All of my friends are responsible people and I assume none have the kind of debt I do (other than their mortage).
- Friend A is single with no children, living in one of the duplexes owned by her parents on the westside of L.A. at below-market rent. Her home is nicely decorated and she's been on a spending spree lately, dropping over $1,000 within the span of a couple weekends on clothes and accessories at trunk sales. Friend A is also in the market to buy a big, flat screen TV. Friend A says she is debt free.
- Friend B is married with two children, living in a 4 BR home she owns with her husband in the ex-burbs of Los Angeles (actually, Ventura County). She too has been on a spending spree, her latest purchase being her new toy, an iPhone. Her car recently blew past 200,000 miles and she casually commented that she wants a BMW.
- Friend C is also married with one child and owns a home in the westside of Los Angeles. He is currently driving a BMW whose lease is coming due, but has already purchased a brand new car. He is talking about getting his car lowered, getting snazzy rims, etc. etc.
A lot of our discussions were centered around consumerism. Here's a random sampling of our topics of discussion:
- Flat Screen HDTV
Friend A said she was going to buy a flat screen HDTV. Friend B and her husband insisted that there's no point in owning a flat screen TV that's smaller than 50 inches, since you don't get the full effect of HD programming with anything smaller. I said, "I'm too cheap to get HD programs on my cable subscription. So buying a 50 inch TV is wasted on me. As a matter of fact, I don't even have DVR."
Friend A, B and C and I were talking about our favorite islands in Hawaii. Friend A is an event planner for a nationwide company and she often gets to travel to fun, exotic places on business. She also gets comp'd by companies in the hospitality industry who want her business. I mentioned that I stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island. She grimaced and thought it was a cheesy resort. I responded, "Well, that's all I could afford. I couldn't afford to stay at the Fairmont Orchid." I was *this close* to point out that she's never had to pay out-of-pocket to stay at the tony, five-star resorts, so she really has no basis to be so uppity.
Friend B and I were talking about someone who quit her job out of frustration and is now a stay at home mother. The SAHM supposedly said, "I just want a $50,000/year, 9 to 5 job." Friend B said, "Why bother to go back to work for just $50k/year?" Really? Is $50k/year a mere pittance? It made me wonder.
I want to make clear, that none of this discussion made me want to run out on a spending binge to Keep Up with the Joneses. But there was a nagging sense within me that I'm pathetic. It's just depressing that at my age and salary, I still live in a 1 BR rented apartment furnished with hand-me-down, mismatched furniture. I don't have fancy-schmancy electronic devices. (For Pete's sake, I don't even have an iPod shuffle or a digital camera!) I also felt pathetic that I had to defend why I can't buy a 50-inch HDTV, a Wii, an iPhone, stay at 5-star $500/night hotels, etc.
I guess I should always remind myself of the Aesop's Fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. I'm hoping that the sacrifices I make today will pay dividends in the future.