smile and silently lament the end of common courtesy.

    Will I eventually end up just another member of the masses, squinting at that glowing iPhone screen and talking about how it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever purchased? Probably. Eventually I won’t have a choice – when my little cell phone dies (and it’s on its way), I know I’ll have a hard time tracking down a cell phone that doesn’t require a data plan, that the lure of those pretty little J.Crew iPhone cases will be too much to resist. But for now, I’m happy to pay my minimal monthly phone bill, drop my phone repeatedly without consequence (no shattered screen for me), and silently glower when my husband checks basketball scores at dinner.

    Are you a member of the smart-phone owning masses? Is the expense worth it, in your opinion?

    Keeping Up With The Joneses: Mom’s Ring Finger

    by  • February 1, 2008 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Ah, my crazy mama. I may have posted about her a few times before. One commenter even said she enjoyed my mom’s antics. Here’s another one for your enjoyment.

    A few years ago after both of her sons were engaged, my mother seemed to have noticed that her simple, yet elegant, wedding band wasn’t enough for her ring finger compared to her future daughter-in-laws’ adornments. My mom had told us numerous times that she doesn’t wear her engagement ring because her diamond was small. I can say that’s true because I’ve never seen it.

    One day last year we were out at a family function and both Her and I immediately noticed something different about my mom…she had a platinum ring with a LARGE diamond and matching wedding band on her ring finger! When she noticed that Her and I noticed, she again said that her engagement ring was small and wanted to buy a bigger one for herself. I chalked it up to my parents being empty nesters and not knowing what to do with their money.

    Well, fast forward to a few weeks ago: Her and I were having dinner with my parents, when I noticed an entirely NEW diamond band around my mom’s ring finger. Her noticed as well and we gave each other the “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” look at each other. A little later during dinner my mom showed off her ring to Her and again recited to us the story of how her original engagement ring diamond was too small, so she got herself a new one.

    I know what you’re thinking: ANOTHER new one? What happened to the second one? Answer: I have no idea. It’s like it never existed. Maybe we made it up. Maybe we’re the crazy ones.

    I wish my dad talked a little more, because I’d be a little pissed off if I were him. My mom essentially bitch-slapped him and said, “Your gifts to me were so crappy that I went out and had to buy 2 rings to make up for it, biatch.”

    I guess my mother’s ring envy got the best of her. Twice. Maybe because both of her sons got engaged she thought she had to try and upstage both of the new engagement rings. Who knows.

    My Parents Keep Up With The Joneses

    by  • November 5, 2007 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    photo: bunchofpants

    When I was growing up, my parents were always pretty good with money. After all, they did pay for two of their son’s college educations, not a small feat for first generation immigrants.

    Since my parents became empty nesters, though, they have been a little frivolous with their money. Now as readers of this blog know, we’re not ones to shy away from luxury or the more-than-occasional-treat. Her and I get a good laugh out of some of things they buy, since we know that the cost really isn’t that significant.

    For example, when Her and I went to my parents’ home during the holidays last year, my mom kept telling us about the wine that she bought from (the now extinct) Marshall Field’s. We opened up a bottle, and offered my mom a glass. She refused because “it all tastes like vinegar and makes her dizzy.” When asked about why she bought the wine, she had no trouble bluntly saying, “Well, your aunt and uncle had it at their house last year.”

    Those same relatives who had the wine at their place also like to travel. They became empty nesters a few years before my parents did, and decided they would take a European vacation. Until then, my mom said absolutely nothing about wanting to ever travel in Europe. Lo and behold, the first year that my parents became empty nesters they took a European vacation, much to the chagrin of my dad. He was so not psyched to go that he didn’t pack until an hour before they had to leave for the airport.

    Have I mentioned that my mom has 2 cars? One that was bought…you guessed it…after my parents’ became empty nesters!

    My poor dad just goes along with all of this. I think he’s okay with it though, because my brother and I helped him put together a home theater for him. Admittedly, he didn’t really want a nice home theater until he saw how awesome my brother’s is, but it genuinely makes him happy to have and use it. His main vice is action movies on DVD, no matter how bad they are; thus, their house is littered with movies starring “Bruce Li” or “Chuk Noris.”

    I don’t feel bad at all empowering my dad to buy crappy DVDs from the $1 bargain bin.

    Keeping Up With the Joneses’ Husbands

    by  • September 12, 2007 • Tagged:   • Comments

    During the last year, our company has employed a lot of new people to keep up with work. Three of these employees are relatively newly married early 30-somethings who are married to men with (presumably) high paying jobs: lawyer, doctor, and financial services guy.

    For the most part, interactions with these women are pleasant – after all, I have to work with these people. I do get irritated, though, when I’m caught in between their one-upping each others’ lifestyles. It goes a little like this…

    Co-worker 1 (CW1): So this weekend I ate at Alinea! Have you even heard of this place? It’s really awesome and was SUPER EXPENSIVE…

    CW2: Yeah, I ate there a few months ago right after it opened. I did eat at a cool restaurant when I was in New York this weekend. I’ll have to go back there when I get back to New York in a few weeks for a shopping trip…

    CW3: My husband and I went there before CW2 went there. We’re trying to only eat out twice a week since we’re house shopping. Oh, and did I tell you…? We got approved for a gazillion dollar mortgage!

    I’m pretty sure that my seniority and my title at my company puts me above them in terms of how much their paychecks are. Therefore, I assume that there’s no way that they alone could afford their lifestyle themselves and probably depend on their husbands’ nice jobs to keep appearances.

    I guess whatever they do with their money is their business, but the most annoying part is when they ask me:

    Did you eat at ____________? No? How about ________?
    (uh, the the average tab per person is $40, and that’s without drinks)

    We got three plasma TV’s in our basement for football season. What kind of TV do you have?
    (three? seriously?)

    In the past, the old me would have wanted to hurry up and get to that new restaurant or put a TV on a credit card. Admittedly, a large part of me still wants to do that. If anything, Her and I have both learned the value of our money, and if we choose to blow it, we’ll blow it on things that matter to us, not things that impress other people.

    Our Peers Aren’t Doing So Bad

    by  • February 1, 2007 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    I have a ton of websites that are currently in my feedreader, but only a few that I visit daily. Of them, the Chicago-based Gaper’s Block (origin of the name) is surely one of my favorites. The site is well-designed, contains articles about lesser known Chicago happenings around town, and even has a calendar of (often free) events that we usually end up going to.

    One of the sections on the site is called “Fuel,” a feature that asks a question and asks the general community to share their answer. The questions range from where to eat breakfast to whether or not you believe in UFOs to what your favorite zoo animal is. Of particular interest to those in the personal finance blog community were two questions that were asked recently: How much do you earn annually? and especially Are you saving for the future? How?

    After reading all of the responses, I was quite surprised – the audience that Gaper’s Block attracts is usually anti-corporate, anti-mainstream, art-loving hipsters and hipster wannabes. Despite that generality, many of them were well aware that they need to be saving for the future. Many had accounts with ING Direct and contributed to their retirement plan at work. Sure, their answers weren’t highly polished replies that meandered over the benefits of asset allocation. That’s okay though, as for them, money is just a means to an end.

    Much of the has been said in the pfblogosphere about how much we think our peers aren’t saving. It is nice to see, that at least for this particular instance, my original assumptions were very wrong.