Monday, July 16, 2007

Lifestyles are closer than they appear in the rearview mirror

My husband and I had a wonderful evening last night with some friends, but as we left I was taken back by a comment. My dear friend who I've known for almost 10 years said how it's refreshing to spend an evening with friends without spending $80 on dinner, but then, we probably can't afford that anyway.
Hmmm, I wasn't insulted, but I was surprised. What gave that impression? It made me wonder about the impression my husband and I project to the world at large. Many of our favorite things are definitely counter-culture. We adore auctions not because we can't afford to shop at Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel, but because we love the thrill of the game, the adrenaline rush of a fabulous bargain on a 50's diner table or a box lot of vintage tablecloths with brilliant color, the people watching~it's a fabulous date time. I love putting $20 in my pocket once a year and hitting the streets of my small town when they have their annual "Walkerville Day". Walkersville is small, but the houses hold some fabulous trash that becomes my treasure. This year's haul: 2 Depression glass refrigerator dishes, several old patterns (perfect for altered art), 2 vintage prints, a mason jar full of buttons (some Bakelite & lucite), a handful of costume jewelry full of funky rhinestones, a bag of old doilies and table runners and my favorite discovery, 2 1936 porcelain crisper drawers that now sit on top of my fridge holding all the stuff that otherwise would just be piled on top in an unceremonious heap.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, my hubby is frugal to the core. He will never be one to buy a new car, but will always maintain an unreasonable devotion for VWs, most especially because several years ago we sourced out a quirky, but fastidiously honest car repairman with a wicked sense of humor. VW owners are an unusual lot, but getting an oil change without an ominous list for $1000's of repairs or else would tend to inspire loyalty wouldn't it?
He also scours website for hotel and airfare deals which has resulted in some of the most fabulous stays in amazing places and made for unmatched memories. But, because when you get a good deal, you want to share, maybe people think that otherwise we wouldn't travel at all.
One time he and my Papa had an animated discussion on ways to save money. You'd have thought he lived through the Depression as well. It is just the way my hubby is hardwired.
On the flip side, this is the same guy who unfailingly tithes without question in addition to supporting several causes he's passionate about such as building marriages though FamilyLife, building teens though WorldChangers and YFC, turning males into men through networking and giving up hours, days and weeks through serving at soup kitchen, on big youth projects or sacrificing vacation time to roof a stranger's home in another state through heat, sleep deprivation and keeping 20 teens in line.
We cook at home and think that home cooked meals can be sexy. Eating out has variables that can't always be controlled. If I go out after 8p.m. to a nice place, I get frustrated to see a cranky toddler who clearly should be in bed instead of running loose around waiters serving flaming desserts. How do I know this? I lived through 3 cranky toddlers at various points in time. But at home? At home, we can decide what to eat, shop for the best ingredients, set a romantic table, dim the lights, put on our choice of music and really enjoy ourselves. Do we always do that? No, but because we don't eat out 3-5 times a week, is that a sign of monetary strain? Some might argue that eating out that much is a sign of poor planning.
I have a dream car and until I actually get it, my plan is to drive my present vehicle until I'm stranded on the side of a highway with a trunk full of melting ice cream. Until I get my 1967 Mustang convertible, why bother on a car that will not satisfy my need for retro wheels? A car is a car otherwise and only a means of transportation; not a status symbol.
I think Goodwill is not only a great place to unload my household overflow, but a great place for cashmere sweaters, designer jeans and vintage handbags not to mention the cheap furniture that would be perfect with a coat of fresh paint.
I chose to live in a ramshackle old home because my dream since being a very young girl was to live in an old home. I've been a tree hugger for as long as I can remember and what better thing to recycle than a home? It carries with it character and history and a charm that I love. Many people were aghast when we moved from a perfectly nice townhouse to living in a borrowed camper for weeks in the backyard of our 'new' old home as we replaced plumbing, updated electric, stripped upteen layers of wallpaper, repaired plaster, installed new bathroom fixtures, put in a kitchen and went to friends homes to shower. I traded in my HOA for a cranky town official who lives around the corner, but I'll take him and his quirks over that old address any day.
I shop with coupons using a site called not because we need to, but because I think paying $4 for a gallon of milk is almost as crazy as Tom Cruise. I love the thrill of the game to get something for nearly nothing. Occasionally I'll get someone in line behind me who fusses when they see me pull out my stack of coupons who mutters something about people like me, but hey, those coupons came out of my designer purse (no need to tell her I scored it for $5 at the annual Red Cross garage sale).

We won't go into debt. Been there, done that. It's a grueling cycle. If we can't just pay for it, we don't buy it.

If all of these habits, hobbies and tendencies give the appearance that we 'can't afford' certain things, I think I'll wear it as a badge of honor. Appearances can be deceiving. The neighbor to our right may have an enormous house, drive 3 flashy cars and have a speed boat parked in their driveway, but they may also be less than one paycheck away from being homeless. The neighbor to our left, my have a bad porch step, drive a beater and arrive home each night in a plumber's van, but they may also own their own plumbing company with 80 employees who offers a killer benefits plan and be a millionaire unbeknownst to you. I'll sit comfortably somewhere in the middle sipping my tea from a chippy Limoges cup, my vehicle with a bad muffler in the driveway, but wearing a killer pair of designer shades (consignment store of course) as I sit on my porch swing watching the world go by.


Kim said...

Love love this post - you are speaking to my heart. I'm not a bargain hunter like you, but I'd like to be one. I love old (and some new), but there's nothing new out there with the charm of something old that's been well loved. Let them think what they want, I think you are rich beyond measure.

Anonymous said...

Hi Casii, I came across your blog via my friend Kim (hi Kim), thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Tania from Aus

Abby said...

Well said!! I always enjoy reading your blog! Miss you!!! :)