The Simple Dollar was one of the first PF blogs I ever read. The articles were insightful, the advice was wonderful, and he seemed to take a middle ground on the whole frugality thing. But lately he seems to have forgotten that there are people out there who aren’t male & living with children in rural Iowa. That someone out there might be more interested in fashion than the kids they don’t have, or might not think that organic food is the end all and be all of existence.
Yesterday, he posted a response to a comment by Sydney, who said that the “Latte Factor” was not necessarily as important as getting the big stuff (e.g. rent/mortgage) under control. The comment continued, “Yet if you arrange your life so that major expenses are not consuming all of your income and then some, you can actually eat lunch out once awhile, buy that cup of coffee, or see a movie. Quality of life goes up dramatically. At that point, if you want to save on little things also, it becomes a choice, rather than a constant necessity just to survive.”
Instead of seeing this as sound advice (keep major expenses small and you will have enough wiggle room to allow yourself a cup of coffee or a lunch out), Trent misinterpreted the comment and claimed it said that “the ability to participate in a consumer economy is directly tied to the quality of life.”
He very condescendingly told Sydney that he used to think money was the way to happiness too, but (and I’m paraphrasing) he grew up and realized what’s really important.
Way back when I first started my blog, I wrote a post on why I hated most other blogs, and TSD was firmly in my mind as I typed.
Trent’s examples all involved things with his family, which is nice for him but not really applicable to someone who doesn’t have family or someone whose family lives far away. Furthermore, enjoying a lunch out or a cup of coffee isn’t buying into consumerism! On the weekend, I’ll walk to a small coffee shop by my apartment for a latte, which is a nice change of pace from my usual coffee, and sit there drinking it. The weather has been awesome lately, so I sit in the sun and watch the people walk by. On the way home, I might take a longer route that passes by the ocean and I just marvel, “Wow. I live here.”
Nothing but the promise of caffeine and tasty vanilla lattes could get me out of bed in the morning otherwise.
The building I work in has no windows, save for the ones in the lobby. This means that I work in a florescent-lit box for 9 hours every day. Often times I’ll work straight through lunch, but every time I take the hour to go out to eat, I walk back into work refreshed and ready for another 4 hours. Getting out of here helps me regain my sanity. Sure, I could leave the building for an hour and probably get the same boost, but nothing can lure me away from my desk like the promise of an artichoke and spinach panini.
I don’t necessarily agree with the original comment that sparked Trent’s missive since she threw out furniture and vacations as big expenses you should splurge on. I think this may have been just some bad examples.
I have a hand-me-down couch from my parents, and the upholstery has ripped on both sides of the cushions. It’s an eyesore, and not really something you can hide. I feel better just by covering those ratty slipcovers with some red sheets, and that way the stuffing doesn’t scratch or poke me. I love the rattiness of the wood (each ding and scratch is a reminder of my childhood), but the cushions are bothersome. Chad and I are saving up to reupholster it – is that wasting money?
And my honeymoon is going to cost a bundle, but it’s worth it to finally get to see all the places in Europe I’ve dreamed of seeing.
I’m not saying that you should derive happiness solely from spending money, and sure, I could walk by the beach or leave work without doing so. I’m just sick of the big-name blogs who seem to have a hostile reaction to spending money on anything that isn’t absolutely essential and basic. You can save money by cutting back on the big stuff and you can save money over cutting out smaller luxuries. When did spending money become a moral failing, indicating that you’re too simple-minded to enjoy the free things in life?
Frugal Bachelor (comment #77) had the best reply; I actually said, “Oh snap!” when I read it. The comments in general are a shitstorm, which is why I still read TSD. (OK, I also read for the same reason I watch The Hills – because it gives me something to be angry about. You don’t know what they’re going to do/say next, but you’re sure it’s going to be ridiculous.)