Growing up, I had a pretty good idea that we were poor. My family of four lived in one bedroom of a 3-bedroom apartment for a time being (the second bedroom housed my aunt/uncle/2 cousins and the third my grandparents), and I grew up on Spam, mac and cheese, and powdered milk. I don’t recall any negative feelings towards this, mostly because when you’re that little you don’t know any better. In fact, I thought it was kind of fun since I always had someone to play with (though, being the only girl and not particularly persuasive, it was often along the lines of WWF wrestling).
By contrast, B grew up in a middle (to upper back in the day) class neighborhood, with his own room and in a family of 6. He was able to play a variety of sports growing up, and probably had more creature comforts than I had. However, since his dad was the sole provider (though at a very well-paying job) and very frugal, he also grew up on powdered milk. He didn’t even know what real milk was until he went to a friend’s house and asked what he was pouring out of the jug (which, imagining his naive, freckle-faced 8 year old self asking, I think is completely adorable).
I think about how drastically different our upbringing was in terms of class, culture, and generation (he’s a few years older), but at the same time fairly similar in terms of finances. I think both of us agree that despite probably being aware of not having what “The Joneses” had, it didn’t really devalue or reduce our quality of life. I think where we diverge is how we handled money once we were making it on our own. We both started working around 12-years old (I worked at an at-home daycare and he had a paper route… how things were lax back then!), but while he saved some if his earnings and spent the rest, I just spent all of it. It was like this throughout high school, college, and as adults.
I do think a part of it was what we learned – over time my mom steadily gained better paying jobs, and though she juggled 3 jobs at one point, she did like going shopping as a form of therapy with all the other stuff she had to deal with. I don’t blame her, and do admit that I felt retail therapy was an outlet when crappy things happened in my life, as well. B, on the other hand, comes from a fairly stoic upbringing, and was raised to treat money as not only a means to an end, but an investment in yourself by saving it. He didn’t really have emotional attachments to money (as you shouldn’t), and though he does like nice toys occasionally, he doesn’t buy it unless he has the means to.
Since his values resonate with a lot of frugality and investment blogs out there, I’m really grateful that he’s by my side to not only be the “package police” while I’m on my shopping abstinence, but to guide me through some finance basics and investment strategies. And, more importantly, I appreciate that he doesn’t really judge what I’ve done or my past, but rather recognizes that just as we learned how to handle things growing up, that we can also un-learn and re-learn other ways. I do think part of his motivations is to be a stronger financial unit, so that we don’t have to serve possible offspring powdered milk (unless we’re feeling particularly nostalgic) and be able to give them even more opportunities than we had.
I think that’s what all PF blogs are shooting for, as well, right? If not for offpsring, then themselves. So for that, I just want to say how I’m also grateful and value all the PF blogs I’ve had a chance to
troll encounter these past few months. Thank you for writing all the posts I can relate to or learn from, as well as for taking the time to respond and offer feedback to my posts. It’s definitely opened up my eyes and mind on the varying struggles and accomplishments of people I wouldn’t normally encounter, and has really committed me with this process of wanting to get my finances in check.
In particular (but with no particular order) – thank you Girl Meets Debt, Budget and the Beach, Cash Rebel, Your PF Pro, Michelle’s Finance Journey, Do or Debt, Club Thrifty, Frugal Portland, Making Sense of Cents, Mochi and Macarons, Johnny Moneyseed, The Random Path, Student Debt Survivor. Y’all are so inspiring and motivating, and it’s been awesome getting to learn about you and your finance strategies.
P.S. I have no shame in admitting I still eat Spam and mac and cheese occasionally as comfort foods. I have upgraded to mostly soy and almond milk, though, I think I’ve had my fill on those powdered milk lumps exploding in my mouth and inhaling/choking on the powdered particles. 😉