Do you feel envious of people who have more money than you do? Do you struggle to “keep up with the Joneses”? Do you feel embarrassed by your too-old car or too-small house that is sorely in need of remodeling?
I’ve gone through different phases in my relationship with money:
When I was young, I went to a church that taught the “prosperity gospel.” This doctrine teaches that Jesus wants us to be rich. I also grew up in a part of the country where most people felt that it was a personal and moral failure to go on welfare or use food stamps. My family was not rich. My mom made $1.25 an hour at her part time job and my dad sent us a few hundred dollars a month in child support. As you can see, my early exposure to money issues was a bit confused!
When I got married, we lived in San Diego where I worked my way up the food chain to having a job in the tech industry. My husband was also making a decent salary on and off but he had no job security. We didn’t have a six-figure income though, and while we could buy just about anything we wanted without saving and we had a gorgeous condo, we couldn’t afford a house.
Next phase: Colorado. We could afford a house here and for a while I was making more money than I had been on California and my husband found a job he kept for 11 years. We should have saved for large purchases, but instead we ran up our credit cards. We remodeled our entire house. We bought new cars. We went on vacations. I started my knitting business but kept working in the tech industry on the side. Eventually, we both ended up jobless and were on the path toward spending all of our savings and possibly even losing our house, which was almost paid off.
Fortunately we sold our house as the market began to turn and were able to move to Vermont and buy a lovely old farmhouse for cash. Lovely. Old. We are both making our living in the knitting world. We can’t afford a “This Old House” remodel. We can’t afford a new car. Our house needs to be painted. I can’t travel to Europe in the summer.
You know what? I am richer than I have ever been before. I have time. I have peace and quiet. I have my own business. I get to walk to the lake every day. I work my ass off, but on my own schedule. I am a working-class stiff and I’m not ashamed to say so. In fact, I’m damn proud of it.
So don’t be ashamed if you’re not rich. Don’t be ashamed if you’re not even middle class. Don’t be embarrassed if the paint on your house is chipped, your car is rusty, or you can’t afford this season’s trendy clothes. Embrace the good in your life. Love people. Enjoy sunshine. Dream and work to fulfill your dreams. And most of all, appreciate each moment for what it is. Money, in the USA at least, may even green, but we don’t have to be.